In early 2016, UGA Cooperative Extension Agents report they are working with over 550 community and school gardens across Georgia and this number will increase.
The popularity of these types of gardens continues to grow because people enjoy the comradery of community gardens and growing their own food. School gardeners plant pollinator gardens, math gardens and history gardens.
County agents support these gardens in a number of ways:
Local Extension offices hold workshops and trainings on horticulture. Gardeners learn which vegetable varieties grow best in their area, how to handle garden pests and ways to create healthy soil. The needs of school and urban or suburban community gardens are somewhat different than that of traditional home gardens or larger-scale agriculture. UGA Extension agents can offer access to research-based, Georgia-specific tools, information and resources to help make these gardens as successful as possible.
Extension agents share their expertise as invited speakers to community garden associations, school parent teacher associations and gardening clubs. In addition to horticultural topics the agents can provide guidance on the best way to start a community garden and how to garner support for a school garden within the school administration.
UGA Extension’s Master Garden Educational Volunteers train in how to best help community and school gardens. Often, they choose these gardens as special projects helping to organize volunteers and provide educational support. Some master gardeners organize after school garden clubs.
For teachers, UGA Extension agents offer school garden trainings focused on gardening basics and how to integrate gardens into their daily lesson plans. These trainings are offered during the summer months at various locations across the state.
UGA Extension has compiled a clearinghouse of the best school garden resources and lesson plans developed by experts across Georgia and by teachers throughout the United States extension.uga.edu/k12/school-gardens/. The blog also offers gardeners a chance to share notes with community and school gardeners across the state and talk about their challenges and successes through an associated Facebook page.
For an up to the minute discussion of Georgia’s community gardens, workshop announcements, timely garden solutions and the latest in community and school garden news from across the United States, gardeners can visit UGA Extension’s Community and School garden blog at extension.uga.edu/k12/school-gardens/ .
UGA Extension is in the business of helping community and school gardens succeed by offering as much or as little support as the gardeners want or need. Each garden is unique. Extension Agents understand this and work to meet the needs of each garden.
(Becky Griffin is an educational program specialist with the University of Georgia Extension in Cobb County.)
Floyd County UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteers stand with a "This Garden is Served by UGA Cooperative Extension" sign posted at community garden in Rome, Georgia.Download Image