Suzannah Holsenbeck, CT Schoolyards Program Manager
The CT Schoolyards Program frequently hears the question: what do you do with school gardens in the summer when schools aren’t in session? It’s an excellent question and points to the fact that most folks know that farms and gardens are in full swing in the warmest season of the year. Thanks to climate change, however, the growing season in our region has been starting earlier and extending later into the season.
Ultimately we approach the answer to “what do you do in the summer?” just as we approach working with each of our 22 partner schools: it depends on the needs, goals and accessibility of each school.
The planning begins in the spring when students at each school participate in planting their gardens, usually through our series of Outdoor Days. Some schools choose to plant quick growing crops like radishes and lettuces that can be grown and harvested before students leave for the summer. Other schools may have gardens that are accessible to the community and they tend to choose to plant vegetables that are typically ready to harvest in July and August, like tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and kale. And other schools choose to plant seeds that take up to 90 days to mature, like large watermelons and pumpkins, so that the students who plant the seeds in the spring return to pumpkin patches and watermelons when they start school in the fall.
This summer 15 schools signed up for our CT Schoolyards Green Jobs Corps Crew to water and weed and provide general maintenance over the course of five weeks. Our crew traveled to all parts of New Haven and put in hard work during some of the hottest days of the summer. They also got to take the occasional break at our crew favorite smoothie place: Cositas Deliciosas on Grand Avenue in Fair Haven. Their work means that students and teachers at those 15 schools will return to gardens that have been cared for and are ready for learning and play to take place again!