Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Summer Vacation for Your School Garden

Summer Vacation for Your Garden- Adapted from The Life Lab Garden Times, Spring 2003.

Here are some ideas to keep your garden maintained during the summer so that your fall garden will be full of treats to harvest instead of weeds.

Garden Guardians Have families or neighbors sign up to "adopt" the garden for a week or two during the summer. Leave simple directions on where to water and weed and encourage your garden guardians to harvest the veggies and flowers that are ready for picking. This will not only serve as a simple thank you, but will encourage your plants to keep producing fruit and flowers. Ideally you'd want the whole summer schedule made up with the contacts of the weekly caretakers so that they can find substitutes if summer plans change.

Consider creating a simple video to share with instructions or leave good writen documentation of caretaking tasks. This video is an example of a summer care video made for the summer Garden Guardians at Pacific Elementary Life Lab in Davenport, CA.


Weed Now Not Later It is important to make sure that weeds are under control before the garden takes it summer break. The smallest of weeds in June will be big seed dispensing monsters come mid summer. Make sure you get rid of all the visible weeds before your break so they don't haunt you in fall with their massive tap roots and seed heads.

Use Mulches Mulching for weed suppression and water conservation are both great strategies that are well worth the extra work. Mulching is also a great task for children of all ages. Covering your garden paths with 2-3 inches of wood chips will help smother out potential weeds and deter them from growing. Many tree services will donate chipped trees and many municipal landfills now have green cycle programs that give away wood chips. Mulching your garden beds and fruit trees with straw (not hay, which has seeds in it) will keep weeds at bay and will conserve water by shading the soil.

Using an Automated Drip Irrigation System will ease the stress of abandoning your garden over the summer.  Knowing that your plants are getting the water they need and returning to a garden of abundance is a great feeling! Equipment for irrigating a small school garden with an automatic timer can costs a couple hundred dollars. Visit the Garden Classroom to see various types of timers and drip systems in action or visit for information on effective irrigation. offers 15% discount for school gardens and has incredible resources for DIY irrigation.

  • View their 9 page Drip Planning Guide to learn all you need to know to install a drip system
  • Watch their videos to learn even more
  • View their gallery of irrigation plans to better understand the supplies you will need to irrigate your garden. Most school gardens fall into the "Framed / Raised Bed" design category.
  • View their irrigation kits which make it easy to purchase the supplies you will need to irrigate your garden. Add a battery powered timer and you will be set for the summer. We have had much success with the Galcon LCD Timer, Galcon Dial Timer, Orbit Single Dial Timer, and Orbit Two Dial Battery Timer. They are simple to use and very suitable for school garden irrigation needs. If you are watering more than one zone such as garden beds, fruit trees, and/or green house you can use a multi-valve timer to allow different watering schedules from one faucet.
  • Addtionally they have an online garden planning tool where you can see other educational garden designs – search "school gardens"

Plant for Fall If you are serious about harvesting vegetables in the fall, pick long season vegetable varieties. Read the "days till harvest" listing on the back of seed packages and plan accordingly. If you want to eat fresh corn in September with your students, plant 90-100 day corn in late May instead of 65 day corn. Also remember that many vegetables need to be harvested to keep producing throughout the summer so make sure your garden guardians harvest regularly to encourage continual fruiting.

Try planting some of these crops in late May or June and come back to school with something to harvest.

  • Popcorn
  • Shelling Bean (dry beans)
  • Edible / Birdseed Sunflowers
  • Winter Squash or Pumpkins
  • Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Melons
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Health Master Carrots
  • Amaranth

Learn about school year crop planning.

Try planting a Three Sisters Garden with popcorn, winter squash, and dry beans. Our friends at have a good article on the Three Sisters Garden and the folks at Cornell have some a whole site related to the Three Sisters.


Also view Summer in the School Garden A Resource for Working with Volunteers to Maintain your School Garden a 40 page guide for summer garden care from and


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Teaching a Growing Classroom Workshop at @OakSpringGardenFoundation in collaboration with I feel like I’ve fallen into a small French village. This is the former estate of Paul and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon in Virginia. Mrs. Mellon was an avid horticulturalist who designed the White House Rose Garden! I am staying in the room where Jackie Kennedy stayed when she visited here!! Sharing a weekend in this space with teachers who love kids and gardens is a truly unforgettable experience. ... See MoreSee Less

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Just when I thought we’d seen it all ... this is an agrophotovoltaic school garden underneath massive solar panels at @Manzo.Ecology in Tucson. The elementary school students here gather and analyze data on how the shade from the panels helps the plants grow and how the plants help cool the panels and increase their efficiency. What?!?! It’s amazing and gives me hope. Oh, and also they have a desert tortoise in their courtyard. ... See MoreSee Less

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Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program at their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
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What happens when Whole Kids Foundation partners with you to bring 50+ leaders from School Garden Support Organizations from across the country together to get to talk shop, inspire each other, problem-solve around shared challenges, and eat amazing food prepared and served by happy 5th graders? MAGIC. That's what happens. #sgso2018 ... See MoreSee Less

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Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program for their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
#thankyou, #grateful, #ReduceReuseRecycle, #isupportlifelab
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We are so grateful to be starting 2018 with such strong support! Because of so many generous gifts from our supporters like you, we surpassed our 2017 fundraising goal of $124,000, with all campaign donations totaling $125,835.

These funds will help make Life Lab field trip and summer camp programs possible for children from families and schools that could otherwise not afford them. We believe that ALL children deserve the chance to love learning, healthy food, and nature. Thanks to your support, this year we will serve even more children in Santa Cruz County and across the nation.


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Happy almost 2018, Life Lab fans! We are only $809 dollars away from reaching our $124,000 year-end fundraising goal! Before you ring in the new year, will you help us ensure a promising 2018? 100% of the funds necessary to do this important work come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that we can continue to deepen and expand our reach, so that even more children can experience the joy of loving learning, healthy food, and nature? Your tax-deductible gift made by midnight tonight will go directly to supporting our programs.
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Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom