Recommendations for a school garden


Maybe consider the educational value of letting things get diseases and insect pests? You might even get administrative buy-in to do spray vs no spray controls to highlight the modern agricultural system.

Or N vs no N fertilizer in different boxes and compare phenology and yields etc.

I looked up Castro Valley and saw Bay Area so things like peas might grow well in the spring (?). But no idea… that climate is so totally foreign to me. I just know that SF has always been awesome to visit in March/April or August relative to Iowa (the American Chemical Society meeting rotates through SF often). Much warmer and less dreary in Spring and less than god-awful humid in August. Peas of course bring with them thoughts of Mendel.

Corn (maize) is kind of cool because you can observe genetics in a season as the phenotype of kernels is set by pollination - e.g. you could plant one of the sweet corns that is supposed to be isolated with a dent corn and get a mix of kernels.I think there might even be education kits for corn genetics.


There indeed are education kits for corn genetics. Last year I got a couple of kits from a grant - they consist of plastic wrapped dried ears of corn, from the parent, f1, and f2 generations. Examples here: and

Pretty cool and easy to work with.

The go-to plant for student genetics experiments these days is the “Wisconsin Fast Plant”. It’s a brassica derivation that goes seed to seed in 40 days. You can find out more at


One of the things we looked at are hydroponic towers such as

They would grow veggies fast enough to pick during the school season and no problems with bugs or weeds.


I’m a bit of an aquaponics nut, so I’m planning on having some deep water culture beds - which should grow leafy greens super quick.


Lettuce crosses are really fun, a redxgreen F2 gives all sorts of variation.


Yay for school gardens. I agree with some of the comments already made:

  1. Need plants that will bear during the school year.
  2. Low maintenance is super important.
  3. Precocious fruiting is nice, so families stay engaged.
  4. I would also try to get a sprinkler installed at the same time, while there is enthusiasm for the project.
  5. I wouldn’t worry too terribly much about fruit staining. Most kids come home so excited that parents are pretty chill. I’ve always gotten mulberry juice out of clothes, but we are kinda sloppy about our kids! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Suggested plants:

  1. Asparagus. So fun and so easy and early cropping. And it comes back every year.
  2. Daylillies: again, they come back every year. Flowers are edible. Tubers too (never tried).
  3. Herbs: there are oregano and thyme varieties that should be Year round in your area. Rosemary should also be Year round.
  4. Mulberry: weeping variety is so fun! Precocious fruiting too. Very low maintenance.
  5. Figs: most varieties fruit in the summer. I have some sort of green variety that fruits in the fall.
  6. Persimmon: precocious fruiting for saijo variety. Ripens solidly before school is our for winter break.
  7. Loquat: mine haven’t fruited yet, but there are several around town and they fruit abundantly and solidly during the spring.

Good luck!!


Red kidney beans are poisonous if not cooked thoroughly, so better not to have them around kids.


I attended a one-room country school in southern Wisconsin. There were tulips along the front of the building. Every year without fail the little kids would pick them as soon as they began to open. Expect most of your harvest to disappear before it is even ripe.


Raised boxes would be good, too, as kids tend to trample everything in sight. Climbing sugar peas, pole beans, cucumbers on trellises, caged Sungold tomatoes would be good. Broccolini makes good snacks. Strawberries in clay pots or planters, if they grow well in that climate. Onions. Maybe carrots. Those are fall crops here. A few potato plants in barrels.


@smatthew, if you want some bean seeds I have many different varieties. good thing about beans is you can eat them at almost any stage and direct sow in dead of winter. send me pm if your interested.