Starting a School Garden—in September? Yes!

School gardens don’t have to wait until spring. There are crops you can grow successfully in fall and winter too!

In BC coastal climates, you don’t need much protection to grow some greens during fall and winter. And with a cold frame, you should be able to grow a few crops even in tougher climates.

While most winter gardens are best started in the summer, you can successfully start arugula, corn salad (mâche), and radishes in September. These will grow during the fall and can be eaten during fall, winter and spring.

Start the seeds as soon as you can in September! The plants should be full size before the first frost hits. That’s why you’ll need a cold frame to protect your seedlings if you live in climates where the frost comes before the end of October.

Cloves of garlic can be set out in late September through October for growth the following spring. Simply plant each clove 1–2” deep and about 4–6” apart and wait for the tips to emerge In the spring.

West Coast Seeds has a Fall and Winter Planting Guide with lots of great tips.

There are many more crops you can grow at school during the fall and winter months if you plan ahead. If you start kale during July, or spinach in August, you can transplant the seedlings at school with your students in September.

While indoors, you can try growing mesclun mixes, which will do well under lights. When you have a crop of baby greens, just snip them with scissors for a delightful fresh salad. They’ll grow again. Plant seeds every few weeks for a continuous supply of baby greens salad. 

Interested in more about school food gardens? Check out the many resources at healthyeatingatschool.ca in the special section on gardens.

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