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One of the many things that I enjoy about my job is when I am asked to visit school gardens.

You can read about a previous school garden visit here.


Yesterday, I was asked to come to my daughter, Gracie’s, class to talk about what I do as a horticulturist.  


As I’ve shared before, Gracie has autism.  She and the other kids in her class have been learning about gardening, which includes having their own school garden.


The kids were so excited to show me what they were growing.


Healthy, green tomato plants were laden with new fruit that the kids took the time to show me.  Even though they were hidden underneath the foliage and still green, they knew where each new tomato was.

Gracie was anxious to show me a young squash growing.


The only red tomato in the garden took center stage.


In addition to growing plants, the kids were also learning how to compost, which they will use to help enrich the soil around their garden.


At the end of the garden plot, was a grove of struggling citrus trees along with a few grape vines.

The teachers and class had just inherited this neglected citrus grove and wanted to learn how to care for them.


Despite years of neglect, the trees were still had some fruit.


An old grapevine was growing into the grapefruit tree and Gracie had to show me the lone cluster of grapes growing on it.


Finally, the kids showed me their new peach tree, which they earned the money to buy from their  recycling efforts.  

The peach tree will be the first, of hopefully many new fruit trees, that will line the walk to the garden.


I had a wonderful time with the kids and found myself teaching the teachers how to care for their new garden.

Where did you learn about gardening? 

I have shared about learning to garden as a young child when my dad gave me my own little plot of land and let me plant whatever I wanted.


Later, I learned more about gardening in school.  It was an elective gardening class and it was one of my favorites. 

So last fall, when I was asked to visit and help out the Johnson Elementary School Garden Club.  Of course, I said “yes”.



As I walked into the school, I spotted a greenhouse and rain barrel sitting in the courtyard.     I was getting excited to see what else they had and wondered how I could help.


Farther in, I saw raised vegetable beds, which were implementing the ‘square-foot’ gardening method for growing vegetables.

Once I arrived at the classroom where the gardening club met, I was greeted by several teachers and the students themselves.  This is an after school club that is made up of 5th and 6th graders.  It is a very popular club as was evident by the filled classroom.

I was asked to talk with the students and was then taken around to see even more of what they were learning about.


I was blown away by their aquaponic garden and grow light set up.  

After viewing the classroom, our next stop was a prospective area where they wanted to grow vegetables, which they called “The Back Forty Garden”.


Along the wall that bordered the school, was a raised bed.  Their question for me was how and if they could grow vegetables in this area.

The answer was “yes”, but there were some challenges to deal with.

First, there was no irrigation, so drip irrigation would have to be added.  The second challenge was that this wall faced west, so growing vegetables in summer would be almost impossible without shade cloth.  But, growing vegetables fall, winter and spring would be fine.

I talked about how to amend the soil with compost, composted steer manure, blood and bone meal.  I gave them information on what vegetables to plant and when.

Fast forward 6 months later and I received a very nice email along with photos of the new vegetable garden.


I love the painted mural, don’t you?


As you can see, a variety of vegetables were planted along the long length.  Wouldn’t you love a garden space this big?


The kids planted the vegetables and later harvested them.  Each kid got to take home some of the bounty.


Look at these proud faces!

School gardens are a great resouce as they teach kids about the environment and nature.  Most of all, it can inspire a lifelong passion for gardening.  

I wonder how many of the kids in this photo will have vegetable gardens of their own when they are grown up?  Once you get a small taste of growing your own vegetables, it’s hard to stop.

The teachers who work with the Garden Club at Johnson Elementary School in Mesa, Arizona are wonderful people with a passion for teaching and gardening.

What a perfect combination!