South Carolina 4-H Small Garden Project

The purpose of the Small Garden Project is to educate the youth of South Carolina on where and how their food is grown using hands-on, in-the-garden experiences.

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Youth will:

  • Set goals and plan activities and strategies to achieve those outcomes, even in the face of challenges.

  • Reflect on their work by documenting their skill development and learning experiences.

  • Give back to their communities through educational and service activities.

  • Learn valuable skills in record keeping, financial management, and communication.

  • Become good stewards of the environment and gain technical expertise that can promote beneficial practices.

Age Divisions: (all ages are as of January 1, 2018) Each youth will receive 1 copy of the project record book.  Additional copies can be printed from this webpage. 

  • Project for individuals (1 person) 
  • Group Projects (2 or more individuals)
      • Cloverbud Group (5-8 years of age) - Record book (PDF 1.0MB)
      • Jr./Sr. Group (9-18 years of age) - Record book (PDF 0.9MB)

Cost: $10 (plus online registration fees) for project registration for 4-H members; 4-H membership is also available through your local County Extension Office for an additional $10 and includes a 4-H T-shirt.


  • Guidelines for Individuals (PDF 0.8MB) and Guidelines for Groups (PDF 0.8MB)
  • All participants must be current South Carolina 4-H members for the 2017-2018 club year.
  • All groups or individuals registered will receive a project record book, at least 2 seed packets of edible plants and 2 packets of seed for pollinator-friendly plants, and project newsletters.  
      • Youth must plant at least 2 of the seed varieties they are given (one pollinator and one edible). In addition, they must plant at least 2 other edible crops of their choice. If spacing allows, you may plant more than 4 types of crops.
  • Youth must prepare, plant, maintain, and harvest a garden plot of no less than 50 sq ft. (If you do not have the required amount of space, consult your local 4-H Agent.)
  • Expect a site visit from judges coordinated by your local Agent.
  • Record books and evaluations must be returned to be eligible for awards. Judging rubric (PDF 0.6MB)
      • County winners from the Junior, Senior, and Group divisions will be eligible for judging at the regional and state level if they score a 165/220 (75%) or higher. 
      • State winners are not eligible for awards in the same division for 1 year following their state win.  (For example, a Junior State winner from 2017 may not compete for awards in the individual Junior category in 2018.  They have to wait until 2019, age up to the Senior division in 2018, or participate in a Group project for 2018 to be eligible for awards.) 

Project (runs April - July)

  • Friday, April 13th: Your registration and payment must be received by 4-H. Register here. Paper registration forms for individual participants (PDF 0.4MB) or groups (PDF 0.4MB) are also available.  These must be turned into your local County Extension Office no later than the close of business on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. 
  • Project materials should be available for pick up at your local Extension Office no later than the end of April 2018 (and not before April 19th).

  • Gardens should be planted no later than Thursday, May 31st. 

  • Site visit must occur prior to Friday, July 27th

  • Record books are due to the local County Extension Office by the close of business on Tuesday, July 31st. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

    • What does this project involve?
      Youth will be supplied with a record book and a few seed packets to help get them started. Youth will be responsible for managing a small garden (50 sq ft.) and keeping records throughout the project season. Record books have been specifically designed for each age division. At the end of the project, youth will submit their record book for judging at the county level. County-winning record books in the Junior and Senior age divisions will advance to the regional- and state-level for judging.
    • Are there any changes from last year's project?
      Yes, there a few minor changes from the 2017 Small Garden Project. 1.) Youth will recieve at least 4 seed packets (we have only provided 1 or 2 in the past). 2.) Instead of not allowing a state winner to ever compete for awards in the same division again, we have reduced this restriction and simply not allow a state winner to compete for awards in the same division 2 years in a row. 3.)  In order to qualify for judging at the regional and state level, county winning record books must score at least 165/220 (75%). 
    • Do 4-H'ers have to own the land that the garden is on to participate in this project?
      No, youth do not have to own the land or tools associated with gardening to participate in this project, but they will need access to those resources (not supplied by the project). Youth need to be responsible for preparing, planting, maintaining, and harvesting their garden and recording their efforts (setting goals, making decisions, learning, etc.).
    • Can youth plant their garden in containers? 
      Yes, youth can use non-traditional methods to plant their garden, such as containers or straw bales, as long as the total garden area adds up to the 50 sq ft minimum and youth explain why they chose that format in their record book.  We do not currently allow for hydroponic gardens (or those without a soil or solid base for roots to contact).  
    • What if we don't know anything about gardening, can we still enroll in this project?
      YES!!! This project is designed to be a learning experience and provide flexible opportunities to engage youth in the active role of gardening. Your local County Extension Office and Clemson Extension's Home and Garden Information Center should serve as a good resources for you.