Harvest your edible garden with our awesome toolkit!
Congratulations on all your success in planning, planting, and caring for your garden! Now it’s time to enjoy your Harvest and Sustain the garden for years to come!
In this fourth toolkit of the Edible Garden series, students will learn how to harvest their edible garden site and care for it during school breaks. 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 toolkit.
This toolkit address the following Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) within the Performance Expectations of NGSS for Grades: 6-8 and 9-12
- Asking Questions and Defining a Problem
- Planning and Carrying out Investigations
- Analyzing and Interpreting Data
- Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
- Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
- Obtaining Evaluating, and Communicating Information
- Students will analyze their edible garden and determine best practices for harvesting
- Project Management
- Students will manage and maintain their own harvest to develop project management skills
- Students will practice leadership skills by delegating tasks to each other.
- Evaluation and Assessment
- Students will track and evaluate the impact of their edible garden.
What is an Edible Garden and why is it important?
Having a school garden provides an opportunity to be outside while learning about teamwork, food systems, environmental awareness, stewardship, and responsibility. There are also other benefits to a garden like physical activity, personal growth, supporting mental and emotional health, community improvement, and social awareness. (Source: KidsGardening)
What You Will Accomplish
After all the hard work of planning, planting, and maintaining your garden, it’s finally time to reap the rewards and enjoy the delicious fruits and vegetables you’ve grown! Harvesting is an exciting and satisfying step in the gardening journey. So, enjoy the fruits of your labor, share the joy with others and keep the cycle of garden thriving for years to come.
Why Should You Harvest and Sustain 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 Maintain your garden toolkits!
Growing Food Reduces Plastic Packaging
Single-use plastics, widely used in food packaging, present a pressing environmental and health issue. These plastics, primarily derived from fossil fuel-based chemicals, contribute to carbon emissions and climate change. Shockingly, a staggering 150 million tons of single-use plastics are produced annually worldwide, with the majority ending up in landfills or polluting our environment. As they degrade, they break down into microplastics, persisting in ecosystems and posing threats to wildlife and human health. Exposure to the chemicals in plastics can disrupt hormones, cause fertility problems, and increase the risk of cancer. To combat this crisis, it is vital to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics, opting for sustainable alternatives, embracing reusable options and by growing our own food to reduce the amount of packaged produce that we purchase. By making conscious choices and adopting eco-friendly practices, we can minimize plastic waste, protect the planet, and safeguard our well-being for a sustainable future. 
Kids Who Grow Their Own Food Have a Healthier Diet!
When young people have the opportunity to learn about the origins of their food and gain hands-on experience in growing and preparing it, remarkable shifts in their eating habits can occur. Studies have shown that kids who participate in garden programs tend to consume an additional half serving of vegetables per day compared to their previous habits. This increase in fruit and vegetable consumption is a powerful catalyst for promoting healthy eating patterns, which in turn can significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. By empowering youth to make nutritious choices and fostering a deeper connection to their food, we can sow the seeds of lifelong health and well-being. 
Why Food is an Environmental Issue
The colonization of Indigenous communities has had a profound impact on their ability to uphold their role as caretakers of the land and water. The imposition of laws against Indigenous ecological knowledge practices resulted in displacement and devastating consequences for the environment. Indigenous Peoples, who were historically the primary stewards of their communities’ land and water, were deprived of their expertise. As a result, natural resources in these areas became vulnerable to overuse and pollution, leading to irreparable damage to ecosystems and endangering numerous species.
The advancement of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge has provided an opportunity for Indigenous individuals who maintain their connection to the land and water to share their wisdom for the betterment of the world. Supporting the biocentric efforts of Indigenous Peoples can be accomplished through various means. However, it is crucial to begin by recognizing and respecting Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and practices, while also acknowledging the expertise of Indigenous Peoples in managing their lands and waters. 
Watch these short videos to learn more about harvesting and sustaining!
Think About It!
- What will happen if the garden doesn’t get harvested?
- What are the benefits of fresh garden food?
- If you have an abundance of food, who could you share it with?
- What skills did you gain from working in the garden?
Take Action: LAUNCH the Harvest of Your Edible Garden
Follow the steps below to harvest a successful Edible Garden at your school! Need help? Contact us!
Step 1: Harvest Safety
Stay Safe and have fun while harvesting! Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be safe when holding scissors and tools with sharp edges
- Everyone who harvests should be healthy with no sores or cuts on their hands
- Harvest with clean hands
- Gather produce in clean containers
- Store produce safely
- Brush off soil
- If washing before storing make sure produce is thoroughly dry
- Potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and peaches don’t need to be refrigerated
- Wash produce correctly
- Make sure to use potable water
- Wear gloves
Step 2: When and How to Harvest Different Plants
There’s a variety of ways to harvest your veggies, depending on what you’ve grown! You may have to pick, cut or dig up the harvest.
- Root vegetables should be picked when large enough but not too big.
- Fruiting vegetables can be guided by skin color, look for even colors all around.
- Lettuces can be picked by taking outside leaves only allowing the lettuce to keep growing from the center.
- Cucumbers should be cut off the vine when between 6-8 inches
- Check out the Kellogg Harvesting Guide on common garden crops for more detailed information.
Use this worksheet to keep track of what was harvested.
- Be careful when harvesting vegetables. Be gentle with them so they don’t break or bruise. They will keep longer in storage if handled carefully.
- Pick when the harvest is ripe. It will taste the best and have the most nutritional value.
- Don’t let vegetables get too big. Oversized vegetables might lose their flavor and texture.
Step 3: Extending Your Harvest
Here are a few tips for extending your harvest:
- Succession planting is a cool trick to have a continuous harvest instead of everything ripening at once. So, plant a new batch of seeds every week!
- Pick early and often: this encourages the plants to produce more tasty treats
- Protect: sometimes, our plants might need a little extra protection from the sun or heat, so cover them up with shade cloth or other coverings to keep them happy
- Prune: By trimming away excess leaves, you’re giving your plants more sunlight and air, which helps them produce even more delicious fruits and veggies.
Keep up the great work!
Step 4: Plan a Harvest Party to Celebrate
Get ready to party in the garden and celebrate your bountiful harvest! It’s time to gather your green thumbs and plan a harvest party like no other. Here are some fun ideas to make it a memorable event:
- Harvest Potluck: Invite everyone to bring a dish made with fresh ingredients from the garden.
- Garden Games: Set up fun garden-themed games like a scavenger hunt or other Kellogg garden activities
- DIY Garden Crafts: decorate pots and plant your favorite herbs or flowers. Create flower crowns using freshly picked blooms.
- Veggie Tasting Station: have a variety of harvested veggies. Encourage everyone to try different flavors and textures.
- Live music and dancing: Create a festive atmosphere with a garden-themed playlist.
- Garden Photo Booth: Design a garden-themed photo booth with props like sunflower hats, watering cans, and garden tools.
Remember, a harvest party is all about celebrating the hard work, joy and delicious rewards of your garden. So, let your creativity bloom and plan a memorable event that will make everyone fall in love with the magic of growing and harvesting food!
Step 5: Eating Your Harvest
When it comes to cooking with the garden harvest, the possibilities are endless! Here are some fun and delicious recipes to try using the fresh vegetables you’ve grown:
- Garden Veggie Pizza: Create a homemade pizza topped with a medley of garden vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and fresh herbs.
- Crunchy Garden Salad: Use lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and carrots. Toss with a zesty homemade dressing.
- Caprese Skewers: Thread cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and bite sized mozzarella balls onto skewers for a colorful and tasty appetizer
- Tomato Salsa: with tomatoes, cilantro and peppers
- Kale chips: better than potato chips!
- Cucumber Sandwiches: perfect for a garden party
- Infused Water: flavored water at it’s finest
Remember to get creative in the kitchen and experiment with different combinations of your garden harvest. With the fresh flavors and nutrients from your own garden, these recipes are sure to delight your taste buds and make mealtime a delicious adventure!
- Share with the community
- Take home the harvest to share
- Allow faculty to take home produce
- Condense the garden to make less work!
- Get weeds out before they go to seed!
Step 6: Summer Maintenance
Summer break is a prime growing season. If the garden is still growing:
- Enlist volunteers to maintain and harvest during the long school break
- Schedule workdays
- Consider teaming up with the on-campus summer youth programs
- Consider installing drip irrigation
- Keep mulch 2-3 inches deep
Options if the garden is not growing during the summer:
- Make sure plant debris is cleaned up and cover the soil by mulching
- Build soil by planting a cover crop
- Cover crops are plants used to build soil and not harvested for food. They keep nutrients in the soil so the rain doesn’t wash them away and return them as the cover crop is tilled back into the soil. Cover crops lead to better water infiltration and hold more water. They also keep down weeds. The types of winter cover crops that are suitable for planting in your school garden in late summer and early fall will depend on your region of the country.
- Buckwheat is considered a good summer cover crop in most areas. They should be cut down a week before flowering so they don’t set seeds. Chop them into small pieces and use them as mulch.
Check out this link for more information!
Step 7: Winter Maintenance
Clean up the garden for a headstart for the spring season
- Remove plant debris
- Debris might be harboring pests or diseases that could cause problems next season
- Cover the soil with mulch or with cover crop
- Bare soil can erode from wind or water or compact from rain
- Covered soil reduces weeds in the next growing season
- Add winter cover crop. Cover crops hold onto nutrients in the soil and put them back in when returned to the soil in the spring.
How’d It Go?
- What was the hardest part about the harvest process?
- What changes will you make the next time you plant a garden?
- What was the best-tasting food you grew?
- Are there plants you wouldn’t grow again?
- What different plants would you like to try next time?
Report Students’ Impact
Congratulations!! You’ve implemented Harvest and Sustain! Don’t let all that hard work go unnoticed. Submit your results by clicking the green 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!
- Edible Garden Series Google Resources
- Edible Garden Sign-Up Sheet
- Edible Garden Recipes
- Edible Garden Wrap-Up Form
- Edible Garden Harvest Worksheet
- Harvest and Sustain Slideshow
YOU DID IT! Congrats on Planning, Planting, Maintaining, and Harvesting an Edible Garden!
Now that you are a skilled gardener and have enjoyed the bounties of your garden, it’s time to start planning for the next season. With your experience and knowledge, you can anticipate and prepare for the upcoming challenges and opportunities in your garden. Get ready to sow new seeds, nurture new plants, and continue the cycle of growth and harvest in your ever-evolving garden. Happy planning!
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