Our Sister Gardens

CMEF and The Merc Co+op have supported other Lawrence Public Schools in beginning and maintaining gardens in addition to our main work at west. These sister sites have grown and adapted to meet the interests and needs of their schools. Hillcrest Elementary, Sunset Hill Elementary, and Southwest Middle School are growing strong!


Hillcrest elementary

The Hillcrest Elementary garden has grown a lot of the past few years. Before a few growing seasons ago, the garden site was home to a lone compost bin. The Community Mercantile Education Foundation (CMEF) was already involved with the school, providing lessons about healthful food to the fifth grade classes. Since our school renovation, we have enjoyed having 20 framed, raised garden beds — one for each classroom and extra beds for the Boys and Girls Club, an arched trellis for vining crops, and, when we have the need for one, we will build a wheelchair bed.

We use the Vegetable Garden Planner tool, an online garden planner, to plan our plantings each spring and fall, and to print out maps for the garden to refer to throughout the season. Each raised garden bed has been planted with a variety of vegetables. Some of the crops are requested by teachers to meet their planned lessons, such as the “Kansas garden bed” planted by on kindergarten class. Popular vegetables among the students include cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and — perhaps surprisingly — kale and chard. CMEF has supported with delivery of seeds, plants, mulch and soil, and through coordinating lunchroom tastings, which are samples of dishes made with garden produce.

The days the soil or mulch is delivered are big garden work days. We coordinate with the district to use their garden cart, a mobile tool shed pulled behind a truck. We gather a crew of student and teacher volunteers—our “bucket brigade”—to shovel the soil or mulch into buckets and dump the bucketsful in the garden beds or paths as directed. Each brigade crew works for about 20 minutes, then we return that crew to their classes and get the next group until the work is complete. Everyone involved has fun contributing in a big, noticeable way to a team effort in the garden.

In the 2017 fall growing season, we started a garden club of sorts. A KU student, fulfilling a school project, came twice a week. He and I coordinated to provide gardening lessons for different groups from various grades within the school. For example, the students planted fall crops, dug potatoes, harvested tomatoes and watered the crops.

Watching a student’s awe as the lettuce first pokes through the soil, or seeing the enjoyment on the students’ faces as they try a new vegetable — and like it! — will never get old. We are excited for what the 2018 season will bring to the Hillcrest School Garden.


Hillcrest Garden Coordinator

4th grade classroom teacher

Tyler Gill


southwest middle school garden

Our Southwest School Garden Project was established in 2012 by our former principal, Trish Bransky with extensive support and guidance by Nancy O'Connor and CMEF and lots of support from our SW School community! 

We are very excited about embarking on our seventh season of the Southwest School Garden Project!  The past years have been filled with tremendous successes, heart-warming moments, lessons learned, and good doses of hard work.

In our first season, the Southwest School Garden Project established two large, on-site, fenced, vegetable garden areas, a flower/herb garden area, a composting facility, and a small orchard, which all serve as outdoor, living classrooms. In the past seasons, we have expanded on our successful start by increasing our vegetable production, adding to our flower/herb & fruit/berry plantings, embarking on worm composting some of the organic waste from our school cafe,  expanding our relationships with the SW School Cafe, joining the Clinton Parkway Nursery’s farmers market, working with the Clinton Parkway Hy-Vee produce department, and most recently Merchants restaurant downtown. In 2018, we hope again to build on and expand our work from previous seasons, to bolster our our relationship with our community partners, improve communication with our patrons & supporters, and renew our CSA.

Perry Kennard

7th & 8th Grade Science Teacher

SW Middle School


sunset hill elementary

In 2016, CMEF installed raised bed gardens at Sunset Hill Elementary.  Just up the hill from West Middle School, Sunset Hill's garden contains a bed for every class so they can grow whatever they please. Flowers, summer squash, berries and native flowers have all made appearances the last couple of seasons.

This garden is still fairly new, and just last month a new garden coordinator has accepted the challenge of running a garden club and maintaining the space over the summer. It's vital to have a dedicated person or team in charge of projects like these, and CMEF is looking forward to supporting this garden and its new facilitator this season.