“Early Spring Gardens”

Early Spring Gardens

“We had a blast harvesting the lettuce from our box this morning and the kids had mounds of salad for a mid-morning snack and surprisingly, they all devoured it! We offered the kids some organic carrots, too and the teacher brought in ranch dressing for dipping and I brought this dressing for tasting with the lettuce. It was very fun!
There is still plenty of gorgeous lettuce to be enjoyed out there so please feel free to snag a few pieces for a salad of your own.”

Before you plant your spring veggies, consider these suggestions of things to do with your harvest.

  • Have the students harvest and wash the greens, then put into zip locks and send home with a salad dressing recipe.
  • Harvest and wash the greens and put in the salad bar in the cafeteria (check first with someone who’s working in the kitchen.) Be sure to hang a sign by the salad bar that says, “”Today’s salad was grown and harvested by XX classroom.”
  • Plant your entire box with mint and make pitchers of mint tea sweetened with honey.
  • Prepare a fresh green salad in the classroom as well as a homemade dressing. Serve with a baguette or croutons. Kids can bring in a small jar with their name on it to take some dressing home. If you are really ambitious, make butter with a small jar and a marble and whipping cream.
  • Grow stir-fry veggies. Bring a wok or large skillet to school, along with a hot-plate and a rice maker. Make stir-fry with rice.
  • Plant a box with spinach. Bring a pasta maker to school and make fresh spinach pasta.

If you plan to cook with your classroom, be sure to get an Oregon food handler card. This takes about an hour and can be done entirely on-line. It costs $10. Here’s the link http://www.orfoodhandlers.com/.

If you want a quick plan, this is the basic idea without all the details.

  • Think about and discuss what you’d like to make with your spring harvest.
  • Examine the seeds and decipher seed packet instructions.
  • Plan the box.
  • Plant.
  • Observe and record the growth of your plants.
  • Harvest and cook.

Planting a Spring Garden (Lesson Plans)


  • Students will learn about plants that grow in the cool spring compared to those plants that grow in the warmer summer season.
  • Students will prepare greenhouse trays and the garden bed for planting.
  • Students will create a planting scheme and make a scale map in their science notebooks.
  • Students will observe plant growth and record observations. Students will harvest and eat their garden in late spring.

Lesson #1 (In Class, 30 minutes)

Materials: seeds, science notebook, ruler, pencil, enlarged photocopies of seed packets

Make a new page in science notebook “Planting a Spring Garden”. Discuss what a spring garden entails. Explain that some plants do well growing during the cooler months of spring, especially lettuce, peas, onions and spinach. These plants have chemical adaptations, where cold makes them sweeter and prevents bolting (turning to seed). Some plants can be sewn directly in the soil and others do better started in a greenhouse or hot house and planted after they germinate. Discuss which plants can grow in the cool spring season from seeds ‘sown’ or planted directly in the garden versus those you “start” growing in trays in a warm greenhouse, before moving to the garden when they are bigger and more hardy (strong). What changes as Spring becomes Summer? Key factors are day length and soil temperature. Discuss the possible plants the class would like to eat and how they might prepare the harvest. Decide as a class what will be planted.

Photocopy and enlarge a seed packet. Distribute the photocopies of the seed packets to the children. Take a look at the packets and discuss what the various information means. What is a “row?” What is “seed spacing?” What is “seed depth?” What does “harvest” mean? What is “sowing?” What other information is on the packet? Have the children use a ruler to estimate seed depth and seed spacing. Does the plant like full sun or partial sun? Some plants will need to be sown indoors. Look at the calendar together and have the children figure out a few problems such as “If we plant the onions next week, and the seed packet says to harvest them 6-8 weeks after sowing, when will we harvest the onions?”

Sort the seed packages into two piles; those that need to be ‘started’ in a greenhouse and those that can be ‘directly sowed or planted’ in the garden bed.

Estimate how many of ‘starts’ and ‘direct sow’ seeds you think we can plant. To know how much room a plant needs, look at the seed packet to see the “seed space” or “thin plants to” measurements.

Make a list in your science journal of the ‘start’ seeds and the ‘direct sow’ seeds.

Lesson # 1 continued (In the Garden, 30 minutes)

Materials: warm jackets, science note books and pencils and rulers/measuring tape. shovels and hand trowels

Go outside and look at your garden bed. Remember we planted a cover crop in the late Fall. Why? (A. To add nutrients and condition the soil) Did our cover crops grow? If so, how tall? If not, why do you think they didn’t grow? Record this information in the science note books.

Measure the garden bed’s dimensions (length and width in inches).

Make a scale model map (1 foot in the garden = 1 inch on the page) of the garden bed in your science notebook. (this could be done inside if weather is inclement)

Lesson #1 continued (Back in Class, 30 minutes)

Have each student design a planting scheme. If desired, use string to make designs in the boxes.

Share designs and then decide as a class which design will work best.

Everyone draws a cc of the final bed design in the notebooks.

Lesson # 2 (Out in the Garden, 30 minutes)

Materials for all: warm jackets, Science note books and pencils and rulers

Garden bed group: shovels and hand trowels, thermometers, popsicle sticks, string – if the class decides to use string to make guides for the boxes, markers to label

‘Start’ group: “start” seeds, starting soil, start trays, hand trowels, popsicle sticks, markers to label, a large bowl and spoon

‘Direct sow’ group: hand trowels, popcycle stix, markers to label, trays to sort seeds

Divide into three groups.

#1 Garden bed group: Prepare garden bed by weeding, by turning the earth, and breaking up clods. Measure air temperature. Measure soil temperature. Log in your science notebook. Working with the ‘Direct Sow group’ mark out the final bed design, mark off the rows for both ‘direct sow’ and transplanted ‘starts’

#2 ‘Start’ group: Go to small green house. Gather trays, soil, and ‘start’ seeds. Working for the class planting design, count out how many trays and seeds you need to start in trays. Moisten soil (mix soil and enough water to moisten but not soak) and partially fill the trays with soil. Plant seeds to appropriate depths in trays and cover with more soil. leave 1 inch air space to tray rim Label popsicle sticks for each row seed name, make a map of the trays and label rows by seed types in your science notebook.

#3 ‘Direct Sow’ group: Go to our garden bed. Measure bed dimensions. working with the ‘Garden Bed Group’ lay out where all the direct sow and starts will go (to be transplanted later.) Note: the ‘start’ plants will be added later when they are more hardy or strong. When the garden is ready, students take turns planting seeds. and watering.

Lesson #2 (Back in Class 30 mins)

Each group should choose 1- 2 students to report on their group’s experience.
Garden bed group will read air and soil temperatures for students to cc into their notebooks.

‘Start’ and ‘direct sow’ groups will report how planting went.

Choose a day each week to observe changes in garden/green house.

Over the course of the spring, students could observe plant growth and record plant heights. They could make graphs. Record temperatures. (5 -10 minutes each recording-can be done by a few students for a classroom graph)

When it’s harvest time, class goes out and collects and cleans greens. Harvesting garden foods can be fun and easy. Get several large bowls. Take small groups out to the garden. Have each kid collect some greens and add them to the bowl. Wash all the greens in the classroom. Use a salad spinner to dry it. Put the clean salad into a clean bowl

Herb Dressing


1 1/2 teaspoons fresh, chopped chives
1 1/2 teaspoons summer savory, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion or scallion
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup flavored vinegar (such as tarragon)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Mix until all ingredients are well blended. Pour over salad. Makes 1 1/4 cups, and keeps in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To make a creamier dressing, substitute 2 tablespoons of heavy cream for 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Karina’s Dressing

There really aren’t measurements; I simply go by taste. I will try to give approximately how much of each ingredient:

In a glass bottle ( I use an old whiskey bottle with a wine cork for a stopper) mix:

Two garlic toes (depending on the size, I use more if the toes are smallish) crush them slightly with your hand so that they release their amazing aroma and add to the bottom of the bottle/jar.

then add:

4 oz olive oil ( the better quality the better the flavor dressing)
1 oz soy sauce
2 oz balsamic vinegar
1 oz brown rice wine vinegar
(also, when I have it available, I add about an once of “Udo Oil” which has omega’s 3,6 and 9 and is plant based so there is no fishy flavor. the added health benefits are huge while adding a bit of nutty flavor to the dressing. It is expensive, but a little goes a long way)

Cork the bottle and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds then place in refrigerator and wait a few days for the garlic to soak into the dressing for best flavor. I keep out for up to two weeks and usually need to add to the jar if we are eating lots of salad during those weeks. Also it’s super yummy on steamed broccoli with a sprinkle of salt and nutritional yeast flakes on top. Good stuff that my kiddos and many of their friends devour. Hope you enjoy!

Here are a few planting ideas

Mesclun (plan to eat the young leaves, not heads of lettuce, so it takes less time to mature.) There are a million different mixes. Find one that is intended for winter/spring.

Stir fry type greens such as kale, mustard, arugula and chard.

Snap peas (if planted early Feb. 15- March 1) NOT shelling peas
Lettuce-smaller head or romaine type
Garlic (some varieties ripen early)
Carrots: Yaya, Nelson, or Thumbelina carrots (plant April 1) are good varieties that grow quickly.
Green onions: (if it is too late to grow these from seed, we can buy starts sets.)

Planting should be started on February 15th and completed by the end of February or the beginning of March. The rest is up to mother nature and a warm spring.