The Latest Dirt - Nov 2022
School Gardens Swing into Cooler Seasons
By Soubarna Mishra
As the cool autumn breeze blows and the leaves change color, fall activities are in full swing in schools, along with preparations for a successful winter garden. School gardens take center stage at this time, with harvest festivals and educational activities. Many school garden clubs are organizing garden talks, workshops and information tables to educate their communities. Our UC Master Gardener School Gardens program provides support for these activities by donating seeds, UC IPM information materials, and other handouts. UC Master Gardener volunteers visit school sites to provide advice on irrigation, pest management, winter plantings and soil health.
The school garden site visits primarily provide support and consultation on either building a new school garden or helping maintain an existing school garden that has fallen through the cracks of the pandemic. During school visits UC Master Gardeners are asked questions about raised garden beds, irrigation, soil amendments, seasonal plantings and garden pests. Garden advice for cool seasons include protecting plants from frost, pruning, and planting cool season vegetables, root crops, cover crops, and spring flowering bulbs.
The ultimate objective of the school garden is to create an attractive outdoor exploration area, where children can learn about the connection between the human body and the natural world. During the UC Master Gardener school visits, our goal is to not only provide UC research-based gardening and horticulture information, but also to encourage schoolteachers and children to get outside their classrooms and use their school garden as an outdoor learning space.
In the year 2022 we provided volunteer support and advice to over 20 different schools in Contra Costa County. They include 10 schools in central and south county, four schools in west county, and three schools in east county. The School Garden newsletter, sent out four times a year in spring, summer, fall and winter, is a source of seasonal information and inspiration for school garden educators. It serves as a medium to communicate the experiences and success stories of various school gardens. This year the Spanish translation of the School Garden newsletter was made possible with the support of Jardineros team members. In the coming weeks, the School Gardens program will work closely with the Jardineros team in many other areas to support the large Spanish speaking population in most schools in Contra Costa County.
The School Gardens program has been successful in these efforts due to the constant support and contributions of many UC Master Gardener volunteers and project groups. They include Terri Takusagawa from the AAMG team for donating winter vegetable seeds and educational materials for schools, the Jardineros team for Spanish language support, the “Our Gardens” project lead Janet Miller for donating vegetable plants for summer planting at schools, the Great Tomato Plant Sale team, Community Gardens, Help Desk, Communications team and Speakers Bureau.
Much still needs to be done and we are constantly looking for volunteers to take on responsibilities in various school gardens. Many schools in the east and south county still need a UC Master Gardener to serve as their point-person to regularly advise on gardening. Spanish speaking UC Master Gardeners can be very helpful during garden talks and demos on school sites. Gardening Summer Camps for school children is a new area that needs UC Master Gardener volunteer support.
The School Gardens project co-leads, Pam, Kate and Soubarna, welcome all CoCoMG volunteers to join the monthly school gardens team meetings to learn about activities and opportunities. During these monthly meetings, the co-leads would also like to hear your interests in volunteering for school gardens. If you are already actively involved, let us know how you have been supporting school gardens program.