Category Archives: Schools

Raised Beds

If you are looking to put in a raised bed garden, here is a nice video. Schools in particular may prefer the three foot width to make it easier for kids to garden in the bed.


Leave a comment

Filed under Schools, soil

Schools 4 x 8 Foot Butterfly Garden

I have a school which has a 4′ x 8′ area and the teacher wanted some guidelines.

Soil – I prefer the SLC Raised Bed Mix. It’s more expensive, but makes it very easy to plant. You should only need one cubic yard. Get a parent with a pickup truck to get the mix. I have had poorer results with other soil mixes.

Some YouYube videos just use compost to plant in. The problem I have with the compost I buy is that it is still very hot and may burn seeds and new plants. It certainly burned and killed my grass where I had it dumped one year.

Mulch – The mulch I like is called Black Forest Mulch. It’s a combination of fine mulch and compost.
You can buy it at Lowes or at St. Louis Compost.

I prefer to use compost as a mulch.

Construction – Gateway Greening has a good PDF on the materials and construction of the bed. They use a treated wood which they believe is safe. You may want to use cedar if your are going to raise vegetables and want an extra layer of security. Here is another good article by the U. of Missouri about raised beds and their materials.

Edging – If you  can afford it, it’s nice to edge the bed with pavers. It not only makes the garden look more professional, but keeps the grass away from the garden. The kids will be walking around the garden a lot and it will prevent the area from getting muddy. Here’s a garden done by one Boy Scout with pavers.

Fertilizer – The first year you might not need fertilizer, but you can add some later in the year if plants look like they might need some help. I usually add two inches of compost every year to feed the soil.

Water – It’s imperative that you have a source of water nearby. You may need a special key to turn the water on. You can buy those at a hardware store.  Talk to the maintenance people for help. I also like to leave a short hose by the garden so that it’s easy to water. You will find that during the summer that the raised bed will need more water.

Maintenance – Schedule parents/families/scouts to maintain and water the garden during the summer. Once a week should be fine. Weeding and watering are the main chores.

Size – while 4′ x 8′ is a standard, it might be a bit big for kids. You may want to try 3′ x 8′.

Other Tips

  • Make sure the kids can walk all the way around the garden. They will need to be able to plant and pull weeds without getting in the garden.
  • You want most of your plants to be blooming in September. This is when the kids will be coming back to school and the Monarchs will be migrating.
  • Find a location with the most sunshine possible.
  • Make sure the small plants are in the front where they will get the most sun. You don’t want the tall plants to shadow the smaller plants.

Here is a general idea of what I might plant.
I’ve divided it into three areas – Tall – Medium and Small.


Dill, Fennel, Milkweed, Agastache, Blazing Star, Zinnia-tall, Verbena bonareinsis


Shasta Daisy, Salvia, Maltese Cross, Echinacea, Lantana, Coreopsis lanceolata, Zizia,


Parsley, Allium, Pussy Toes, Coreopis (small), Zinnia -Profusion

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools

Planting in Clay Soil with a Bulb Planter

bulb-planter-200This week I brought in lots of plants for a school garden, which had not been prepared in any way. Ideally, the soil would have been amended or they would have added 6 to 9 inches of top soil and compost. In this case we were dealing with soil that had landscape fabric on top – probably for years.

After taking the landscape fabric off, the soil turned out to be wet clay which would have been very tough to dig in and impossible to break up.

I had brought my heavy duty bulb planter which made short work of creating nice size holes to put in the plants. This  particular model was made by Hound Dog and is an older model. Its opening tapers from 2 3/8″ to 3 1/4″. You pull on the handle to open up the bottom and release the clay. There appears to be a new model being sold which has some bad reviews. I’d advise buying one from a local store so you can return it if you have trouble.

I added potting soil at the bottom of the hole, put in my plant and added more potting soil.

This technique works very well when you have wet clay soil. You can put in lots of plants with a minimum of time and effort.

airport-elementary-01-300This technique works great for schools which have young kids and terrible soil. Here’s what the end result looks like.



Leave a comment

Filed under Schools, soil

Buying Soil for the Garden

I recently had a friend by a soil mix from  St. Louis Composting. It was supposed to be a mix of 50% top soil and 50% compost. She ended up getting big clumps of clay in the soil and I was disappointed in the mix. There response was this, “With the wet winter and now wet spring, it has been hard for us to pull soil out of our fields. This has led us to go to other sources of receiving the material.”  Their new source seems to be more clay than anything like topsoil.

I also went to Grants View library community gardens. They have just completed their raised beds and were also filled with those large boulder like clay clumps. Gateway Greening ordered the same Garden Mix which was supposed to be 50/50 said, “They have a huge facility, so there are always variables in my experience.”

The lesson learned is this.

Go to the source of your soil and check it out before you buy it. Look at it, feel it and check the quality of what they are going to send you.

After they dump the soil on your lot, it’s too late to do anything about it. Check out the soil or soil and compost combination ahead of time and make sure they get exactly what you want.

Note – St. Louis Composting also has a product called SLC Raised Bed Mix which might be better, but is more expensive.

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools, soil

Butterfly Gardens in a Pot

I’ve got a school that doesn’t have room for a traditional in the ground garden, so we are going to plant in large pots. The question that comes to mind is, “What kind of soil should we put in the pots?

Here are two solutions from two experts.

  1. One expert, Jesse, suggests this for a mix to fill the pots.
    2/3 – potting mixI like ProMix – BX – it has micorrhizae
    1/3 compost – this provides a lot of the nutrients that the plants need. I like the Black Gold compost that you can buy at
    If you don’t need a large quantity they do sell it for $3.50/bag or 3 for $10.00.
    Jesse does not use Osmocote or any other fertilizer, but every year he might just add extra compost to the pots.
  2. Another expert from a Horticulture program suggests using ProMix BX. Don’t use any other amendments, but after you put in the plant, you sprinkle Osmocote on top. There are two types of Osmocote – I buy the one with the micro-nutrients. Another tip she had was to put in an upside down pot to help take up some of the space if you want to save money on potting mix.

Below are three pots I did for a school. They are fairly large pots and are filled with Miracle
Gro potting soil plus a Miracle Gro Compost. Each pot took about a dozen plants and then some of the kids planted marigold seeds around the outside. One pot with the stake was entirely different types of milkweed.  The other pots were combinations of host and nectar plants. I put in close to a whole tray of plants into each pot.

May 10, 2016 – I’m also testing out a pot at home to see how the various plants do.
Here’s a list of butterfly plants I have put into pots.
Alyssum, Bronze Fennel, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Pussy Toes, Salvia, Shasta Daisy, Tropical Milkweed, Verbena bonareinsis, Verbena trailing, Veronica.

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools, soil

Programs for Pre-Schoolers

I was able to watch a program at the Butterfly House and came away with a few ideas.

  • Start with kids introducing themselves – name and age
  • Put color pictures in plastic sleeves to show kids
  • Parts of a butterfly.
  • Read book – Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  • Read the book -Are You a Butterfly” – Judy Allen
  • Song –
  • Have kids color – packets of paper with cardboard, crayons, and picture.
  • Have a list of questions/cards
  • Plant seeds.
  • Small cups with black marker to put on names.
  • Bring in eggs, cats, and plants to show and tell.
  • Use a cart to carry stuff into school

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools

Planning for a New School Garden

I’m helping a school put in a new school garden and will use this site to keep a record of the things we consider.


  • ASK for Money from garden clubs and other nature groups. The school I’m working with asked one group for $2000 and they gave them $2500!
  • Kirkwood Garden Club, Webster Groves Garden Club, NABA, WGNSS, St. Louis Audubon, Gateway Greening, Brightside St. Louis, Forest Releaf, Kiwanis, Optimist club.
  • Get some help. The teacher emailed me asking for help and to come out to the school and give some advice.
  • Order seed and containers to grow it in. I like the trays with 36 cells per tray and a plastic cover. Here’s the link from Park Seed. I prefer the larger cells and instead of transplanting plants I just let the largest plant live in the cell and snip off the others. Depending on the cost of the seeds, I put anywhere from one to six seeds per cell.
  • Evaluate the area.
  • Do some research on raised beds – see links at the bottom.
  • Evaluating seed starting possibilities.


Park Seed has a professional, but expensive solution to starting seeds and plants for $399.

I use a much less expensive solution in my basement – regular fluorescent lights – $20 to $50 each – that I just hang from the ceiling. I prefer the more expensive, but better shop light from Home Depot.

Another solution I use is a wire shelf unit. I can usually fit nine trays on this four shelf unit. I could also possibly use the top shelf if it has some natural light.Shelves-for-plants-web

Site Analysis – look at the potential site and see what its pluses and minuses will be.

  • Sunshine – does it have enough – what’s the path of the sun – what will be the sunny and shady areas.
  • Water availability – hose? turn-off valve necessary? sprinkler? While raised beds look nicer, they also will dry out faster.
  • Soil analysis – usually pretty bad for most Missouri soils.
  • Drainage – will water drain away from the site?
  • Site level or sloping?
  • Raised beds or in-ground? Stone, wood, concrete block?
  • Paths through the garden areas.
  • Materials for paths – stone, mulch, paving materials.
  • Define the garden area – fence – stone
  • Signs for garden?
  • Tool-shed-Storage area?
  • Distance from school? The closer the better usually although you don’t want kids walking through the garden beds.
  • Areas for instruction – tables/benches
  • How easy will it be for maintenance people to work around the area?
  • Who will maintain the garden during the school year?
  • Who will maintain the garden during the summer?
  • Weather Station?
  • How will you get rid of garden waste?
  • Composting – where will this be?
  • Garden Design – get kids involved.
  • Organic vs artificial?
  • What are you going to plant? Vegetables, herbs, butterfly garden etc.?
  • Accessibility – how can you make this wheel chair accessible?
  • Security and Safety – is this area safe for kids to be?
  • Containers for invasive plants.
  • Future Usage – what are the plans for this site in the future? Will the school be using this space for other purposes in the future?

Other Resources

Raised Beds

Leave a comment

Filed under Schools