It takes a village to grow a successful school garden.

Time to Clean Up

To maintain healthy garden beds and reduce the chance of plant disease and insect problems next summer, clean up fallen leaves and fruits and trim back spent perennials (plants that come back every year).  [Note: Some perennials, like roses, may have specific pruning requirements.  Check with the horticultural agent at your local cooperative extension office for guidance.] If the dead plant material came from healthy plants, add it to the compost pile.  If the plants had looked sickly or had bug problems in late summer, discard the plant material to keep problems from wintering over.

Prepare Garden Beds for Spring

If you’re going to plant early spring crops (fast-growing ones students can enjoy before school lets out include radishes, spinach, arugula and leaf lettuce mix), prepare the beds for planting by adding compost, turning over the soil or tilling, and making rows or mounds (depending on what you’re going to plant). This will help the soil dry out next spring and you’ll be able to easily push in seeds or plant perennial plugs once the soil has warmed up.

Now’s Still a Good Time to Plant

Before frozen ground makes it impossible, fall is an excellent time to plant perennials, shrubs, and trees, but you will have to water them to help them get established. You also still have time to plant spring-flowering bulbs.  For an impressive, “massed” look, use hula-hoops as your guides and plant the bulbs within the circle.

Mulch Tender Plants

To help tender perennials survive the winter, mulch them with straw.  These include strawberries and raspberries, roses, some herbs and various flowers.

Organize Supplies

Perform a tool shed inventory, clean old mud off tools, and sharpen pruning shears, hoes and shovels. Start your wish list for spring.

Create a Habitat

Now’s the time to help out our feathered friends by putting out bird feeders.  Try different types of seeds and feeders.  You might even try a BirdCam so students can see visitors close-up.  What a great observation and journaling project! You might even have success with a feeder that attaches to your classroom window. Use feeders that are easy for students to help clean and hang, and remember to check the feeders weekly during the entire winter and early spring.  It’s likely you’ll have more species of birds come back every year.

copyright Anne Nagro