School Vegetable Gardens

By Andres Villagran

Speaker and organizer Andres Villagran, Youth Gardens Coordinator, Texas A&M AgriLife

Bexar County is vibrant in a multitude of ways, with one of the unsung heroes being vegetable gardening. Many schools and youth groups in Bexar County have their very own youth gardens where they grow vegetables, herbs, perennials, and more. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Bexar County is proud to support these gardens through visits, presentations, and more. One of the biggest ways we support these youth gardens is through the two Youth Gardens Educator Trainings that we host every year, one for the spring season and one for the fall season. These trainings are meant to supply local educators with the skills they need to implement and care for vegetable gardens in their schools, church groups, community groups, etc… Local educators are supplied with information from specialized presenters, as well as plants and compost for their youth gardens. We have done this training since 1992, so it’s hard to precisely quantify the impact that we have had on Bexar County over three decades. However, we do know that in 2022 alone, this training supported 140 youth gardens groups and around 11,000 youth.

This past March, we hosted our annual Spring Youth Gardens Educator Training at the San Antonio Botanical Garden (555 Funston Place 78209). 64 participants attended the training. We had a total of 33 Master Gardener volunteers assist with set up, registration, and plant pickup. We had 4 Master Gardeners with Advanced Training present on various aspects related to spring gardening, and they are as follows:

Resources available to assist schools with the Junior Master Gardener program

Karen Gardner – Basics of Spring Vegetables;

Grace Emery – Tree Care;

John Vann – Drip Irrigation;

Bill Swantner – Compost and Mulch

I presented on important resources that AgriLife has available to youth garden leaders to help their gardens go the extra mile. Olivia Roybal from the San Antonio Botanical Garden also presented on exciting opportunities at the garden. Plant pickup was co-lead by Shirley Conrad and Donna Kadilis, and the process went very smoothly.

This training is one of the most important youth gardening events that we host here in Bexar County, so it feels quite good to say that the training was a huge success. Our surveys showed that everyone had an amazing experience. I have also been able to visit some schools of the participants who attended, and they have already put their plants into the garden beds and gotten to work with the kids. It’s great to see that educators and youth alike are just as excited about spring gardening as we are!

Thank you very much to all of the volunteers and partners who assisted me with setting up this training. We’ll see y’all again in the Fall!

Photos by Tom Neckar