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 North Texas SchoolsDC 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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Life Lab

Building on Life Lab’s 40 years of experience in the school garden movement, we’ve updated and put together a series of 4 virtual courses that will guide and support educators in becoming a Life Lab-Certified School Garden Educator. 🌳At Life Lab, we believe the world needs informed, inspired, creative, and collaborative leaders, ready with the skills and the motivation they need to work for justice, sustainability, and healthy communities. And we believe that the garden is an ideal space for growing just such leaders! Now, more than ever, we need dedicated educators to lead children in cultivating a love of learning, healthy food and connection to our natural world through garden-based education. 🐝Your support makes this work possible 💚 – thank you for being a part of the Life Lab community and broader school garden movement! If you have already donated to Life Lab recently, thank you! If you haven’t yet given this year, please help us keep all of this vital work going and growing by donating now. Gifts of any size are deeply appreciated and have real impacts.www.lifelab.org/donate

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🌻 🔬 Next Generation Science in the Garden 🔬🌻 “I’m a Scientist!” exclaim students in the garden, empowered by Life Lab’s inquiry-led approach to science education. A garden is rich with teachable moments inviting observant students to experience foundational life and natural science concepts. As birds fly overhead, plants fruit or bloom or hibernate, decomposers make dirt; students learn science by observation and experience, having fun and gaining deeper academic knowledge. Life Lab’s Next Generation Science in the Garden (NGSG) curriculum is developed by teachers, piloted by garden educators and a wonderful tool for connecting academic curriculum to robust garden environments.Your support makes this work possible – thank you for being a part of the Life Lab community and broader school garden movement! NGSG Curriculum is available now! ow.ly/ATOW50HhQb4

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Thank you for supporting hands-on learning and well-being for all children and being part of the growing school garden movement! We appreciate your partnership and wish you and your loved ones a joyous holiday season.

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I’ve been a teacher educator for 15 years. I started with literacy methods, then migrated to science, but what I most love to teach is garden pedagogy. Thanks to @ucmastergardenersnapaco I was able to bring lessons I learned from @ucdstudentfarm Life Lab and @beetlesproject to Napa. From 2013-2017 the #SchoolGardenTaskForce hosted several workshops aimed at increasing the horticultural knowledge of garden educators. I found a community of like-minded folks to connect with in California. #communityconnection #gardenbasedlearning #learningfromthebest

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#GoodReads in Spanish, incldng LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA, translatd from Zora’s Zucchini.Also see ESPINACAS DE SYLVIA, translated from Sylvia’s Spinach, a 2020 selection.See full lists from 2019-2021: bit.ly/3rkZa5nBoth SYLVIA and ZORA, in English & Spanish, are available in #audiobooks from Live Oak Media. ..#SpanishChildrensBooks #DiverseBooks #FoodLiteracy REFORMA Reforma Los Angeles ChapterNational Association for Bilingual EducationCABE California Association for Bilingual EducationThe National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) California Association for the Education of Young ChildrenViva Farms Big Green Life Lab Common Threads Farm The Children’s Book Council ALSC – The Association for Library Service to ChildrenThe Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DCOur ’22 Best Spanish Language Picture book list comes out in January. For now, enjoy ’21 @CuentoDeLuz @charlesbridge @reforma @ALALibrary @Candlewick @kokila @BarefootBooks @ReadersToEatersbankstedu.info/3D3NBl3

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Our partners, Life Lab, are hiring to work with #PVUSD students. Check it out!Nuestros socios, Life Lab, están contratando para trabajar con estudiantes de #PVUSD. ¡Échale un vistazo!lifelab.org/about/internships/jobs/Life Lab PVUSD Parents

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2 months ago

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Happy National Homemade Bread Day! November is also National Bread Month. Share Bread Lab on the science and joy of whole wheat sourdough breadmaking. bit.ly/2VQjVo7"This engaging picture book about the science and joy of making bread is named for Washington State University’s influential BreadLab and co-written by its managing director, Kim Binczewski, and agricultural scientist Bethany Econopouly. Illustrated lovingly by Hayelin Choi, this book should inspire folks of all ages to explore the world of sourdough baking."Eater SeattleSee video with Kim introducing the book and her work at the WSU Breadlab. bit.ly/3r9RIqz..#NationalHomemadeBreadDay #HomemadeBread #Bread #WholeGrain #WholeWheat #Sourdough #SourdoughStarter #Fermenation #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #ScienceEducation #FoodScience #PlantScience #SoilScience #Farming #CulinaryEducation #KidsCooking #FarmToSchool #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC The Bread Bakers Guild of AmericaNational Agriculture in the Classroom American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Whole Kids Foundation Pilot Light FoodCorps Life Lab Big Green Washington Ag in the Classroom California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) California Farm to School Edible Schoolyard NYC The Edible Schoolyard Project Center for Ecoliteracy

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Another wonderful Community Involvement day is in the books!Some of the activities students participated in to serve our community today:* Learned and practiced land stewardship (improve biodiversity, revegetation, weed removal)* Food preparation and distribution* Resource conservation* Home construction for low income families* Care and clean up of our community’s shared spacesThank you to these amazing local organizations and groups for their continued work to better our world through the lens of environmental advocacy and social justice: Coastal Watershed CouncilSave Our ShoresHomeless Garden ProjectEvergreen CemeterySan Lorenzo Valley Native Habitat Restoration ProgramGrey BearsLife LabSecond Harvest Food Bank Santa CruzHabitat for Humanity Monterey BayReStore Santa Cruz Home Improvement Store & Donation Centerwww.facebook.com/groups/SantaCruzFoodNotBombsSanta Cruz Museum of Natural HistoryCity of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation

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3 months ago

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Happy National STEM Day! #GoodFoodReads for #stemeducation: The Thing About Bees: A Love LetterFarmer Will Allen and the Growing TableBread LabBook info @ bit.ly/xoWr0H Find CurriculumMatrix for these titles @ National Agriculture in the Classroom bit.ly/3H0J9H4 ..#NationalSTEMDay #STEM #STEAM #stemeducation #scienceeducation #gardeneducation #environmentaleducation #MakerEducation #farmtoschool #agclassroom #agliteracy #AITC #FoodLiteracy #naeycAC The Alliance for a Healthier GenerationNational Science Teaching AssociationWSTA-Washington Science Teachers AssociationCalifornia Farm to School National Farm to School Network FoodCorps Big Green Life Lab Edible Schoolyard NYC The Edible Schoolyard Project Green Bronx Machine

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