As of Spring 2021, the school garden is in need of a little love. It is filled with potential. Three beautiful garden beds, and a three-bin composting system. After some weeding and massaging of the soil, I think pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, and herbs might need to be planted, so that when the students return in the fall, there will signs of promise.
Step One: Clearing space in Garden Beds
Rebuilding the school garden is going to have to happen one day at a time. Today’s goal was simply to clear our the garden beds. It really is a jungle of milk thistle and other grasses, and in order to get to the garden beds, I needed to make a path of entry.
With some effort, kindness, and knowing the end goal, I was able to clear out space to start growing. The great news about having let the weeds grow for the past year, is that the soil remained enriched and healthy.
Tomorrow’s goal is to turn up the soil, and take out a few more invasive plants in between the garden beds. Slowly, but surely the garden will not only look pretty, but have pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, and beans growing all summer.
Step Two: Ready the Beds
Today I gave myself a small task, dig up the soil a bit and pull out remaining roots.https://video.wordpress.com/embed/GUK7YPxR?preloadContent=metadata&hd=1
Step Three: Add finished compost to the soil
(And, get a little help clearing the weeds…)https://video.wordpress.com/embed/GPLuKIpu?preloadContent=metadata&hd=1
[ Mixing finished compost with the soil. ]
Step Four: Start Planting
To start the school garden off with a beautiful bang in the Fall, when the students return, I decided that the THREE SISTERS would be a perfect lesson and bountiful harvest.
I learned about the Three Sisters from reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass. She writes about the long tradition of these three plants working together to grow and sustain peoples for thousands of years. Kimmerer uses the analogy of the corn as the oldest sister who grows tall and study; The beans are the middle sister who wants to be like the older sister, but needs her support to grow tall; And, the youngest sister is the squash that is happy to be different, covering the ground.
I planted Silver Queen corn, pole beans, and Howdie pumpkins.
With help, we cleared out a lot of space between the beds to move around the garden with ease. Don’t they look beautiful!!
I also planted a few potatoes that are ready to be put into the dirt. Though I wonder if their roots are too much? I will have more potatoes ready to plant in just another week or two.
Watering is a bit of a struggle…
Most of the western United States faces a big drought ahead. Already many counties are starting to ration water usage. This is important to remember when putting anything new into the ground, because new plants need water to grow.
The bean, pumpkins and corn can go without water once they are established. What I have been doing in the mean time is filling two gallon jugs of water and spot watering the plants I put into the ground, and doing that twice a day. It has been doing the trick. Look at these lil’ beans wrapping around the poles!
On Friday I put a few flowers into the ground: sunflowers, marigolds, and calendula. With great soil, and just a little water, they are coming up! My daughter was helping me that day, and I cannot remember which these are… they look more like swiss chard starters.
Continuing to Weed the Perimeter
I have to say weeding is not very much fun, when the job seems never ending, and full of spiders. However, there is ample joy when you clear out an area! I wasn’t going to pull out the front for a while because I wanted to keep the area hidden just a bit (the garden is right next to a very busy soccer field). Today, I decided to dismiss that thought for pure aesthetic reasons. I wanted the garden to start looking good from the front.
The pictures do much justice to the area (mostly because I can cut out what I don’t want seen), there is a lot more work to be done. Nonetheless, there is progress. That’s all I can ask for at this time.
While I mentioned that I have been spot watering, it really has been inconvenient to get to the garden twice a day. Well, my worries are over. I met with José, the school’s custodian, and he helped me to get access to water. This of course is hugely helpful, and not actually a waste of water. With a good, purposeful soak, and a nozzle, the plants get what they need, I’m not wasting water, and I only have to come a few times a week. I do love going to the garden and looking at the plants, but this process is much easier to manage.
For this class to be in full operation, the classroom will need to be outdoors as much as possible. I asked around for stumps or benches, and it turns out San Mateo Resource Conservation District donated 30+ redwood stumps. And, there is another someone who donated beautiful stumps and stump style tables as well. They are really heavy and will need to be delivered to the garden area with a forklift.
Moving these will come later this summer. I still need to clear out the area of weeds, and I am going to need a weed wacker. This may be a good investment, because we will need to throughout the school year for maintenance. Plus, there is an irrigation ditch that will be built sometime this summer, so moving the stumps just to be moved again seems inefficient. Knowing there are seats is reassuring.
Clearing out space is an understatement. Each time I head out to the garden I am immediately overwhelmed with the amount of weeds that need to be removed, in order to build an outdoor classroom. I really need to get that weed wacker! I have been out there with pruning shears, a sickle, and a rake. It is not efficient in the least, and it feels like a huge waste of time, when I could get some sort of machine to do the work five times as fast. The good news is that slowly but surely the work is getting done, and the space is getting cleared out. This is a lesson in patience, for sure.
It is not all terrible, though. I brought my nieces out with me last Thursday. One of them will be in my class next year, and I thought it would be neat for her to be able to see a before and after, as well as being a part of the plant cultivation. Both of them helped to water the plants, and they came up with planting a giant sunflowers at the front of the garden. When school starts the sunflowers will act as a fence to the garden, and look beautiful. This is the hope. There is a lot of soccer being played on the fields next to the garden, and today I noticed that a ball must have made its way into the garden beds, because some of the corn had been taken out, and one of the pumpkin plants was smashed. That’s just the way it is when you share space.
Green Career Awareness
The garden is chuggin’ along. The pumpkins are flowering, the beans are wrapping around the poles, and the corn are growing tall. The calendula, marigolds, and a couple sunflowers are poppin’ up. Some of the lettuce I planted with my nieces is starting to show up above the ground. I have finally decided to ask someone to weed wack for me. Things are good.
What is even more great, is that I happen to fall into a unique opportunity. A few members from the district that I am now working with, have been hard at work over the last six months (maybe longer) creating curriculum with the help of the San Mateo County of Education, to build awareness of green careers at the middle school level. The program at the middle school level is the first of its kind, and it involves six different green career pathways.
What does this mean, and why is it so great? Well, the head of the Ag department at our local high school is building the curriculum for the Agriscience pathway, which directly impacts the gardening/composting elective I am planning on teaching. On top of that, we are part of a grant that is allowing for this sort of pilot program, which means that I will also be getting a list of materials that do not come from my school budget.
What does that mean? It means that I can run a more complete program because I have incredible amounts of support. Basically, this is amazing and I am very lucky to be a part of it all!
In August I will be taking the PD courses involved with Agriscience, which is all about soil science and carbon sequestration, as well as two other pathways. 1) Biotechnology, which is all about finding solutions to our plastic problem; 2) Energy & the Environment, which is centered around answering the question: How can we heat water?
In a nut shell that is what I have been working toward: a cleaner, healthier planet Earth, through bringing awareness to the future who will be living with the changes to our climate for years to come, by way of green jobs!
Whoever is listening…thank you!