Does your school want to start a pollinator-friendly garden, with the children helping? Before you begin, remember the three most important factors for a successful garden are sun, soil and water.
DETERMINE SUN EXPOSURE
Let the kids figure out where the sun shines on various sections of the school grounds to determine best places to plant pollinator garden(s).
For plants to thrive it's important they have the proper soil in which to grow. Kids can dig up soil samples to send to a lab for nutrient analysis. The results will show what needs to be amended, especially for the type of plant material to be planted. Send soil samples to the CT AG Station or UCONN. These two links explain the program(s).
EXPERIMENTS FOR DETERMINING pH IN SOIL
pH is the measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil and is very important in determining nutrient availability, root growth and many other functions of a plant. There are some very simple experiments that explain pH. As a school, you might already have this in the curriculum, but here is a sample.
SOW WINTER SEEDS
Get the kids involved in winter seed sowing in January and February. This will provide seedlings for spring plantings. There are many videos about this topic, but here is one that explains the method well.
LEARN ABOUT GARDEN DESIGN
Encourage students to think about an all-season garden that feeds pollinators for more than one or two seasons. This means planting a variety of flowers that bloom in the spring, summer and fall while also providing food and habitat in the winter months. It is also a good idea to plant more multiples of the same plant for the pollinators to see more easily. Encourage fruit-bearing shrubs for the birds. There are lots of articles on Pollinator Pathway Stamford’s website and also view UCONN's Recommended Sustainable Plants for Connecticut Schools.
WESTHILL HIGH SCHOOL
Did you know that Westhill High School has an agriscience program? It may be a few years before the students are in high school, but why not introduce them to the program now? Perhaps collaborate with WHS.
CAREERS RELATED TO GARDENING
There is so much to discover in a garden—even a future career. One fun website features short videos of people in various plant-related professions, including a woman who maintains the playing field at one of the major ballparks. If interested, kids can volunteer at Stamford’s only urban farm, Fairgate Farm.
https://www.wearebloom.org/teachers/ (Note menu in upper right corner)
Your school could look into grants to fund projects. There are many grants for projects that involve children and gardening. Another general-purpose grant can be obtained through Donors Choose. A teacher needs to submit this grant. There is a high likelihood that a Donors Choose would be funded.
MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL – YEAR-ROUND CONTINUITY
Most importantly, parents/teachers need to come up with a plan for maintaining school garden(s), especially in summer. Once new plantings are installed, it is critical to water them.
Pollinator Pathway Stamford’s observation over the past couple years is that school gardens are started with much enthusiasm but lack summer maintenance and once parents move on to another school, leadership for the gardens seem to disappear. A goal would be to have a sustainable group throughout the years.
We are so excited that you want to help make your school a part of the Pollinator Pathway in Stamford! If you have any questions or require additional information, please feel fee to contact us. And don’t forget to take BEFORE and AFTER photos so we can highlight your work as an example to other schools and PPS participants!
Pollinator Pathway NE Helpful Website:
Junior Master Gardener Program
Pollinator Garden Toolkit for Schools