Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Annual and Perennial Plants Defined

Annuals plants go from a planted seed to producing a seed within a year. They complete their whole lifecycle in one year or season. Annual plants make up most of our vegetable crops, and many of them can be harvested within 2 to 3 months after sowing. (Bi-annual plants are similar to annuals but they may live up to two years before producing seeds and coming to the end of their lives.)

Perennial plants are those living more than 2 seasons. See planting perennials, natives, and fruit trees in school gardens

 

Annual Plant Crop Planning

View a 15 minute video that shares tips for creating an edible school year planting plan.

Annuals are generally classified as a “warm season” crop or a “cool season” crop

Cool season crops thrive in cool areas or during cooler months of the year. They can often withstand frost.

  • Generally they are the root, stem, leaf, and flower bud crops.
  • In mild winter areas many of these crops can “overwinter” if planted in the fall or can be planted in early spring for a late spring harvest.

Warm season crops thrive in warm areas or during the hotter months of the year. They cannot tolerate frost.

  • Generally they are the fruit and seed crops.
  • They are planted in the spring – summer.

Gardeners use planting charts and/or the information found on seed packets to determine when to plant an annual plant. Some planting charts and seed packets refer to weeks before or after “average last frost” dates as a reference point to guide of when to sow seeds or plant transplants outdoors.

How to Find Your Average Frost Dates

  • Victory Seeds lists frost dates for Canada and the U.S.
  • Contact your local Master Gardener (In CA visit www.mastergardeners.org, your nursery professional, or the following to find out your region’s frost dates.

Learn How to Read a Seed Packet

Vegetable Crop Planning Guides

  • Johnnyseeds.com – just enter your average last frost date and their tool will estimate your planting times
  • Life Lab’s Planting for a School Year Harvest – a simple list of edible crops suitable for mild winter area planting.
  • Territorial Seed  Spring and Fall/Winter Garden Guides They also include great information about growing a fall/winter garden (which is great for schools) Note: in mild winter areas some crops can be planted a couple weeks later than noted in their chart, but don’t wait too long, you want your little plants to be establish before day light decreases and temperatures drops.
  • National Gardening Association’s Food Garden Guide : Detailed information on planting, care and harvesting of garden plants.
  • Burpee.com : Great information on gardening and seed catalog, sign up for regional garden reports, visit their “library” for plant care and harvest information. visit their “nutrition guide” for vegetable nutrient content and garden kitchen tips.
  • Sample School Garden Planting Guides for DC Schools and for Tucson, AZ Schools

 

Planning Your School’s Edible Harvest

One of the most challenging aspects planning a school garden harvest is that most crops are ready for harvest in the summer months when most schools are out of session. With a bit of planning you can create a crop harvest schedule that fits with your school year.

Here are the three main “windows” for planting and harvesting in a traditional school year calendar:

  • Late Spring Harvest – cool season crops planted in late winter-early spring can be harvested before school lets out.
  • Fall Harvest – warm season crops planted in late spring (right before school lets out) can be harvested when school starts back up assuming the garden is watered and weeded during the summer.
  • Fall/Winter Harvest – cool season crops planted in late summer-early fall can be harvested in the late fall-winter time.

Seed packets and crop information sites list the “days to harvest”. The days to harvest are an approximation of how many days it will take for your plant to go from a newly sown seed to an edible treat. Refer to days to harvest to help plan your harvest dates.  It is simple as setting the day you’d like to harvest a crop, finding the days to harvest of the particular crop and then counting backwards to determine your sowing date. Of course there are many other variables like the weather, irrigation, fertilization, and pests that may accelerate or retard a plants growth but all of those variables are learning opportunities for the gardener(s).

Click for Edible Crop Planning Resources including the chart above:

  • Annual Crop Planning for School Garden and Crop Planning Worksheet – a PDF summary of the information on this page.
  • Edible Theme Garden Calendar – an Excel document created for the Central Coast of California which can be modified for your growing conditions.
  • Edible Theme Garden Plans – edible theme seed packet collections and lesson ideas on how to teach crop planning to adults and older students.

Planning a Fall Harvest

One mistake many new school gardeners make is planting a garden that matures during summer while students are away. If you are serious about harvesting vegetables in the fall, pick long season vegetable varieties. Read the “days till harvest” listing on the back of seed packages and plan accordingly. If you want to eat fresh corn in September with your students, plant 90-100 day corn in late May instead of 70 day corn. Better yet plant crops that can dry in the garden like popcorn. Popcorn can dry in the field for weeks once mature whereas sweet corn needs to be harvested within a week or two window. Also remember that many vegetables need to be harvested to keep producing throughout the summer so make sure your summer garden guardians harvest regularly to encourage continual fruiting. It is also a good idea to plant later in the spring or in early summer so that the crops will mature later in the summer or early fall when students return to school

Try planting some of these crops in late May or June and come back to school with something to harvest.

 

Popcorn Shelling Bean (dry beans) Edible / Birdseed Sunflowers Winter (Hard) Squash or Pumpkins
Peppers Eggplant Melons Potatoes
Tomatoes Parsnip Health Master Carrots Amaranth

 

Try planting a Three Sisters Garden with popcorn, winter squash, and dry beans. Our friends at www.kidsgardening.org have a good article on the Three Sisters Garden.

 

 

Gateway School Garden in Santa Cruz has a great annual planting plan that includes grade specific edible theme beds with academic connections. See Gateway’s Life Lab Year Round Plan

Wanna learn about planing perennials and fruit trees in school gardens?

Check out our tips for school garden summer care.

Learn more about planting out your school garden in Gardens for Learning Chapter 7 Planting Your School Garden

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Readers To Eaters

Great opportunity for young beekeepers! 🐝🐝 Check out Bee Grant from Whole Kids Foundation in partnership with The Bee Cause Project.Both WKF and BCP have been wonderful partners in promoting bee education and food literacy. See• WFK "World of Honey Bees," wonderful resource including Bee Activity Box featuring The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter. bit.ly/3h5SEb4• BCP Q&A with BEE author/illustrator Shabazz Larkin on #creativity #mindfulness & how we can take steps to care for the earth. bit.ly/3AoptJmGreat sharing for September #FoodLiteracyMonth and October National #FarmToSchoolMonth! ..#Bees #Pollinators #BeeEducation #BeeGarden #SaveTheBees #GiveBeesAChance #SchoolGarden #GardenEducation #OutdoorEducation #EnvironmentalEducation #ClimateEducation #FarmToSchool #AITC #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #ScienceEducation #STEM #STEAM #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation National Farm to School NetworkNational Agriculture in the ClassroomAmerican Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureJunior Master Gardener ProgramThe American Horticultural Society FoodCorps Common Threads Farm Center for Ecoliteracy Life LabThe Edible Schoolyard Project Edible Schoolyard NYCBzzt! Bee grant applications are now open! If you are interested in receiving an educational beehive or support for bee programming at your school or organization, apply for our bee grant in partnership with The Bee Cause Project. Learn more and register for our 9/15 webinar at: bit.ly/3DDfkL3

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Save Our Shores

Annual Coastal Cleanup is just around the corner and we are still looking for site captains for 7 of our region’s sites. This is a tremendous opportunity to join the region’s biggest annual volunteer effort to help protect our life-giving waters! For teens who are willing to partner with a parent or guardian, it’s also a fabulous way to practice leadership skills while earning community service credits!Ready to join us as a site captain? Sign up at docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfEoLUWDzybzQ_iUyKQhCetuywE8eKlnmZSi6neKIjdBHLSgQ/viewformWant to volunteer on Sept 18? Sign up at docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScdrSlrMTFOR7PBuGjwmSxx0DItsoctuloI5EI7eisRx8H6jw/viewformFriends of Santa Cruz State Parks Santa Cruz County Bank KindPeoples California State Parks Foundation California State Parks Kayak Connection Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center – Unofficial Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Monterey Bay Aquarium FishWise Seafood Watch Surfrider Foundation Santa Cruz Chapter The Bird School Project Life Lab Santa Cruz County Office of Education City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Lookout Santa Cruz County of Santa Cruz Aqua Safaris Scuba Center Live Like Coco Good Times Santa Cruz Santa Cruz Sentinel KAZU 90.3 Return of the Natives Restoration Education Project Santa Cruz State Junior Lifeguards

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Life Lab

🌱 We only have 2 spots left in our School Garden Educator Certification Program! 🌱 Sign-up today for the entire series of courses on our website. Our first course, Building Connections in the Garden, starts with asynchronous work on September 1st and our first synchronous session will be on Wednesday, September 8th from 3:30 – 5:00 PST. You may continue to sign up through August 31st or until all spots are filled. Upon completion of the 4 courses, participants will receive a certificate and the distinction of being a Life Lab-Certified Garden Educator. Each course will last approximately 4 weeks long and include 4 synchronous meetings, at-home work, and a unique coaching model tailored to each individual’s needs.lifelab.org/educator-certification-program/💚 We look forward to working with you!💚

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Beautiful way to end this spontaneous day. Thank you Don💐 Thank you Life Lab Thank you UCSC CASFS Farm and Thank you Matthew Raiford#grateful #Interconnections #bressnnyam #blackfarmers #heritagefarm #yeschef #badass #organicgardening @bookshopsc ❤️

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1 month ago

Philip Lee

Good read during summer zucchini season! See Booklist review of LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA, translated from Zora’s Zucchini: "By story’s end, Zora has learned the importance of growing, harvesting, and, above all, sharing food. [Anna] Raff’s appealing watercolor illustrations are soft and inviting, and an author’s note explains the ‘Donate, Preserve, Share’ concepts behind growing gardens. The translation’s well-chosen Spanish is simple to read aloud in a classroom or storytelling setting." bit.ly/3jWFZcGWe’re thrilled that LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA audiobook is out this spring from Live Oak Media!Come hear author Katherine Pryor discuss ZORA and connecting food & literacy, on Big Green‘s webinar, along with Marie Dennan, BG’s Memphis program manager, and Micheál Newman-Brooks, program manager of school gardens with Chicago Public Schools. 8/18 @ 1PM ET / 10AM PT. Free register@ bit.ly/2XuQsV3Get zucchini recipes, food swap ideas@ bit.ly/3xx996Z..#SpanishChildrensBooks #Zucchini #SummerReading #SummerGardening #KidsGardening #SchoolGarden #BackToSchool #GardenEducation #FoodSwap #FoodWaste #FarmToSchool #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITCThe Edible Schoolyard Project Edible Schoolyard NYCSlow Food USA School Garden Network Green Bronx Machine Life Lab Common Threads Farm Center for Ecoliteracy

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2 months ago

Philip Lee

See Our School Garden! author Rick Swann present on connecting school garden & literacy on 8/10, last of the Food Literacy Summer Author Series from Clemson Extension School & Community Gardening and South Carolina Farm to School Also presenting will be Tracy Miskelly at SC Ag in the Classroom. Register at bit.ly/3C2WjkyRick is a former Seattle school librarian. His work researching on creating a garden for his school led to his poems for OUR SCHOOL GARDEN! See discussion guides on OUR SCHOOL GARDEN from The Bee Cause Project Book Club. bit.ly/3rU2D7URead more about the Summer Author seriest: "Clemson Extension launches author series aimed at improving food literacy for SC youth." bit.ly/2Vlzc3A..#Poetry #FoodPoetry #FoundPoem #SchoolGarden #GardenEducation #SummerReading #SummerLearning #FarmToSchool #AgClassroomJunior Master Gardener ProgramSlow Food USA School Garden Network Common Threads Farm Life Lab FoodCorps

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Magical seeds are being planted at Starlight Elementary in Watsonville that will blossom into a garden and teaching kitchen where students will learn, grow & thrive. Community Foundation staff was thrilled to visit the site last week, meet with partners, and learn more about the project (a recipient of a 2021 community grant. (Pictured from left to right: Judit Camacho, Jennifer Holm, Michelle Rodriguez, Hilary Bryant, Kevin Heuer, Jackie Medina, Don Burgett, Francisco Estrada, & Julie Edwards)with:Emeril Lagasse Foundation Life Lab Community Health Trust of Pajaro ValleyPajaro Valley Unified School District

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2 months ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy National Urban Beekeeping Day! See info on urban bees from Detroit Hives. Good day to share The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter. See author/illustrator Shabazz Larkin read the book for PBSThirteen WNET New York with wonderful message at the end on how to take care of bees, our environment, and ourselves! bit.ly/32LQ0S0..#nationalurbanbeekeepingday #urbanbees #beekeepers #beeeducation #savethebees #givebeesachance #pollinators #pollination #farmtoschool #agclassroom #agliteracy #AITC #summerlearning #summerreading National Agriculture in the ClassroomMichigan Agriculture in the Classroom New York Agriculture in the ClassroomWisconsin Ag in the Classroom ProgramEdible Schoolyard NYC The Edible Schoolyard Project Life Lab Big Green Common Threads Farm Slow Food USA School Garden Network

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3 months ago

Life Lab

¡Estamos emocionados de anunciar la versión en Español del curso GRATIS aclamado, Enseñando en el Aula de la Naturaleza! Conéctese con otros educadores y desarrolle nuevas estrategias y maneras de ver el aula al aire libre. Es una gran oportunidad tanto para educadores nuevos a la enseñanza al aire libre y educación basada en el jardín como para los más experimentados en esta práctica. Lea más y registrese aquí: wischoolgardens.org/EAN-curso/Wisconsin School Garden Network _________________________________We are excited to announce a Spanish language version of the acclaimed FREE course, Teaching in Nature’s Classroom! Connect with educators and develop new strategies and ways of seeing the outdoor classroom. A great opportunity for educators new to outdoor and garden-based learning, as well as educators who are experienced in the field. Learn more and register here wischoolgardens.org/EAN-curso/Wisconsin School Garden Network

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