Our schoolyard gardens team has worked creatively to fit the growing season into the school calendar. Unfortunately vegetable garden seasons do not fit into the typical academic year, so we try and work around this in a variety of ways! We encourage schools to plant crop varieties with shorter maturity times and have planted larger transplants. Our goal is to make it easier for teachers and students to have successful growing experiences within the regular school calendar.
Recently, schoolyard gardens have experimented with row cover to extend the growing season on either end of planting. The success in the experiments led us to our newest garden enhancement: creating sturdy frames for schools to use season after season!
To do this we needed to create a system that could:
- Shield crops from frost and freezing temperatures
- Easily be moved and placed by students and teachers
- Easily be taken apart for storage
- Be sturdy enough to withstand strong winds and weather
With all of these factors in mind, the Schoolyard Gardens team developed a ribbed row cover frame that would fit nicely on top of the standard 4’ x 12’ raised bed that most of our enrolled schools use.
We chose aluminum rod for the ribs because it is lightweight but strong, and inexpensive! Aluminum also doesn’t corrode, so it will be able to tolerate rain and snow. In order to bend the aluminum in place, we designed a jig for bending the rod into an elliptical shape.
Each of the frames were then covered with row cover fabric, which keeps vegetable plants 2 to 3 degrees warmer. Putting straw mulch around the vegetables also helps keep the plants warmer during the winter months.
These row cover frames can help extend the growing season so that you can continue growing late into the fall, and get a head start on your spring planting!
Parker Elementary volunteered to be a trial run for our brand new frames. The students covered their spinach plants to protect them over the winter. In the spring they’ll put the row cover frame over their newly planted transplants to give them a boost with extra warmth! Schoolyard Gardens hopes to place the frames at nearly 40 schools throughout the spring.