School Grounds TRAnSfoRmAtiOn  
  Back to Types of Projects  

Edible gardens:
growing vegetables, herbs,
fruits and nuts

Back Forward

Image Gallery

Click here to view images of edible gardens.

Helping children learn about plant growth

When schools start thinking about greening up their grounds, planting shade trees, windbreaks and wildlife habitat is often high on the agenda. Trees take a long time to grow and by the time there is a perceptible difference in the size of the trees the children will have graduated. Edible gardens help children learn about plant growth. Growing vegetables, herbs and flowers from seed and observing and recording their growth through to maturity in just one season can help children understand the development and needs of plants that take much longer to mature. While growing food for humans, children can also learn about how animals depend on plants for food.


Cities used to be able to feed themselves by growing their own food on the agricultural lands around the city limits. As our ability to transport food huge distances has grown, we have becoame increasingly less self-sufficient in food. The average mouthful of food Canadians eat has travelled about 2,000 kilometres.

Vegetable and fruit gardening at school is an effective way of introducing young people to the impacts of our present global food production and delivery systems including: the depletion of ecologically-productive lands for the purpose of growing cash crops, pesticide, energy and water use, transportation, climate change, international trade routes, nutrition, global economics and social justice issues.

Climate change connections can be made concerning the loss of carbon sink lands such as wetlands and forests which help to offset CO2 emissions, the use of fossil fuels and pesticides when transporting food long distances, and the manufacture, use and disposal of packaging.

School grounds edible gardens can teach children about growing their own food and the importance of eating well. Local gardeners can be asked to share their expertise and others in the community can be encouraged to grow gardens of their own.

The Berkeley Unified School Board has a food policy which "recognizes the important connection between a healthy diet and a student's ability to learn effectively and achieve high standards in school. The Board also recognizes the school's role, as part of a larger community, to promote family health, sustainable agriculture and environmental restoration". The implementation of the policy includes establishing a school garden in every school and giving students the opportunity to plant, harvest, prepare, cook and eat the food they have grown. Further information may be obtained by contacting:

Food Systems Project, 2041 Bancroft Way, CA 94704, USA
Phone: (510) 548-8838

Nutrition and health

Edible gardens are a good way to make connections between organically-grown produce and human health. Food that has to be transported around the world has many chemicals added to it to enable it to survive the journey. The nutritional value of fresh produce decreases the longer the time between plant and table.

Growing food at school can promote healthier eating habits among children and increase their physical exercise out of doors.

A number of school boards in California with breakfast programmes now have policies requiring that all food be organic and that 50% of the produce be grown on school grounds.

Community gardens

Community gardens in urban areas are becoming increasingly more popular as the economic, social and environmental benefits become more apparent. Some municipalities are creating community garden spaces in poorer neighbourhoods to enable people with low income to supplement their diets by growing their own food.

Food for funds

Your school grounds greening projects can be put to work to promote what your school is doing, to raise money for additional projects.

  • Produce from the school garden can be used to raise funds for the garden the following year or for developing other projects. It can be sold fresh, dried or made into preserves.
  • Culinary herbs such as parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, etc. as well as herbs for teas can be grown, dried and packaged for sale. Children can design and make the packages.
  • Some of the food plants in the garden can be left to go to seed and the seeds harvested and saved for sowing the following Spring to save buying new seeds.
  • Herbal skin preparations such as evening primrose oil, witch hazel, soap, etc. and items such as lavender bags can be made and sold by students.
  • Schools can grow native berry bushes for making pies, jams, jellies, fruit rolls and fruit salads.
  • Students can organize a Kids' Farmers Market and sell produce from their gardens to people in the community to raise funds for next season's garden projects.
  • As a fundraiser, a school in northern Ontario has organized an annual neighbourhood garden tour. Neighbours are invited to add their garden to the tour and tickets costing $10.00 each are sold to those who wish to go on the tour. The first year, 80 people signed up and the school made $800. Three hundred people bought tickets the second year, and the third year was just as successful as the second. All proceeds were used to further develop the schoolyard which now has three ponds with board walks for outdoor classroom activities. There is a fountain in one of the ponds and the pond water is circulated by means of a pump. The school has planted shade trees with seating around them next to the ponds. The garden tour has generated a sense of community ownership of the project because the school made sure that everyone knew that the proceeds from the tour would be used for enhancing both the children's outdoor environment and the neighbourhood.

Curriculum activities

There is no shortage of resources with curriculum activities on organic indoor and outdoor gardening, school gardens, international issues, composting, plant growth, sustainability, health and nutrition and cooking. Go to Resources.

There are endless opportunities for integrating edible gardens into the curriculum. For example, the majority of common food plants were discovered and transported from one country to another during explorations, invasions, etc. History and geography can be taught through tracking the journeys of the plants from their place of origin to where they are now grown in countries all over the world. Food plants can be grown to represent students' countries of origin in multi-cultural gardens. Children can weigh, for example, a teaspoon of seeds, count them and estimate how many will germinate. They can be planted out and their estimates checked. Vegetables can be weighed at harvest time and their weight compared to that of the seeds. Students can make comparisons between the different sizes, shapes and colours of the seeds and vegetables.

Resources in the community

Gardeners in the community are often an excellent resource. You can identify the gardeners among the teachers and parents through the skills identification survey and also through contacting people involved in community gardening networks and groups such as the Canadian Organic Growers. People often enjoy sharing their expertise and helping out with projects.

[ Back to top ]