Carroll County Public Schools Outdoor School

Grow a garden...

Enjoy your own vegetables and take ACTION while you're at it!




Choose your plants! Its best to start out with just a few veggies for the summertime. Decide on what you want; maybe you want a pizza garden (tomatoes, basil, onions, oregano, peppers & parsley) or just a simple herb garden, a pet garden (rabbits love yummy fresh lettuce) or perhaps your own pumpkin patch 
  • You will need some basic tools to get your garden-a-growing! A trowel, buckets, gloves, a hoe and/or a shovel is a great start. You may also need some potting soil to help your veggies start off strong. Try your local hardware store, nursery or even a neighboring yard sale.
  • Purchase your plants and/or seeds. Check out your local nursery, hardware store or even plant sales at community events.
  • Pick your place! Work with an adult to determine the best spot for your garden! Remember veggies like sun!
  • Make it your own! You can also create a border for your garden with rocks, a small fence or seashells. Make a sign to announce: "The Family Pizza Garden" or "Rabbits Not Allowed"!
  • Make sure you till (turn the soil over) your garden bed before you plant. Put your plants in the ground. Make sure you follow the directions on the seed packets or plant containers to figure out how deep and how far apart they should be in your garden. Note: You may need an adults' help.
  • Maintenance is needed to help your plants. Follow a watering schedule and remember that your veggies need extra water when it is extra
  • hot. The best watering times are early in the morning and later in the evening.
Planning is important. You can go to the library or check the internet to find out more about your plants and how they grow.
  • Some vegetables, like tomatoes for example, need a stake to support them as they grow.
  • Mulching is important to keep weeds away. You can use straw to do so.  An Outdoor School tip is to lay cardboard or newspaper on the ground around your plants and mulch over top of it. The cardboard will break down eventually and you won't have as many weeds to pull out.
  • Remember to weed your garden and know how to identify what is a vegetable and what is not.
  • Even if you don't have a big back yard, you can grow a garden in pots or 5-gallon buckets or build a raised bed.  It doesn't have to be big to raise veggies!
  • When do I plant my garden? Springtime is the best time depending on the weather in a given year, remember some plants need different temperatures, so research each plant! Always plant after the last hard frost. You can call a local nursery to find if you aren't sure!
  • You may also want to purchase a rain gauge to check on how much water your garden receives each week.
Tilling refers to digging up your garden and turning the soil over to make it ready for plants. You have to till your till your new garden the first year but not the next years. Tilling is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can create erosion. If you treat your soil well, you will receive great vegetables each year and composting is another way to get those results. If your family composts at home, use the newly-created, rich soil in your garden. It is full of nutrients to make your veggies healthy and strong.

If you use straw to protect your garden and compost, you may not need to till your garden.

At the end of the gardening season and when you have picked the last vegetable, cut down the stalks and throw them in your compost pile to be eventually recycled back into soil, thanks to those wonderful little earthworms!

Here is a website to help you get your compost started:


You can grow a living mulch or what is called a cover crop. A cover crop is a plant that you put in between your vegetables or over the entire garden space in the winter.  A cover crop is beneficial to the environment and can actually improve your soil. You learned at Outdoor School that plants roots help prevent erosion, they can also retain soil moisture, add nutrients to the ground, attract beneficial insects and prevent weeds!

There are basically two types of cover crops: summer grown and overwintering.

You can plant your cover crop 4-5 weeks after you plant your vegetables, this way they will not compete with your veggies. Also, after you pick your last vegetable in the late summer/early fall, you can plant a cover crop to protect your garden over the winter.

A good option for a summer cover crop is buckwheat. A good one for the winter time is rye or crimson clover. There are many types of crop covers; check your internet to see what is the best for your garden! When you are ready to plant again, you simply turn your cover crop upside down and it acts like compost, providing nutrients for the soil.


Last thoughts... 

Growing a garden can be really fun and easy! Having your own garden is a rewarding way to eat healthy and take action by lessening the environmental costs of your food. If you have too many vegetables, remember you can always give them away to family members or neighbors; they will thank-you for the fresh and healthy treats!