Summer is the lushest time of the year for the garden, but it also happens to be when most schools are on break. Even if your school is not in session during the summer months, that doesn’t mean your students have to miss out on garden favorites like tomatoes and peppers!
Sweet potatoes are low-maintenance crops that you can plant in mid- or late-May, leave over the summer, and come back to at the start of the new school year! If peppers and tomatoes are planted later in the month of May they can be low-maintenance as well. They won’t start fruiting until late July or August, just in time for the first day of school. These will continue producing into October, so keep in mind that you will not be able to plant fall crops in those beds. The same goes for sweet potatoes—you keep them in the ground until digging them before the first fall frost.
For our lucky Schoolyard Gardens with year-round schooling or summer sessions, you’ll have a larger selection of summer crops you could plant: green beans, okra, summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. You can plant these seeds in early May, and the plants will last through the summer. You can leave them in through August or September, or pull them out to free up some garden space for fall crops. Be aware, though, that these crops require almost daily maintenance. These plants are all started from seeds, so they will need to be watered every day so that they germinate. Once these plants get established, they produce so quickly that you’ll need to make daily trips out to the garden to harvest the veggies before they rot on the vine or grow too large to eat! Other summer garden favorites include basil, eggplant, and dill!
Since the summer is so hot and sunny, mulching your garden will be very important, especially if you are not in session over the summer and have tomatoes and peppers planted. Straw mulch provided by KCCG helps keep the soil moist, while also preventing weeds from taking over. Remember to only mulch around newly planted tomato and pepper plants, or established plants that are at least 4 inches tall.
Many schools also ask us about watermelons and pumpkins, which are favorites for many children. While they can be fun to grow, they can just as easily take over a garden, shading out other vegetable plants growing. These vining plants grow quickly, and take up a lot of space while only yielding a few fruits, if any, so we usually discourage schools from planting these crops.
If you’d like to plant summer veggies in your schoolyard garden this year, schedule a planting date with your KCCG contact today!