LAUNCH Lessons:
Maintain An Edible Garden 6th-12th

Edible Garden Series 6th-12th: Part 3 of 4

This lesson address the following Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) within the Performance Expectations of NGSS for Grades: K-2 and 3-5

  • Asking Questions and Defining a Problem
  • Planning and Carrying out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
  • Obtaining Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Students will analyze their daily habits to see where they can reduce their waste, energy, and water usage.

Project Management

  • Students will keep track of how many resources they are saving.
  • Students will practice leadership skills by delegating tasks to each other.

Evaluation and Assessment
Students will track and evaluate the impact of their project.

What's in this page?

Your garden has been planned and planted, now it’s time to MAINTAIN!

Now that your garden is planned and planted, it’s time for some garden TLC! With a little love and care, your garden will flourish, and you’ll be rewarded with tasty homegrown goodness. Get ready to give your garden the love it deserves!

In the third lesson of the Edible Garden series, you will learn how to maintain an edible garden through watering, fertilizing, and weeding along with pest management and other garden issues. They will also discover the positive impacts edible gardens have on the environment.

Grades of Green is proud to partner with Palos Verdes School Gardens and Kellogg Garden Products to bring you this lesson.

Within this lesson, you’ll find various downloadable resources. For your convenience, you can access them all in one place by clicking on this link to view them in a Google Drive folder.

LAUNCH Lesson Details

What is an Edible Garden & Why is it Important?

Having a school garden is a fun and educational experience that offers many benefits. It provides an opportunity to learn new skills while being outdoors, fostering teamwork, and promoting awareness of food systems, environmental responsibility, and stewardship. Gardens also encourage physical activity, and personal growth, and support mental and emotional well-being. They serve as a platform for community improvement and social awareness, and promote sustainable practices and healthier food choices. The school garden acts as a living lab, providing problem-solving opportunities and cultivating critical thinking skills. Overall, the edible school garden creates a vibrant space for learning and personal development and fosters a deeper connection with the natural world. (Source: KidsGardening)

What You Will Accomplish

Congratulations on all your success in planning and planting your garden! Now, it’s time to keep your plants thriving through regular maintenance. By watering, weeding, and feeding your plants, you’ll ensure that all your efforts don’t go to waste. Watering will provide essential hydration, while weeding will keep unwanted plants from stealing nutrients and space. Feeding your plants with organic fertilizers or compost will give them the nutrients they need to grow strong. With consistent care, your garden will flourish, resulting in a high-quality and abundant harvest for you to enjoy. So, continue to give your garden the love and attention it deserves and watch it thrive before your eyes!

Why Should You Maintain an Edible Garden?

The resources provided below can be shown as a slideshow or printed out as individual worksheets for students to review. For more background learning, please refer to the Plan, Plant, and Harvest your garden lessons!

Gardens Provide More Than Hands On Learning

Having a garden allows people to love and connect with nature. According to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, gardening has been proven to help the body reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone released in stressful situations. As a result, gardening is great for managing anger, anxiety, and other negative emotions. Given the physiological benefits of gardening, it is unsurprising to find that individuals of all ages who garden report feeling “relaxed” and “calm” when gardening . For students, this feeling of comfort creates an environment conducive for building self-confidence, working with others, and cooperating during learning. Over the past decade, experimental research on the social and emotional benefits of gardening has been limited. However, related studies indicate that when students are able to build their emotional and social capacities, these skills enable students to increase their academic performance by improving their participation in the classroom. [1]

Gardens Create Oxygen and Reduce Carbon Dioxide

Plants are incredible and play a vital role in sustaining life on Earth. They’re like the talented magicians of the natural world, performing an awe-inspiring trick that benefits us all. Although carbon dioxide may have a reputation for warming up our planet, plants have this fantastic ability to turn it into something valuable through a process called photosynthesis. With the help of sunlight and water, they work their botanical magic, transforming carbon dioxide into energy and releasing precious oxygen back into the atmosphere. It’s a remarkable dance of gasses that keeps our air clean and breathable. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these green wonders because without them, we simply wouldn’t be able to survive. So let’s give a big shout out to the power of plants and the remarkable job they do in producing oxygen for us to breathe and providing us with the delicious food that sustains us. It’s time to appreciate and protect our leafy friends for their crucial role in keeping our planet thriving. [1]

Environmental Justice Issue

Nutrients from fertilizers may seem harmless, but they can have a big impact on our waterways. When these nutrients run off into rivers, lakes, and oceans, they can cause a serious problem called eutrophication. Picture this: an excess of nutrients in the water acts like fertilizer for plants and algae, causing them to grow uncontrollably. This may sound like a good thing, but it’s not. The excessive growth of plants and algae can lead to a chain reaction of negative consequences. It can deplete oxygen levels in the water, resulting in fish die-off and creating what’s known as dead zones. Harmful algal blooms can also occur, releasing toxins that are harmful to both aquatic life and humans. The effects of eutrophication are far-reaching and can include tainted drinking water, the loss of recreational activities like swimming and fishing, and even economic setbacks for communities that rely on the health of their aquatic ecosystems. It’s a stark reminder that our actions on land can have far-reaching consequences for our precious waterways and the people and creatures that depend on them. It’s important for us to be mindful of the impact of nutrient pollution and take steps to prevent it, ensuring the long-term health and sustainability of our aquatic environments. [2]

Watch these Short Videos to Learn More on Maintaining a Garden

Think About It!

Pre-Activity Questions

  • What will happen if the garden doesn’t get maintained?
  • What are the benefits of maintaining a garden?
  • Who can you contact if there are issues in the garden?
  • What skills can be gained from working in the garden?
  • What happens if the plants don’t receive nutrients?

Take Action: LAUNCH the Maintain An Edible Garden 6th-12th Project

Follow the steps below to maintain a successful Edible Garden at your school! Need help? Contact us!

Step 1: Roles and Schedule

Make sure everyone is familiar with what role and responsibility they will have in the garden. Check your Edible Garden Series Roles Worksheet from LEsson #1 and review and update roles if necessary.

Get set up for success and create your Edible Garden Maintenance Schedule Worksheet to ensure the next steps go smoothly.

Step 2: Water Your Garden

Water is essential for the survival and growth of plants. Depending on the watering method chosen in your garden plan, such as using a watering can, hose, or irrigation system, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Time it right: water your plants in the early morning. This allows them to absorb the moisture before the heat of the day, reducing evaporation and giving them the best chance to thrive.
  • Target the roots: Direct your watering efforts to the base of the plants, aiming for the soil around their roots. Avoid wetting the leaves, as this can promote disease and fungal growth.
  • Water deeply: it’s better to water thoroughly a few times a week rather than lightly every day. This encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil, making the plants more resilient. To ensure proper watering, use a moisture meter, which can be easily obtained from any gardening store. Aim to wet the solid to a depth of 6-8 inches.
  • Different plant species have different water needs. Research how best to water each type of plant that you are growing. For tips, check out Kellogg’s Watering Guide.
  • Use recycled containers like milk or juice jugs to water. They are great for upcycling. 
  • Place plants with similar watering needs together. Overwatering shows up as yellow or brown limp leaves and occurs more often than underwatering. 
  • Use rain barrels to collect water for the garden.
  • A volunteer plant (it grows independently without being deliberately planted) is not a weed, but could come from misplaced seeds or compost. If you can determine what type of plants they are, and there is enough room, they could be left in place or moved to a different location. Learn more about volunteer plants here.

Step 3: Weeding Your Garden

Weeds can be pesky intruders in our gardens, snatching away valuable nutrients, water, and light from our desired plants. To tackle them effectively, it’s important to distinguish between weeds and the plants we actually want to grow.

Here are some tips to prevent and manage weeds in a natural and organic way:

  • Stop them before they start: Prevention is key! Take proactive measures to prevent weed growth by implementing strategies like mulching and planting your garden densely. These practices help to suppress weed growth by blocking their access to sunlight and crowding them out.
  • Maintain healthy soil: Healthy soil is the foundation for a thriving garden. Keep your soil balanced by ensuring the right pH level for your plants. This helps create an environment that favors the growth of desired plants while making it less favorable for weeds to take hold.
  • Mulch it up: Mulching is a fantastic technique to deter weeds. Cover the soil around your plants with a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips. This acts as a protective barrier, smothering weeds and preventing them from germinating.
  • Regular weeding: Make it a habit to pull weeds every time you visit the garden or set a weekly schedule dedicated to weed removal. By consistently removing weeds when they’re small, you can prevent them from growing too large and competing with desired plants. Be sure to pull weeds at the base to remove the roots as well as the leaves.
  • Go organic: Avoid using toxic chemicals to get rid of weeds. Instead, opt for organic and environmentally friendly weed control methods. Check out the Kellogg Garden Blog for helpful tips on organic weed management.

By implementing these practices, you can keep those unwanted plants at bay, maintaining a healthy and thriving garden filled with the plants you love. Happy weeding!

Step 4: Mulch Your Garden

Mulch is like a superhero for your garden! It’s a protective layer that covers the soil and offers a bunch of amazing benefits. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Weed warrior: Mulch acts as a barrier, preventing those pesky weeds from sprouting and taking over your garden.
  • Water wizard: By covering the soil with mulch, you’re creating a shield that helps retain moisture. This means less frequent watering and more efficient water usage in the garden.
  • Erosion Avenger: Mulch helps prevent soil erosion by keeping it in place during heavy rains or windy days. 
  • Temperature Tamer: Fluctuating temperatures can stress out plants, but mulch comes to the rescue! It acts as insulation, stabilizing the soil temperature and providing a cozy environment for your plants to thrive.
  • Nutrient Provider: As organic mulch breaks down over time, it releases valuable nutrients into the soil.

Now, let’s talk about the types of materials you can use for organic mulch:

  1. Compost: If you have your own compost pile, it’s a fantastic choice! Check out our garden lesson for tips on making your own compost (link to Composting Lesson)
  2. Wood chips: These are great for larger areas, and they break down slowly, providing long-lasting benefits to your soil.
  3. Shredded leaves: fallen leaves in your school yard can be fantastic organic mulch
  4. Grass clippings: After the lawn gets mowed, save the clippings and spread them as mulch. Just make sure they haven’t been treated with harmful chemicals.
  5. Straw or Hay: Look for weed-free options, as you don’t want any surprises sprouting up in your garden.

When apply mulch, remember these important steps:

  • Clear the area: before mulching, make sure the soil is free of weeds. 
  • Layer it on: Spread a 2-4 inch layer of mulch, covering the soil around your plants. 
  • Give space to the plants: Keep the mulch about 1 inch away from the stems of your plants. Crowding them with mulch can lead to rotting.

With the power of mulch on your side, you can create a thriving and resilient garden that’s ready to tackle anything.

  • Mulching can slow soil warming, so in spring move it aside for a few weeks to let the soil warm up.
  • A garden that has a good ecosystem will have minimal pest problems. A few pests are manageable. They can be washed off with water or picked off by hand.

Step 5: Dealing with Pests and Diseases

What is a Pest?

Pests can be quite pesky but fear not! Let’s uncover the world of pests and how to handle them like a pro:

What exactly is a pest? Well, it’s anything that causes trouble for the plants we want to grow in our garden. These troublemakers can come in various forms, including weeds, birds, mammals, insects, pathogens like bacteria, viruses, or fungi, or any unwanted intruders that disrupt the harmony of our garden ecosystem.

Now, let’s meet some of the common culprits we might encounter in our garden: aphids, cutworms, flea beetles, japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, and tomato hornworms. They may cause mischief, but fear not, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeves to handle them!

But hold on, not all bugs are bad news! In fact, some bugs are actually beneficial to our garden. These “good bugs” can eat the pests that harm our plants or act as pollinators. Ladybugs, spiders, praying mantises, bees, wasps, dragonflies, ground beetles, lacewings, soldier beetles, and spined soldier bugs are among the heroes of our garden. By attracting these beneficial bugs, we can naturally keep pest populations in check.

  • Prevention is key: Take proactive measures to prevent problems before they even begin.
  • Swift Removal: If you spot deceased plants, remove them promptly to prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Nurture healthy soil: It’s the secret behind healthy plants.
  • Garden cleanliness: Practice good garden sanitation by cleaning up thoroughly at the end of the season. Avoid composting infected plant material to prevent disease recurrence.
  • Rotation, rotation, rotation: Rotate related plants each year to disrupt pest and disease cycles. A three-year rotation cycle works wonders.
  • Moisture matters: Monitor soil moisture to keep it consistently moist, but be mindful of avoiding wet foliage, as it can promote disease.
  • Smart plant choices: Opt for disease-resistant plant varieties. Check the seed packet for indicators like letters after the plant name (e.g., V&f after tomato that signify resistance to specific diseases.)
  • Tackle those weeds: Keep weeds under control, as they can provide hiding spots and shelter for pests.
  • Barriers and traps: Use row covers as barriers to shield plants that don’t require pollination from pests. Traps can also be effective in luring and capturing pests.

By implementing these tips and getting to know the pests and diseases that are likely to bother your garden, you’ll be equipped to keep your plants happy and healthy. Remember, with a little knowledge and a touch of vigilance, you can conquer any pest challenge that comes your way!

Reflection Questions

How’d It Go?

  • What was the most challenging part of the maintenance process?
  • What changes could be made next time?
  • What was your favorite maintenance activity?

Report Impact

Congratulations! You’ve Maintained an Edible Garden! Don’t let all that hard work go unnoticed. Submit your results by clicking the button below.

Project ongoing? No problem! Let us know what you’ve done so far. 

By reporting your impact, Grades of Green can:

  • CELEBRATE and elevate your students’ hard work and success. 
  • Offer our programs FREE for all students across the globe. 
  • AWARD stipends and certificates to hard-working educators and students.

Please take a few minutes to submit your results. Thank you!

Next Steps

Congratulations on completing the Maintain Your Edible School Garden Lesson! You’ve gained valuable knowledge and skills in gardening. Get ready to witness the beauty and abundance your school garden will bring.

Did you enjoy this Eco-Lesson? Get ready to harvest your edible garden!