Harvesting with Students in the Garden

Steps for Harvesting Produce in the School Garden

  • Think ahead to harvesting time. This post helps you prepare for the harvest of any garden produce. Some things to consider include: when (or if) students will be eating the produce; whether the harvested produce is going to be used later in the lesson; how you want to store the produce; whether or not other teachers/volunteers will be there to help lead the harvest, etc. Do you have a hand-washing station in the garden? If not, you’ll need to have students wash hands before they go outside. 
  • If you will be using tools to harvest, make sure they are clean and sanitized. You’ll want to be certain that you are not transferring pathogens or bacteria from tools to crops. This guide takes you through tool safety in the garden. 
  • Once you are in the garden with students, go over garden rules first. Some common garden rules to make students aware of are: keep tools low and slow; stay on the paths; ask before harvesting or touching anything in the garden; treat others (students, teachers, and any critters you may find!) with respect; and lastly, “don’t yuck my yum”. This last rule simply asks students to remain respectful when tasting something – not everyone will like everything, so it is OK to have students spit out the food quietly into their hands and then throw it away. However, they should do so without being loud or disruptive of someone else’s tasting experience. 
  • Have students wash their hands if they haven’t done so already. Hand-washing with kids can be ineffective if not done properly. The CDC gives some good information on proper hand-washing methods. Even though your students may think they know how, it’s always good to have a teacher or other adult lead them through with these suggestions in mind. 
  • Harvest your produce! This guide and this guide offer some good plant-specific advice on harvesting for common garden vegetables. It is generally best to have students harvest one at a time, if possible. If not, they can be in small groups supervised by teachers or adult volunteers. 

Store your produce if necessary. If your students did not consume the produce right as they harvested, you’ll need to figure out how and where you are going to store it. Check out this infographic and this article to learn crop-specific storage tips.