guest post by Becky Griffin, UGA Extension Community and School Garden Coordinator
Gardeners and MGEVs who work in school gardens should make a primary goal to see the garden become a popular spot that is used often. If the garden is used solely to grow a few vegetables for a few students, tremendous opportunities are being missed. The more people who know about your garden and the more school faculty that use it, the more likely your garden will be around for many years.
Most gardeners want to concentrate their efforts on the horticultural end. They want the garden to be productive and beautiful and they fail to do the garden promotion necessary to keep the garden supported. Visibility is sustainability in the school garden world.
Within the school you want as many teachers as possible using the garden. Teachers from different grade levels and different subjects should be in the garden as often as possible. I recommend that garden managers actually meet with the teachers to find out what is being taught and which teachers would be interested in using the garden. Any subject can be taught in the garden. For example, a colonial history class could learn about colonial medicinal herbs. A literature class could find inspiration in the garden; think about the flowers in Sarah, Plain and Tall. Having all disciplines and grade levels use the garden is just a matter of thinking creatively and collaborating with teachers.
Having the surrounding community involved in the garden can also help assure sustainability. The more community members who know about the garden the more possibilities there are for donations and volunteers. An easy way to approach this is to determine what is special about your school. If your school has a wonderful art department, why not host art in the garden? Have students display their works actually in the garden. The people attending the non-garden event may have never seen the garden. As a bonus the school administration will be excited about a unique venue for the air show.
These are just two basic ways to promote your garden. If you want more ideas on creating a sustainable school garden, please consider joining us during our Advanced Master Gardener Class this June.