A kitchen garden in the schoolyard

May 28, 2013

Contributor: Brussels Environment

Governance, synergies and local systems / Final consumers – Youngsters

A kitchen garden in preschool as a too

A few square metres salvaged from the schoolyard were enough for these two schools to install a kitchen garden, fruit trees and a plot of aromatic herbs.

Cultivating a garden has turned out to be a multipurpose teaching activity that includes the discovery of sustainable food, the measurement of time and the development of dexterity, autonomy, creativity, etc.

Already involved in several “green” projects (planting fruit trees, creating a nature corner, etc.), preschool no. 2 of Schaerbeek wanted to do more. This “sustainable food” call for projects made it possible for them.

“From the earth to the plate” is a varied programme that involves the whole school. In each class, the schoolchildren sprout seeds in a mini-garden. Once these seeds are ready, the young gardeners replant them in a kitchen garden installed in the schoolyard. And once the vegetables are harvested, they are cooked by the students and then eaten with delight at school and at home. The involvement of the children was highlighted in an album recounting their activities and in recipe books.

In Forest, the Arc-en-ciel school also converted its schoolyard into a kitchen garden: the sandbox, emptied and then filled with earth, was used to grow, among other things, potatoes; a disused plot accommodated fruit trees; another, an herb spiral; downspouts were used to supply rainwater collection bins (to easily and sustainably water the crops) and a composting site was created (as in Schaerbeek). Needless to say, the students were occupied throughout the year!

In the end, these two schools have designed setups that are completely sustainable and have totally integrated cultivation of the kitchen gardens into their establishments, with all the educational benefits that includes (familiarity with nature, the value of work, discipline, patience, respect for the environment, etc.). A few square metres of earth suffice for a complete civic education!


The plots arouse the interest of the children who take care of them, and quite a few vegetables (potatoes, lettuce, radishes, green beans, peas, broad beans, borage, etc.), as well as aromatic herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, chives, etc.) were harvested in the first year.

Preschool no. 2 in Schaerbeek cooked its harvests as soon as possible and even involved some mothers in the project; they came to the school to prepare couscous with the children, for example.

All the students were involved. The teachers had the children carry out simple acts based on both observation and action, to make them aware of the environment and nutrition.



To set up their kitchen gardens properly, both schools were helped by ‘Le début des haricots’ (non profit association). Then, each of them had its tips and tricks…


The school planted fruit trees received during a visit to the Schaerbeek greenhouses. A greenhouse manager assisted the school throughout the year (seedlings, compost, etc.).

The kitchen garden was set up in the schoolyard (two 1 m² patches), with the aid of the Green Areas service of the municipality of Schaerbeek. And each class has a mini-garden in the classroom for sprouting the seeds (cabbage, tomatoes, squash, etc.). In this way, the children are in daily contact with their plants, reinforcing their involvement. This was also an opportunity for launching a small contest for the best class garden.

Later in the year, paving stones were removed in the schoolyard to create four new kitchen garden patches. The cultivation and harvesting are done in turn by the different classes. The cooking workshop takes place every Friday afternoon in the equipped kitchen. The students come there in turn and as they wish.

As for the equipment, the school has invested approximately 900 EUR in the kitchen (utensils), the garden (tools, soil, pots, etc.) and the classroom (games on food, documentation, etc.).

Finally, the school has participated in the ‘Jardin des couleurs’ workshops, the Tournesol activities, and those of the Green non-profit organisation, and received documentation from Réseau IDée.


Activities of preschool no. 2 in Schaerbeek:

  • Recipes prepared onsite.
  • Recipe books for the classes and for the school kitchen.
  • Planting calendar.
  • Photo/commentary album on the plantings.
  • A photo book of the plantings.

Still life paintings.


In Schaerbeek, the schoolchildren prepared “homemade” strawberry jam that they gave to their mothers for Mothers’ Day, accompanied by a strawberry plant. So much better than a macaroni necklace!


A former sandbox was easily converted into a kitchen garden patch. Two other above-ground kitchen gardens were created with trays bought at major retailers (cost: approximately 1000 EUR to build ten trays: pallets, elevated supports, screws, staples, geotextiles, soil, seeds, etc.). Rainwater collectors were placed under the downspouts adjacent to the patches (cost: 185 EUR), to water the plots without wasting water. The herb spiral cost approximately 115 EUR, and tools, 615 EUR.

In order to make use of the available resources and reduce waste, each school has installed compost bins and waste sorting bins. The children empty the organic waste into the compost themselves and turn it regularly. Several bins allow the compost to be used more easily and over a longer period.


Facilities at the Arc-en-ciel school:

  • Two kitchen gardens.
  • Two rainwater collectors.
  • An herb spiral.
  • A small orchard.

A composting site.


FUTURE developments….

In Schaerbeek, they want to take advantage of the well-equipped kitchen to open up more to the outside world and establish, for example, discovery tastings involving the families (from varied cultures). The educational team has consequently launched into sustainable food and definitely intends to continue in this direction.

In Forest, they are now concentrating on planting fruit trees (budget: 300 EUR), the latest feature of the project. And the children have already had the idea of planting a vine and making a green pergola to create a bit of shade during warm weather!



Gardens is an educational tool to introduce environmental issue, sustainable food topic, and nature in the school program


It takes time

It needs space

Sometimes an analysis of soil pollution is required and it is very expensive

It is difficult to find non polluted soil for kitchen garden

What does it happen for maintenance during school holiday periods? This problem can be handle by a good organisation of harvest.

It is easier to include these activities in pre-school program than high school program.



  • A few square metres suffice for a small garden.
  • Consider the school holiday periods in the choice of seedlings. The children may be frustrated if their produce ripens during the holidays.
  • Focus the actions on simple routines and relay them in class in discussions and activities.

How can we reach high school?