Photo Tour: What is Sprouting this Spring in Sonoma's School Gardens?

School Gardens are enriching the lives of 3,400 students in the Sonoma Valley with broccoli, kale and the first blooms of flower seedlings.


A wonderful connection has been made and is thriving: the and .

As you probably know, all schools in Sonoma currently have a dedicated garden coordinator merging students and gardens with the 3400 students in the Sonoma Valley.  Recently, the Sonoma Valley Vintner's and Growers Alliance announced a $25,000 grant for the School Garden ProjectThis is a big jump up from last year's grant of $15,000.

But what is actually involved in running a school garden? Speaking from experience (I'm the Garden Coordinator at ) knowing how to grow a little bit of everything from plants to people, is the key.

Getting parents involved in the school garden is just as important as getting the kids’ involved. Ordering compost, planting spring seeds, weeding, pruning, coordinating garden work days are all activities going on in a school garden weekly. But, watching a child’s eyes light up when you pull a carrot out of the dirt is where the true magic lies.

The school gardens in Sonoma are all different shapes and sizes and each location has it’s challenges. But with the wonderful support of Kathleen Hill, and the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, soon all schools in the Valley will be serving up vegetables from the school garden in the salad bar.

Here’s an insider’s glimpse into a few other school gardens in the Valley:

Dunbar Elementary School (from Alissa Pearce, Garden Coordinator)

  • What's Growing: Fava beans, lettuces, garlic, onions, kale, carrots, radishes, and beets were planted by the kids and are growing strong. The warm, dry weather has been a mixed blessing: the kids have gotten more garden time this year, but we had to water our plantings all the way through February.
  • Mark Your Calendar: We will be hosting a Garden Party/Spring Fling, on Saturday, April 7, immediately following the Dunbar Easter Egg Hunt. Coffee, snacks, fresh and canned produce, and seedlings will be available. Kids can work on art projects for the garden, and parents, we would love some help starting the renovation of our memorial rose garden.
  • What Else is Happening: We've also made adobe bricks for the 4th grade mission project, discussed how and why we compost,  pruned the orchard, measured and laid out irrigation for all classroom garden beds...  the learning opportunities are limitless.  We received a generous donation of 10 cubic yards of compost from which is being used to amend the soil in our salad bar production beds.
  • What's Everyone Learning: Right now, our focus is on native habitats and wildlife at Dunbar. The older kids are starting to look at restoring and designing a native habitat trail on the southern edge of the Dunbar campus. We will be testing the soil, collecting data on existing wildlife, mapping out the area, and choosing/propagating appropriate native plants for our purposes. 

If you'd like to participate in activities in the Dunbar garden, please contact Alissa Pearce at alissa.pearce5678@gmail.com.

(from Sara Cerles, Garden Coordinator)

  • A Week in the Life: Following Woodland Star Charter School's Waldorf-inspired curriculum, gardening takes center stage in third grade during weekly garden time with garden teacher Mollyanne Meyn and fifth grade botany lessons are brought to life in the garden.  Beds are full of fava beans; kale and bok choy were harvested for our aftercare program.
  • What's New: Support from the school district, Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and Stone Edge Farm means drip irrigation will be installed soon, and we are leveling and mulching the entire site before adding more beds, fruit trees, a shed and greenhouse. 
  • Where's the Money: We are also raising funds for the garden by offering a lunch option every week, with the generous support of Sonoma Market. 

If you would like to help in the Woodland Star Charter Garden, please contact Sarah at sdecker@sonic.net.

, (from Shirley Austin-Peeke, Garden Coordinator)

  • What's Growing: My horticulture class has been harvesting the last of our small crop of kale and broccoli.  They have been starting veggie and flower seedlings and weeding, weeding, weeding!  
  • What's Harvesting: We will soon be finishing pruning the young fruit trees.  Larsen Family Winery will be coming to work with us to prune the vineyard.  
  • New Ideas: I am trying to get more kids out in the garden, which can be difficult in middle school. This spring I am starting a lunchtime garden club, where kids will be helping with all aspects of the garden.  
  • On the Horizen: We are also making plans to finish our outdoor classroom space, so that any class could be conducted in the garden instead of the classroom, and so that the horticulture class will have a place for meeting and cooking.

If you would like to help in the Adele Harrison garden, please contact Shirley at SAustin@sonomavly.k12.ca.us.

If you have services you can offer to any of the school gardens in Sonoma, please contact the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation or your local school garden coordinator. We can always use a hand! Now, let’s go play in the dirt!

Pamela Hawken (C) 2012 March 15, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Great article and photos! It's so great for Sonoma kids to learn about gardening!
Suzanne Barbara March 15, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Kids will eat (and usually like) almost anything that they have grown. So gardening is a great way to get kids eating things such as kale, which are "good" for them.
Dorothy March 19, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I agree. My kids always ate the vegetables they grew. And I am delighted to see the school gardens feature such "healthy veggies" as kale and bok choy.
Dorothy March 19, 2012 at 03:01 AM
And I forgot to mention that they are lovely photos.


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