Garden guidelines from Montgomery County Public Schools include vegetables
School system: Container gardens are good for budding green-thumbs
New guidelines for gardening at Montgomery County Public Schools, which outline recommendations for planting vegetables, mark a compromise in a debate between school administration and gardening advocates regarding vegetable gardens at schools.
The guidelines, published on the school system's website in January, provide steps for setting up outdoor and container gardens, as well as shopping lists of acceptable plantings.
"We view this as a first step toward the planting of the full range of vegetable gardens that are currently being employed at schools throughout the nation," said Gordon Clark, a program manager for Montgomery Victory Gardens.
Clark said he is hopeful the school system will expand gardening programs at schools.
The shopping lists provided for in-ground gardens include some edible elements, such as parsley, chives and sage, but lack vegetables. The shopping list for container gardens includes a list of 20 plants, including 18 vegetables, such as carrots, turnips and beets.
"As far as vegetable gardens, we think containers are a good option for balancing some of the challenges a garden can create," said school system spokesman Dana Tofig. Some of those concerns included student allergies, pest control and maintenance.
Tofig emphasized that the garden shopping lists are guidelines and that vegetables could be planted in-ground if the gardens met school requirements.
The committee of school representatives and community gardeners who developed the guidelines emphasized container gardens because they are easier to maintain, said Sean Gallagher, an assistant director with the school system's department of facilities management.
The new guidelines also outline a nine-step process of establishing a garden.
Garden groups must also secure their own funding, purchase supplies independently and maintain the garden.
"We're excited about this," said Gallagher.
Gardening organizations in the county are eager to help schools.
The Master Gardeners of Montgomery County, a group run through the University of Maryland Extension that helped write the garden guidelines, plans to offer help to schools.
The Audubon Naturalist Society's GreenKids Program will launch a project called Salad Science, which will help students grow lettuce in container gardens made by Boy Scouts.