At our library we have a small garden that was underutilized. We decided to turn it into a vegetable garden for teens.
We partnered with our local garden club, The Dunesland Garden Club, and a master gardner led our club. It’s important to meet with your master gardener first to plan out the summer. Tell them what you want your teens to learn and create weekly lesson plans. This allows you and the gardener to keep the club on track. This is also important because although the gardener knows gardens, you know teens. You know teens don’t want a lecture and you know it’s important for hands-on learning.
Budget: $100 +
Before you purchase anything, find out if your library has shovels, gloves, watering cans, pots, etc. You can also ask staff if they can donate their old supplies-chances are you have lots of gardeners as co-workers. If you are working with a garden club, see if they can bring supplies as part of the partnership.
You’ll need: shovels, gloves, watering cans, pots (for potting), soil, and seeds/bulbs. If you are unsure, ask your master gardener to make a list during your initial planning meeting.
Here’s how we started our garden club
Week 1: What’s The Garden For?
Have teens decide what they want to plant and what they want to do with their harvest.
As adults, we like green beans but not many teens do. Begin by talking about what the teens would like to do with their produce.
Ideas: Salsa, pizza toppings, baked goods, beauty products, donations
Weeks 2 & 3: Preparing the Garden
This is the opportunity to teach teens how to dig up plants and how to plant seeds. We had an in-ground garden and an above-ground potters.
Weeks 4: Cultivating the Garden
During these weeks, teens learned about weeding, bugs, rabbits/squirrels, fertilizing, and proper watering techniques.
Teens also learned how to control those tomatoes.
Week 5: Slow Weeks
If it’s a slow week and they’ve finished weeding and watering, teens can decorate their gardens with rocks or bird feeders. It’s always wise to have a back up plan if your master gardener cancels, especially if you are a gardening novice.
Week 6: Visiting a Community Garden
Take a trip to a larger community garden and have the organizers talk about maintaining a large garden. If your library has no vehicle, have their parents drop them off and pick them up at the community garden.
They sampled basil and mint; “Tastes like gum.”
Week 7: From Farm to Table
Some of your produce will begin to sprout. We let our teens eat it off of the plant. They ate cucumbers & broccoli (yes, they ate it…with some ranch dressing).
- Check maps to see when it’s best to begin planting crops and start your club accordingly.
- Anticipate when your crops should be ready to harvest and plan your club day accordingly.
- If your club meets weekly, be sure to plan enough activities besides gardening because after you check crops, water, weed, etc; you might have a lot of time to fill. At some point, it might be best to meet bi-monthly.
- Produce won’t begin to grow until the end of July into August so most of your food projects won’t be doable until then. If you have a reoccurring group and you don’t want to meet weekly or bi-monthly, you can inform them to come back at a later date to make salsa, pizza, or baked goods.
Bigger projects will allow you to have activities available if you have a weekly club and after you’ve watered and weeded.
- Have a healthy eating series-Invite a local chef to teach teens how to prepare healthy meals or have a vegetarian/vegan program.
- Have the garden club sell produce at the local farmer’s market.
- Put a table in your library with your club members. Have them bag the veggies and give them out to your patrons.
- Turn your garden into a community garden.
- Plant specific veggies and grow a pizza garden or a salsa garden. At the end of the club, teens can pick veggies and make pizza or salsa at the library. Teach teens how to make pizza sauce or pizza dough.
- The youth department can use the produce to serve healthy snacks during programs.
If you don’t have a garden or you can’t do an above ground garden…
- Plant a tea garden
- Plant an herb garden and put it on a window sill.
How to Incorporate STEAM:
Once again, you can incorporate STEAM activities to your weekly/b-weekly club after you’ve watered and weeded.
- Automated Watering System with Little Bits
- Design your garden with unconventional planters. Pinterest is full of ideas. Here’s soda bottle planter ideas
- Beauty chemistry-grow plants (lavender, rosemary, roses, or other fragrant flowers) and have teens add the plants/herbs to soap or lip balm. Pinterest has great DIY soap and lip balm ideas.