The permaculture design team and I have been visiting school gardens over the past several months (click here for photos), talked with some of these schools’ garden coordinators, and spent time in conversation with Seattle Tilth. (Thanks to everyone for your time!)
One consistent message we’re hearing is that it’s important for us to be clear as a school about our vision for the garden and how it will be used, before we invest time and resources into improvements. School gardens have a tendency to come and go (sometimes to seed), as families, teachers and administrations turn over, so being clear about our intentions and the long-term sustainability of the garden is important.
We’ll keep talking about sustainability on many levels, but for now:
How do we as a community want to use our school garden?
A school garden can be a place to grow annual veggies; or a place to learn about and enjoy perennial flowers, herbs, berries, fruits, and native plants. It can be a place for students to actively dig, plant and harvest; or a place to sit and write poetry about leaves and bugs. A garden can be directly integrated with curricula during the school day, be used more generally as an outdoor classroom, be tended by an after-school gardening club, or serve as a space for community gatherings. Or it can be a little bit of all these things. What are our priorities?
However we want to use the garden, Seattle Tilth recommends thinking about any school garden as 80% perennials and no more than 20% annual vegetable gardening, to reduce long-term maintenance. This seems in line with a permaculture focus on perennials and designing for “greater yield with less work over time.” And who can argue with that, really?