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Back to School Gardens

The Back to School Garden program was created by ReTreeUS in order to align school gardens to the school calendar, solve issues associated with summer maintenance and maximize the production of nutrient dense produce for the cafeteria, all while providing endless learning opportunities. 


  • vegetables that students can help plant requiring very minimal maintenance/watering over the summer  

  • weed prevention and improved soil quality with a sheet mulching technique students help implement using paper and compost


  • a great fall harvest of winter squash and/or pumpkins, sunflowers and popping corn just in time for students to come back to school

  • students can help plant a fall garden of cold-hardy greens sourced from organic farms to increase harvest for the cafeteria and extend the season, harvesting into December with row cover

The Back To School Garden program solves major issues confronting school gardens, especially summer maintenance while generating abundant harvests for cafeterias and teaching students about essential garden-based lessons including: decomposition, soil building, successional planting and season extension.​ September is an ideal time to plant certain crops in Maine, such as salad greens, kale, chard, parsley, cilantro and spinach, that can fill cafeteria salad bars and food pantries in some instances. Preparation for this gardening technique starts in the spring before the school year ends with “sheet-mulching” of the garden beds using paper and compost that will eliminate weeds and increase fertility over the summer. The students can plant vegetables that grow through the summer, with minimal maintenance, that will be ready for harvest when they go back to school. After this harvest, beds are ready for the students to plant hardy seedlings that thrive for the months of September, October, November and December with season extending row cover (these seedlings survive through the winter in a greenhouse). 

Below is a 8 step spring prep guide. ReTreeUS has been working to promote this technique with the Maine School Garden Network. Check it out, feel free to contact us (​ with questions and happy back to school gardening!

Back to School Garden Videos

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