By Lynn Barber

Yes, it’s back to school time already. Did you know that the Hillsborough County Extension Service has a School and Community Garden program coordinator?

Lisa Meredith fills this role and is the person to contact. She has a list of resources that will help teachers and community garden leaders investigate available grant funding, can meet with you to evaluate your site conditions, make recommendations on what and when to plant, and provide you with materials to make the process easier to manage and navigate. They are an educational institution and don’t provide labor, but can provide the name of other organization(s) that may be able to assist you. 

School gardens are great because they help build self-esteem, encourage learning, provide interactive lessons, teach life skills, provide a sense of ownership, allow youth to learn where food comes from, and enhance science and environmental knowledge. 
Community gardens are beneficial because they provide access to fresh food, promote exercise and nutrition, work well for people with limited yard space, revitalize neighborhoods, decrease crime and stress, provide an opportunity to connect with others, and control food production.

Meredith has been involved with dozens of school and community gardens. Each one is unique and tailored to the style of the gardeners and serve the purpose of teaching how food is produced. School teachers are very innovative in using plants and gardens as teaching tools. Whether container gardening or utilizing the landscape around the school, these gardens show students how important plants are to butterfly populations and to us as consumers of what we grow.

If your school or community is interested in more information about these types of gardens, please contact Meredith at 744-5519 x 54146, or email

For assistance with horticultural questions, call: 744-5519 or visit the Hillsborough County Extension Service, 5339 CR 579 in Seffner. There are several demonstration gardens on site.

More gardening information is available at:, and

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