School Garden Adventure

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OUR SCHOOL GARDEN’S INAUGURAL YEAR

Yesterday, I was able to see the culmination of the past 4 months of learning alongside of our elementary school’s garden club. This was a new adventure for the school and a dream of mine for the past couple of years. Fortunately, there came a point were people, resources and interest all beautifully collided and set the stage for what would be one of the most amazing adventures I had ever been a part of.

In October of last year, it was announced that 3rd – 5th graders at our elementary school would have the opportunity to join “clubs”. These ranged from technology to science, crafting to gardening, cheer to sports. There was something for everyone. Not having any extensive experience with gardening (ok, so I have a history of leading plants to an early death… there, I said it), I was a little uneasy captaining this ship alone (due to my sketchy relationships with anything that requires water, other than humans and dogs), so I was excited to hear that we would have a staff member, Mrs. Feemster, and another parent volunteer, Mrs. Bird, who would join me for the ride! The clubs would meet each Friday morning for approximately 45 minutes… just enough time to get some serious, focused work done. We were going to make GARDENERS out of them ALL (including ME)!

February started off with laying the groundwork for the garden.

This was the location we decided on for the placement of the garden.

This was the location we decided on for the placement of the garden.

 

Maybe we’ll just start off small…. Nah, go big or go home! Mr. Birks and Mr. Pytel were invaluable in helping to get the foundation started. One day, our little patch of ground was lawn, the next day, it was a cleared off rectangle with railroad timbers around the perimeter, and a few days later, it was filled with organic soil and starting to look like the start of something pretty wonderful! Mr. Birks also allowed the garden club to visit his family’s amazing garden at his home. The kiddos were able to learn about several different crops, gardening tips and take home their very own strawberry plant. Never would have imagined that this club would have ended up with a field trip, but that’s why we DREAM BIG!

Once the foundation for the garden was laid, the vision started to become reality!

Once the foundation for the garden was laid, the vision started to become reality!

 

We chose a variety of vegetables to plant… lettuce varieties, radishes, peppers, cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, eggplant and carrots. We split up our group of 25 and each group was responsible for planting a certain crop. The seeds were planted, and not sparingly I might add. We had initially attempted to do seedlings, but found that it was actually much more effective to just plant the seeds directly into the soil of the garden. So, we transplanted the seedlings AND planted additional seeds. The following week, we ended up with a freeze which led to the demise of our once healthy tomato plants as well as all of the seedlings we had started. So, we went back through with the remaining seeds… just to be on the safe side.

Each item was marked with these fun little markers I made from wooden spoons!

Each item was marked with these fun little markers I made from wooden spoons!

 

Green is breaking ground!  This was an incredibly exciting day!

Green is breaking ground! This was an incredibly exciting day!

Several seeds of each variety were planted together, so it was rather interesting to see a tubular radish due to lack of “personal space”. Seeing as this was intended to be a learning experience for the kids, WE WERE SUCCEEDING… not only figuring out WHAT to do, but also, what NOT to do.

Before long, we had LEGITIMATE plants growing!

Lettuce is starting to look ready for harvest!

Lettuce is starting to look ready for harvest!

As the weeks went by for garden club, our radishes matured first, so we were happy to harvest those and each member of the garden club was able to take at least one home.

The radishes are ready for picking!

The radishes are ready for picking!

Faculty members were happy to share in the bounty and those who loved radishes were quick to stake their claim! The lettuce varieties matured next and the kids enjoyed thinning that out on a regular basis. This was one crop that grew, and grew, and grew! Beets followed and it was so wonderful to watch the excitement in the group as a new crop was ready for harvest. They picked with pride and even tried some new foods along the way.

One of our 3rd graders with their string bean find!

One of our 3rd graders with their string bean find!

Another 3rd grader tasked with picking a cucumber!  Those things are prickly!

Another 3rd grader tasked with picking a cucumber! Those things are prickly!

 

I think we were all a little shocked that plants were actually growing! Vegetables were being formed. This was REAL FOOD and it was grown by 3rd, 4th and 5th graders!

With “legitimate” plants come “legitimate” pests.  Luckily, the kids LOVED to play with anything squirmy!  I never had to touch any of these little guys… THANKFULLY!  This was a pesticide-free garden, so we developed the “Caterpillar and Inchworm Relocation Project”.  In other words, the kids took the worms over to some green space further away from the garden.  I’m sure the food wasn’t nearly as tasty over there!

Worms, worms, worms, worms...

Worms, worms, worms, worms…

Each week had new discoveries… we had replaced our tomato plants with extra plants from Mrs. Sniffin’s (our principal) home garden. The carrots were taking shape, the beets were continuing to mature and the tomato plants were doubling in size each week. It was surreal! That is some goooooooood soil! And, I’d like to think we gave it a lot of love as well!

These beets are looking mighty tasty!

These beets are looking mighty tasty!

The carrots, eggplant, and tomatoes are looking great!

The carrots, eggplant, and tomatoes are looking great!

 

Our tomato plants are full of beautiful tomatoes!  Just waiting for them to turn RED!

Our tomato plants are full of beautiful tomatoes! Just waiting for them to turn RED!

Over the course of garden club, we talked about caterpillars, earthworms, natural pest remedies, butterfly gardens (courtesy of Mrs. Wharton), terrariums (each student made their own out of repurposed glass jars), how to know where plants will “fruit”, and much more. The club knew that, in order to make it a success, we would have to learn together and work together. The older kids would help the younger kids. You could see leaders emerge. It was AMAZING!

A few weeks ago, we started 3 new crops… microgreens, spinach and potatoes. They aren’t our most stellar crops, but they have been an important part of this journey.

For Memorial Day, our school district was “class in session” due to some bad weather make-up days. So, our administration decided it would be a great day for the clubs to show off what they had been working on all semester… FARMER’S MARKET, HERE WE COME! We harvested everything that was ready (lettuce, cucumbers, beets and carrots). I can describe this process as nothing short of phenomenal!

One of the students carefully harvesting the beets.

One of the students carefully harvesting the beets.

The excitement in their eyes as they pulled a carrot out of the ground (and those things are not always the easiest to pull out of the ground), or found a huge beet, was priceless. As the veggies were harvested, the kids took them to wash them off and then we bundled the beets and carrots to get them ready for “market”.

Bundles and bundles of beets!

Bundles and bundles of beets!

Our amazing crop of carrots!

Our amazing crop of carrots!  OH SO YUMMY!

 

As the parents and faculty started strolling by the garden club table, the looks on their faces told the story. This club IS AMAZING! These 3rd – 5th graders ARE AMAZING and they learned lessons that will last them a lifetime and hopefully have a new appreciation for the food that we eat. They also have something pretty spectacular that they can take ownership of!  The comments that I heard from parents as they saw the bounty of carrots, beets and lettuce made my day. And the students showed off their handiwork with such pride. Absolutely unforgettable!

It really happened!  We had a Farmer's Market!

It really happened! We had a Farmer’s Market!

I know that many of the students who signed up for garden club had no idea we would actually HAVE a garden at the school. They had no idea what they were getting in to. In fact, some of them may have been dreading it that first day, wondering why they hadn’t been placed in one of the other clubs they had chosen. But, in the end, I think (I hope) that they all loved their experience. In fact, many of them have come up to me wondering who will be taking care of the garden over the summer! They were part of something that was a first for the school.

None of us involved were certain how it would turn out but we all were willing to give it our best and leave ourselves open to the experience that awaited us! So glad we did! Can’t wait until next year!

Comments

  1. Kristi on August 1, 2014 at 4:54 pm said:

    Totally ! Love it!!awesome

  2. Gillian on May 14, 2015 at 6:26 pm said:

    Love the garden, totally jealous but inspiring!

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