How Does Your Garden Grow?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Posted by Meeta K. Wolff


Today, parents and teachers face endless challenges in raising their youngsters: the threat of childhood obesity, the relentless onslaught of marketing to kids resulting in a sharp preference for junk food, a global environment that seems to be getting more and more toxic and unpredictable, and so on. One simple idea that can be a positive step towards addressing many of these issues is: School Gardens.

Keeping in mind the space and resources available, a garden can be set up in the schoolyard in the soil (if it is rich and nutritious enough) or in raised garden boxes, or even in small recycled containers. Plants (herbs, fruits, vegetables, flowers) that are appropriate to the region can be grown. Children can start digging and sowing and watching as their garden takes shape. Parents, teachers and gardening experts can lend a helping hand and enjoy the garden alongside the kids.

Imagination runs wild when it comes to school gardens! Themed gardens are very popular: some of the ideas I came across were a butterfly garden, planted with nectar plants; an herb garden with a selection of aromatic herbs used in different cuisines; a rainbow garden planted with flowers of the appropriate colors planted in rows or arcs; and my favorite idea of all- a pizza garden planted with all the delicious vegetables that go into pizza- tomatoes, garlic, basil, and perhaps some toppings like zucchini and eggplant!

School gardens have benefits that touch upon every aspect of the child's development. When a whole class comes together to create a garden, it arouses a sense of community and an understanding of teamwork. The physical activity involved in taking care of the garden provides some welcome exercise and outdoor time spent away from the TV and computer screen. Most parents complain of children who refuse to touch vegetables and fruits- but the school
garden experience shows that children are eager to taste the produce that is grown with their own hands, which could be the beginning of a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Eating a tomato fresh off the vine may well the first taste of "real food" for a lot of kids who live on a steady diet of processed food. From an academic standpoint, a school garden provides a unique hands-on learning experience in every school subject that one can think of: ecology (eg. learning
about the interplay of plants, pollinators and pests), geography (eg. learning about climate, weather, and soils), botany (eg. studying the birth of a whole plant from a seed), history (eg. learning about how the origins of plants and how they "traveled" across the world), writing skills (eg. keeping a gardening journal). Perhaps the most important benefit of school gardens would be to make the child a better citizen of the world by cultivating earth-friendly attitudes: by completing the gardening cycle with a compost heap, or by setting up rain barrels and learning about water conservation. Indeed, the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California, started by Chef Alice Waters, has pioneered the integration of organic gardening into every aspect of the school curriculum. School gardens are a blessing everywhere,
but they can truly transform schools in communities that are troubled by crime. Here, school gardens can provide a safe and pleasing haven to children, teach them valuable life skills, and give them a green space of their own. Studies by the National Gardening Association depict the heart-warming results of having school gardens- read their evaluation here.

For parents and teachers who want to take the lead in setting up school gardens in their own schools, there are many resources that you could turn to. The Edible Schoolyard hosts a wonderful resource page that could be a good starting point. Of course, search engines will provide many other pages of useful information on the internet. One could also use local know-how by contacting the garden clubs,
botanical gardens and nurseries in the area. Libraries can be counted upon for books related to gardening and local flora.

Of course, if the idea of starting something on a school-wide scale in not possible, one can always start gardening with kids in the home. It could begin with a simple project such as planting flowers in window boxes outside the child's room in spring, or planting a kitchen garden in summer. On a big scale or as a small venture, gardening with kids is a fruitful activity that is sure to blossom into good times and happy memories!


A big THANK YOU to Meeta for inviting me to join the team at the Daily Tiffin. I'll be back next month with an article on Kids with Cameras. See you then!

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This post was contributed by Nupur from One Hot Stove


Great post Nupur. We are lucky as our local school have different gardens especially for the children, my favourite is their eco garden and the live willow structures - the benefits of living in the countryside I guess.

August 29, 2007 at 1:00:00 PM GMT+2  

so true. however, space is a big issue, esp. in urban areas.

bee said...
August 29, 2007 at 4:22:00 PM GMT+2  

A lovely post Nupur. I am part of an organization called SEED (Society for Encouraging Eco-Drive) that a grp of us started. We would visit the schools in Hyderabad and plant little saplings taken from the Municipality and plant them in the school grounds. But the main part was a grp of 5 students would be given ownership of a sapling and it was their responsibility to help it grow. We also spoke to the school authorities and got them to include 5 bonus points to students who did a good job. It was tough getting the permission initially but its going pretty well now :)

Priya said...
August 29, 2007 at 4:46:00 PM GMT+2  

Nupur, this is a gr8 concept. School children will surely benefit from this project.
The idea to have theme gardens is very appealing and makes the whole project more interesting :)

archana said...
August 29, 2007 at 5:59:00 PM GMT+2  

Nupur, great to have you on board. This is a great write up. The coolest thing though is that Soeren's new school has a gardening club, which encourages the kids to plant and care for many flowers, trees and shrubs. This weekend they have what's called a "Working Bee" session - this time to build an insect hotel. We are certainly going to be checking it out!

Priya, I also love the idea of SEED. It'S so perfect and maybe I could suggest something similar for the school.

Meeta K. Wolff said...
August 29, 2007 at 9:43:00 PM GMT+2  

I live 4 blocks from the Edible SchoolYard, and it truly is wonderful - I walk by it a few times a week on my way to the library. Lucky kids...

But of course this can be done anywhere on any scale. Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...
August 30, 2007 at 6:27:00 AM GMT+2  

Amanda, Your kids are certainly lucky- both the eco garden and the live willow structures sound like a lot of fun!

Bee, that is a good point, however, urban kids (especially those living in cramped conditions) are the ones who would benefit the most from school gardens. Several ideas have been successful in urban gardens- container gardening within the classroom, terrace gardening (if the school has a flat roof), tiny flowerbeds squeezed into the schoolyard. Another thing to do is to look for a small abandoned plot of land near the school (all but the most affluent urban areas seem to have unused lots full of trash and graffiti) and get permission from the civic authorities to use that. In the end, committed parents and teachers need to think up ideas on a case by case basis.

Priya, how wonderful to hear of SEED! Thanks for sharing that with us. This is a great project to be involved in, and I am sure once the school sees positive returns, they will be more likely to go ahead with this project.

Archana, yes, the themes are really fun for kids and grown-ups alike!

Meeta, you seem to have found a lovely school for Soeren...he will develop such a green thumb in his new gardening club!

Diane, really??? I would love to see it in person sometime! That project is really something...truly driven by passionate people who want to make a difference in their community.

Nupur said...
August 30, 2007 at 11:58:00 AM GMT+2  

Nupur: If you ever make it to Berkeley, please do drop me a line. I'd love to show you around some of the great food sites here. The Oakland Farmer's market is also amazing - a veritable Asian vegetable paradise. I feel very lucky to live here!

Anonymous said...
August 31, 2007 at 3:49:00 AM GMT+2  

Hi Nupur,

Great topic and congrats on your new column!

My kids' elementary school had a small vegetable garden -- their middle school had an unused courtyard which the science dept. took over and planted a garden of a different sort -- a bird and butterfly garden! I was amazed when I heard about so many species of songbirds taking lunch just a few miles from the big city. The high school is recently remodeled and just now reopened - I'll be interested to see what they come up with there. As you said, school gardens provide many lessons even we "big kids" can learn :)

Anonymous said...
August 31, 2007 at 4:23:00 AM GMT+2  

Diane, aww, thank you! I certainly hope to see both you and Berkeley some day!

Linda, wow, the bird and butterly garden sounds wonderful. You plant the right stuff, and the flying critters feel right at home! This is exactly the sort of thing that can bring in joy to the whole community. Wishing them good luck with their future gardens.

Nupur said...
August 31, 2007 at 12:40:00 PM GMT+2  

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