Growing with a Purpose

Step 1 – Decide on a Cause.

What will your students be passionate about funding?

It could be related to your school or the greater community. Students can make suggestions and then vote for what is most important to them.

Step 2 – Decide on what to Grow.

Since the school year ends in May or June students, like farmers, will have to plan their crops around a schedule.  For instance, it may not be possible to grow full blooming zinnias for sale by the end of May.

Think about vegetables that require indoor seed starting before they are transplanted outdoors. Tomatoes are very popular so they make an excellent choice.  Hot and sweet peppers or herbs are also a great choice.


The objective is to sell seedlings that are ready to plant much like you would find at a local garden center.  With a very minimal investment in plastic cups, seeds and some classroom nurturing you can grow specialty vegetable and herb plants  that could be sold for a few dollars each generating an impressive profit.

Here’s How:

Step 3 – Plan your Budget:  

Once you have decided on a seed variety like ‘Snow Princess’ White Cherry Tomatoes,  ‘Jimmy Nardello’ Sweet Red Pepper,  heirloom ‘Ox Heart Slicing’ Tomatoes, Cilantro or Marigoldsyou will need either 9 or 16 ounce plastic cups and some seed starting soil to get started.

Your cost per cup should add up like this:
Seed:  .08 to .10 each
Plastic Cup:  .03 to .06 each
Seed Starting Soil:  .10 to .20 (coir pellet)
Fertilizer:  .02 each
Total:  .23 to .38 each or a total investment of under $40.00.

Say you make 100 total tomato cups and grow each to about 6 inches tall.  They are then easy to transplant which makes them perfect for selling around Mother’s Day.

If you sell all 100 at $2.50/plant you will make approximately $200 or a profit of over 500%  for your cause.  You and your students are now a successful ‘micro-farmers”.

Step 4 – Sowing and Growing

Items you will need:
1 to 3 seed packets (depending on variety)
100 9 ounce or 16 ounce plastic cups
1 permanent marker
Seed Starting Soil mix
Liquid fertilizer (not needed until week 3)

With the permanent marker write the seed variety on each cup.
Fill each cup with soil mix leaving 1/2 inch for watering.
Plant seeds as directed on seed packet (1/4 inch deep for tomato seeds)
Water so soil is damp – not saturated.
Place cups in a warm location away from drafts.  A sunny windowsill would be ideal.

Monitor daily.  Soil in cups should remain damp and should not need water for first 3 days. Water to keep soil moist.  Follow instructions on seed packet for details on when seedlings will start to emerge.

Within four to six weeks (depending on the variety) seedlings should be ready for hardening off process.

Step 5 – Hardening Off

One week before seedlings are sold they should be “hardened off”. This process acclimates the seedlings to outdoor weather conditions. On the first day of “hardening off” the seedlings would be exposed to about one hour in a shaded outdoor area. Each day the length of the time outdoors can be extended by 1 hour. Be careful not to expose seedlings to too much sun. Their tender leaves can be sunburn if they get too much direct sunlight too quickly.

Step 6 – Marketing and Sales

Now that seeds are planted students have some time to consider how to sell their crops.

What is special about the variety they have planted?
What will selling price be?
Should there be discounts for people buying more than one?
Who is their target customer?
What is the best way to reach this target customer?