What does a school garden do all summer?

3 Sep

“What does a school garden do over the summer?”

It’s one of the most frequent questions I’m asked. The answer, in short, is, “We never stop.”

Because our school runs a six-week literacy bridge program over the summer, the garden is geared toward those students and their families. Here’s what happened in our garden this summer (which is similar to past years):

We grew a handful of summer crops.

This year, we cultivated squash, basil, eggplant and nine different varieties of tomato plants, all cherry-sized (Isis, Rose Quartz, Coyote, Sweet Baby Girl, Green Envy, Cerise Orange, Black Cherry, Ghost Cherry and Sungold). The basil and some of the tomatoes will produce into the fall, so it’s definitely worth the effort to keep them watered over the summer.

Parent volunteers watered.

Eleven parents (and their partners and children) gave their time and talent by watering and weeding the entire garden week after week: Karalyn Colopy, Leslie McDow, Elizabeth Parish, Johanna Bernhardt, Sonja Nikolsky, Liz Healey, Kathleen Duval, Keri Debbink, John Witek, Rachel Raney and Sabrina Lamar. Also, one of the school’s staff members — Amber Crispell — helped pick up some of the slack.

Thanks to all of you!!

A paid garden intern harvested with summer-program students.

For six weeks, our intern — sixth-grader Randy — spent three to four hours each week working in the garden with elementary students.┬áBecause Randy is bilingual, he was able to communicate with students in Spanish or English.

On some days, he guided students in picking and tasting vegetables. On other days, they explored the smells in the herb garden — chocolate mint, orange mint, bronze fennel, lemon balm… Each week, he put out extra harvested vegetables for families and teachers to take home.

Teachers led students in cooking the food from the garden.

During the literacy bridge program, teachers and students┬ámade baked eggplant, fresh tomato sauce, and tomato-and-basil mini-pizzas. After eating the eggplant, one student told his teacher, “I’m gonna ask my mom to get this at the store, because I know how to make it.” (That’s a garden success, if you ask me.)

Teachers don’t have to do anything in the garden, of course. After all, students are attending a literacy program, not a cooking program. But these extraordinary teachers have found a way to integrate outdoor education, nutrition and literacy — through cooking.

We prepped for the fall.

Summer is incredibly busy when you’re gardening, because everything grows like it’s on steroids. It takes a major effort simply to water, weed and harvest. By mid-summer, though, I start thinking about what needs to be done so that the garden is ready for students’ return.

This year, that meant re-painting the plant signage. Ms. Vejvoda and her students led the painting effort, and several students (Thomas Doughty, Elijah Parish and Aiden Lamar) finished the job by hammering the pieces together. You can now see them dotting the garden beds.

A high school student built a large compost bin as his Eagle Scout project. So now, students at George Watts can learn how to make their own composted soil. You can find the super-cool compost bin in the courtyard garden, under the trees.

And our fabulous landscapers — Katherine and Jonah of Tributary — replenished materials for our walking path and rebuilt beds for our playground. The old beds were starting to crumble. Check the beds out next time you’re walking to school!

Fall plants and seeds go in the ground this month!

We’re planting some heirloom varieties this fall, including French Breakfast radishes, Green Hubbard winter squash, Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach, and Nantes Scarlet carrots. We’ll also put in a couple of different lettuces, broccoli and cilantro.

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