The Jefferson Garden

Welcome to the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Community Garden!

jefferson-garden-spring-2021

A portion of our produce goes to Arlington food pantries.
To date, thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit have been donated.


About the Garden

This organic community garden is a demonstration and education project for Thomas Jefferson Middle School. It serves a diverse group of students and the local community by creating a hands-on experience with organic, natural and sustainable gardening practices.

The Jefferson Garden, also known as the TJMS Community Garden, was founded in 2010 as a Girl Scout Silver Award project by Cadette Troop 557, with a portion of the produce going to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) in support of its “Plot Against Hunger” program (then run by AFAC). Today, the garden honors the legacy of its Girl Scout founders by continuing to make donations to the Plot Against Hunger program, now run by the Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture, whose mission is to build a resilient, community-driven urban agriculture sector that provides a fair, healthy, sustainable food system for all Arlingtonians.

Learn More and Volunteer – A general overview of the Jefferson Garden is below, but to learn even more about the latest happenings at the garden; to sign up to work in the garden; and to subscribe to the TJMS Community Garden News & Updates email newsletter, visit the Jefferson Garden website.

Other Ways to Get Involved – Do you want to get involved or have new garden ideas to suggest? Do you want to join the PTA Garden Committee? Help needed for the Jefferson Garden may include not only garden maintenance, but also grant writing and fundraising; coordinating with teachers, staff and families; creating and carrying out garden lessons and events; and communications support. For questions or to volunteer, contact the PTA Outdoor Education Chair Reidy Brown at tjmsoutside@gmail.com.

Follow on Facebook – Get regular updates and see photos and video of the Jefferson Garden by following and liking @TJGarden on Facebook.


Ways the Garden Is Used

Did you know students can earn community service hours when working in or for the garden? Plus, students can gain not only gardening skills but also communications and organizational skills as they learn the business of running a garden. In the Jefferson Garden, students have fun while learning and making a difference in our community!

TJMS students, families and the local community are always welcome to help out and enjoy the garden. We typically announce hours and post signups for garden hours between April and October, weather permitting. Watch for PTA announcements throughout the year to sign up to help with planting, watering, weeding and more.


The Value of the Garden

The following are the many ways our garden brings value to the TJMS student body, families and local community:

  • Our teachers use the garden as an outdoor learning space for students – e.g., victory garden, butterfly/pollinator garden, bug motel and outdoor classroom to explore lessons around math, geography, art, English and more.
  • We make fresh produce donations to Arlington food pantries, with thousands of pounds donated to date.
  • We plant lettuce in April so that it can be served and enjoyed by students during lunch in June.
  • We celebrate Jefferson’s diverse population of learners through hand-painted signposts that highlight the many countries around the world represented at Jefferson and the wide variety of vegetables and fruits that are grown in the Jefferson Garden.
  • Students, classes, families and the broader community are always welcome to help out, learn and enjoy the garden, which benefits the garden while also strengthening our school community.

Garden Archive

Below are additional links and notes related to our garden’s founding and history, which we’re keeping on this page as an archive.

Jefferson Garden in the News

  • Smithsonian Gardens’ Community of Gardens – The Thomas Jefferson Middle School Garden is a featured garden in this Smithsonian Institute digital archive created to help people better understand the meaning and value of gardens to American life
  • The Edible Schoolyard Project – The Jefferson Garden is featured on the website of the Edible Schoolyard Project based in Berkeley, CA – the original inspiration for the Jefferson Garden, along with the White House Kitchen Garden
  • InsideNOVA, Oct. 11, 2020 – Eagle Scout project brings accessibility to the garden
  • InsideNOVA, Dec. 9, 2014 – Letter to the editor from the garden’s “founding farmers,” Arlington Girl Scout Troop 557, to save the garden at a time when it was at risk
  • The Washington Post/Kid’s Post, Nov. 2, 2014 – TJ youth gardeners hungry to help raise and prepare food for the needy
  • Arlington Magazine, Sept-Oct 2014 – How the garden has a big impact
  • The Jefferson Post, April 2014 – TJMS student journalists on the topic of outdoor classrooms
  • APS Green Scene, June 14, 2013 – Report on how students, families, faculty, staff and community members create the garden’s master design (link no longer available)
  • The Arlington Connection, Feb. 6-12, 2013 – How the garden grows healthy connections (link no longer available)

Jefferson Garden Design History

In 2014, landscape designer and former teacher Nancy Striniste, founder and principal designer at Earlyspace, designed a beautiful and vibrant plan inspired from input by our TJMS students, faculty, staff and community. This big-picture, long-term vision for a TJMS community garden featured outdoor classrooms, picnic tables, oven, international gardens, amphitheater, fruit trees, pond, rainwater harvesting/exchange systems, accessible raised beds, earth loom, high tunnel, enchanting entrances – all ideas for enhancing student learning and activity, extending the growing season and fostering community in the garden.


Last updated June 14, 2021