Summer Maintenance

Summer Ideas/Garden Ownership

One of the biggest questions with school gardens is “who is going to tend it over the summer”? There are many successful models for a tending a garden while school is not in session, and likely a combination of many of them is the best answer for your garden.

The biggest key in a successful school garden is a paid employee. Volunteers are necessary for any school garden, but cannot be held to any standards or expectations. School gardens need someone who is going to dependably water when it is 108 degrees and who will lose sleep if the tomatoes aren’t producing. If someone doesn’t take ownership and responsibility, it is most likely that the garden will inevitably fall behind.

The person or group leading the gardening effort will depend on who is passionate at the school. A parent, a teacher, the PTO member, or a seasoned gardener in the community might be the likely choice to be a paid garden coordinator. Garden knowledge is obviously important, but a strong relationship with the school and commitment to long-term sustainability is equally so.

Incorporating the student body into the garden might also be a challenge over the summer. Having a volunteer program for community service, offering class credit, or employing the students are all wonderful ways to include the students in the entire process of the growing season.

There are endless creative solutions for maintaining a school garden over the summer. The most important factor is that it is successful for your school and your project. What works for one school might not work for another, but learning from others successes and failures means that you are not starting from scratch. Call, email, or visit other school gardens, non-profit gardens, church gardens, or community gardens in your area to get ideas and suggestions for how to ensure long lasting success.



Summer Garden Needs

The needs of the garden will change once the crops are established:

  • The garden will require some weeding all summer long
  • A thick layer of mulch will prevent many weeds, and helps conserve water
  • Summer heat will require more frequent waterings (water in the early morning or evening to allow water to soak in before evaporating)
  • Most crops, once established, require less frequent, deeper watering than newly planted crops
  • Established crops such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants may need to be staked or caged
  • Crops should be monitored closely for signs of pests (i.e. squash bugs & tomato horn worms)
  • Crops should be monitored for ripeness and harvested regularly