Edible Lesson Plan

IMG_8090 (640x480)School begins at the peak of fall harvest season and ends right as the spring growing season is kicking off, making school garden planning a bit more more challenging than traditional garden planning. However, there are a lot of options of vegetables and herbs that can be grown within the traditional school season parameters. Some things can be planted early spring and harvested a few weeks later, others can be planted in the spring and harvested in the fall, and some can be planted late summer/early fall for fall and winter harvesting. All our recommendations, are easy to grow, with an emphasis on FUN.

(If you have successfully run a school garden, or have questions, please post any questions or comments below. We'd love to get a discussion going!)

Plant in Spring, Harvest in Spring: Your students will be gratified with their efforts early with these quick varieties. The key is to get them sown asap!

1. Spring radishes are quick, easy and crunchy.  Easter Egg Radish is a top choice. It has a great name, and the colors are bright and fun. French Breakfast is also a unique choice, the pink roots are oblong and have white tips.

2. Bloomsdale Spinach can be sown as soon as the snow melts (or even sooner in late in the fall) for spring harvest. Despite the popular stereotype as being disliked by kids, the mild flavor and succulent texture of fresh spinach is a hit with eaters of all ages.

3. Like spinach, Mache can be sown late fall or early spring and comes up quick. The cute little heads might new and exciting for many students. The flavor is sweet and mild.

4. Peas are a much loved spring crop, but depending on your school year, you might miss the harvest! Sugar Daddy Snap Pea and Laxton's Progress Shelling Pea are shorter vines with fewer days to maturity. Tom Thumb is a great choice for growing in class rooms in containers. If it seems the school year might end before the peas arrive, there is nothing wrong with eating the tendrils. Just snip the growing tips.

5. Lettuce can be started in doors, then transplanted outside and produce heads by the end of the school year, or, it can be directly sown in the spring and cut as a baby leaf 3-4 weeks later. A favorite among kids is Spotted Trout, the name is simply irresistible to the imagination! Little Gem produces small, compact heads quickly. Ultimate Salad Bowl has lettuces, Asian greens and other yummy varieties that are fun for kids to observe, pick out and taste.

6. When they grow it themselves, many kids are ravenous for kale, especially Dino Kale. Let them munch on the scaly leaves like herbaceous beasts in the spring. If you have someone to tend the garden while school is out, leave the kale plants in the ground for the fall season, and the munching can repeat!

7. Beets are a real treat--there is nothing quite as satisfying than pulling a round fat one out of the ground! Brilliant Beet Blend has a fun diversity of color, Chioggia will thrill with its bullseye pattern, and Early Wonder Tall Top is a reliable early leafy beet with fat red roots.

8. Bush beans are so easy to grow. They take about 50 days from seeding to harvest. Get them in the ground asap after the threat of frost has passed and you might get a harvest in before school ends. Our top picks for school gardens are Dragon's Tongue Bean, a flat white snap bean with fiery purple speckles, and Provider, a reliable green snap bean.

9. Herbs are fun and flavorful. If sown early, some can be cut when young, such as: Cilantro, Mammoth Dill, Italian Large Leaf Basil and Gigante d'Italia Parsely. If you are interested in a little seed-saving education, all these herbs can all be left in ground. Most will flower and produce seeds just in time for the following school year. (Parsley is a biennial and will produce seeds the following year.)

Plant in Spring, Harvest in Fall: The timing works out perfectly for some crops to be planted in the late spring and harvested in the fall, when the next school season begins. This works well in school garden situations where there is someone available to tend the garden in the summer months.

photo11. What could be more fun than growing popcorn? Perhaps growing multi-colored Calico Popcorn!

2. Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry is a fun little fruit that is covered by a husk. It is sweet and crunchy, a favored snack among kids. Ground cherries can be started in pots, then transplanted out doors. In the late summer when school starts up, there should be copious amounts of husk cherries.

3. Winter squash and pumpkins require minimal care during the summer. Big Max is a huge, ornamental jack 'o' lantern type, while Long Island Cheese Pumpkin will feed many with its huge cheese wheel shaped fruits.

4. Tomatoes and peppers are a great choice if you have the resources to start them early and care for them while school is out for the summer. Peak tomato season is generally late August, so transplant tomato plants about two weeks late for a nice flush towards the beginning of the school year. Isis Candy Shop Cherry Tomato will delight students with its diversity of shapes, sizes and colors. Doe Hill Sweet Peppers are sweet and petite, a great choice for smaller spaces.

5. Variegated Nasturtiums are a fun flower that brightens any space. They are great in the school garden because eating the peppery flowers is a thrill to the uninitiated.

6. Skyscraper Sunflowers are unimaginably tall, produces fat heads with lots of edible seeds.

Plant Late Summer, Harvest in Fall: The planting season doesn't have to end in the spring! There are a few limited crops that can be sown late summer and enjoyed in the fall. If you have season extension resources, such as hoops and row cover, or a greenhouse, you have a longer harvest window. Check out our this fall planting guide for tips on how to plan for fall gardens.

7 thoughts on “Edible Lesson Plan”

  • […] and aware and compassionate individuals. All that by planting a radish! Take a look at Erin's recommendations for our favorite varieties to grow with kids, then Make-Your-Own Gift Basket with fun varieties for […]

  • Dena

    too bad I can't share some of these articles on a couple of my bird & small critter to rabbit Facebook pages... it would be great to share the info.

  • Amy Louis

    My students absolutely LOVE planting and harvesting the radish seeds donated to us by Hudson Valley Seed Library.
    It is awesome that they grow so quickly and are such an incredible bright red color with such a zany taste!

    Just a hint to fellow garden teachers. I plant potatoes with the kids in the spring, the next fall, my inner city High School students are so incredibly into the harvest process of potatoes. My favorite quote, "Yo Miss, this is getting me hype, and I don't know why!"
    (For those of you who don't understand modern lingo,,, hype is an extremely good feeling.)

    THANK YOU HUDSON VALLEY SEED LIBRARY for your generous seed donations!!!

  • Kris Lloyd

    I think this is a great list for a school garden. I have chaired one for 9 years. I would also add Three Sisters (Indian Corn, Pole Beans and Pumpkins which at our school are planted in May by 2nd graders and harvested in the fall when they return as 3rd graders), heirloom cherry tomatoes which in Virginia last well into September and produce tons - enough for a whole class to pick frequently, carrots which we plant in summer and K picks in late fall, watermelon which the kids LOVE and is cut for everyone to enjoy at the school carnival in October, lots of herbs which can but cut, cut, cut to make bouquets and use their senses, basil can be made into pesto in the 3rd grade classroom (yes, kids do eat it if the pick and make it and then complete a writing assignment). Make sure it can be harvested before school lets out (spring/fall veges) or will keep over summer (3 sisters). Also, there is enough for everyone in a class to pick (watermelons are not picked by a class but dearly loved). It is all so fun!

  • Rob

    My wife and I run an organic school garden at the elementary school where she works as the librarian. We faced the same problem where most of the harvest was done when school wasn't in session. We now run summer programs to help maintain the garden (weed & water), and to harvest those crops that are ready in the summer. Its a great time to incorporate art activities into the garden as well as cooking lessons. In the past we have donated the summer harvests to needy families in our community and this year we are starting greens early to try and supply as much fresh food as possible to the school cafeteria while school is in session. Planning crops during the school year has been one of the biggest challenges we have faced, but with a little research and trial and error, we are happy with how it has all worked out. This was a very informative post!

  • Beth Dore

    I'm thrilled to be in contact with others who share the love of the edible garden. I am a teacher in Mahopac, and the Garden Coordinator for Austin Road Elementary School. I am "growing green thumbs" a little more each year and I value the advice of others, so I can constantly improve the school garden with the students. It is my favorite learning space, and the kids are incredible in the garden. I look forward to reading more.


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