Garden Basics: Summer Garden Maintenance

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Summertime means time away from school, but what about the garden? It’s a great growing season but it’s also hot and depending on your weather, could be dry. How are you going to manage your garden for the summer that makes it easy to pick right back up in the fall? Plan!

There are several great strategies for maintaining the garden over the summer, but they all require some planning ahead of time. In order to weigh your options, consider the following question –

Should the garden remain productive?

Some schools choose to put their gardens “to bed” for the summer because it’s either too hot and dry, or they don’t have resources to keep it maintained. Some options for giving your gardens a rest for the summer include:

  • Cover Crops: Planting your beds with cover crops that fix nitrogen can help replenish the soil. At the end of the summer, these cover crops can get turned back into the soil. Learn more about using cover crops in your garden.
  • Mulch: If cover crops aren’t an option, consider clearing out the beds before school lets out and spread a thick layer of mulch over the soil to retain moisture and block weeds. The mulch will break down over the summer and be ready for back to school!

But… what is better than a summer tomato!? If you want to keep your garden growing and producing fresh fruits and vegetables over the summer, here are two questions you’ll need to address:

  • Who will be responsible for maintaining the garden?
  • What will you do with the produce after it is harvested?

Some options to consider for who might be good for garden maintenance:

  • Local youth summer programs, like summer camps  in the neighborhood or summer school classes might be able to contribute to basic garden maintenance
  • Does your school have a good volunteer network? Are there volunteers who might be interested?
  • What about “adopting” out garden beds to families or neighbors who can grow food for themselves or even to sell and maintain the bed for the summer?
  • Are there local organizations that facilitate youth workforce opportunities that your school can hire to maintain the gardens?
  • Do you have a garden club? Would students be interested in “adopting” a bed for the summer?

What to do with produce:

If the person or group you have maintaining the gardens aren’t already putting the produce to good use, consider some of the following good uses for your produce:

  • Set up a school produce stand for neighbors
  • Work with a local food bank or church to distribute produce to families
  • If you have a Garden Club and willing students, consider selling produce at a local farmer’s market

Back to School in the Garden

If you are planning to have plants already growing for fall harvest activities in September/ October, you should try to have a plan in place for planting in late July/ early August.