Vermont School Garden

A visit to a Vermont public school garden through the seasons.

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Weekend Visitors and a Kale Salad Recipe

Our school garden is a recreational area for many neighbors, including a very shy fat orange kitty who almost ventured close enough to say ‘hello,’ yesterday morning when my friend Emmy, came along to harvest some kale with me. We brought the kale home to my kitchen for a dry run preparation of massaged kale salad. I think the kids at camp will enjoy making and tasting this yummy way to eat kale.
While we were in the garden, Emmy posed for a picture under the arbor. By next September, when school begins, this arbor will be covered with morning glories. The traditional viny entrance to our garden goes back twenty years to a time when parents put together an arbor of tree boughs to support it. Then one year we had a student in our class whose father was an imaginative plumber. Since that time his sculptural pipe arbor has graced our garden entrance.
Yesterday the garden was also visited by a few generations of garden alums, friends and their babies. The boys (triplets) were engaged in discovering what was left of our spring raspberries. For little ones, they were very persistent. One of the boys had fun investigating a zucchini until mom intervened. Darn!

MASSAGED KALE SALAD RECIPE (Suitable for many diets, including the ‘Paleo’)
1 lb. kale (de-ribbed and cut into 1” sq. bits)
¼ c. raw sunflower seeds
¼ c. raw sesame seeds
¼ c. raw pumpkin seeds (Irene left out the pepitos)
Slice and Measure:
½ onion sliced thinly
1/6 c. Braggs or soy
1/3 c. lemon
1/3 c. olive oil
Combine and massage above ingred. for 10 min.
Add any:
avocado chunks
pomegranate seeds
fennel slices
clementines or orange chunks

Solomon’s zuke.

Emmy under the arbor.

foraging for raspberries

new friends and alums of the Westminster School Garden

examining a zucchini up close

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Weeds, Weeds, Weeds, Harvest!

Last night we had enough rain to keep the garden plants happy~~especially the weeds. The tomato plants are all staked and suckered. Children wandering through the garden paths can now easily find the “lightbulb” yellow pear tomatoes. At recess, a few summer school campers wandered by to ask what was ready for picking. I made a deal with them: they could pick a red ripe raspberry for every weed they put into my weed basket (roots and all). This kept them busy and interested for a while.
Then they began discovering the ripening zucchinis, cukes, and lettuce. The children asked whether they could bring some of these to the school chef, Kim Kinney. She’ll use them tomorrow for a salad at lunchtime. Kim feeds about 70 campers a day when camp is in session.
One child will bring a few zucchinis home with her. She thought her mom might use them in a stew for supper tonight.
The beans that students planted last week are beginning to peek out from the ground. Some are rather thickly sewn. I’ll see whether they’ll take to being transplanted. I transplanted some carrot seedlings today. I think the soil is moist enough to support them.
Even one of our staff teachers came out after camp to help weed. YAY. What a great place to grow!

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Suckering and staking Tomatoes

Our 65 donated tomato plants are flourishing. The  tiny new tomatoes, snuggled under leaves and vines are looking for sunlight and air. I went out on my own to begin the process of suckering a few of them, armed with  elementary school scissors. Tomatoes are naturally  vining crops. If you have the space and the patience, you can just let them vine out and spread all over the garden. My preference is to cut back all unnecessary branches (suckers) on each plant and to select a few strong ones to tie to a stake. The school scissors lasted for about five minutes before cracking in half!

I went to my local Agway and found the tools I was looking for. There were a variety of products available for attaching tomato vines to stakes at Agway. Some were labeled, “hazardous.” Some were twist ties with wire in them. I chose Eaton Brothers natural jute twine. I wanted the greenest and safest product for our organic garden. I also chose a set of heavy duty clippers for suckering.
By far the most important treasure I brought away from Agway was my chance encounter with a Westminster School parent and her daughter who just happened to be shopping there at the same time that I was. When I told them about our 65 tomato plants, they said they’d meet me at the garden to help out. We had such a good time getting to know each other the next day. I found two true garden friends. They promised to come back and help some more later in the week.




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Tackling July Weeds

 Late June and early July are weed-fest times for our school garden. The temperature here in Vermont has been in the high 80’s for days….not a cloud in the sky. Everything grows and grows! At night the temperature drops to a very comfortable 50 degrees. The crops and the weeds in our garden are competing for first place. I was a bit overwhelmed when I  came back to our garden after 2 weeks away.  Discovering onion sets and bean plants nestled amongst the 2 foot high weeds was like going on an archeological dig. Thank goodness for our rototiller. It helped wipe out the larger spots where nothing had been planted and where the mulching was scarce. We need to round up  a cadre of community members to help with garden maintenance.

The summer camp program began this week and the kids were eager to come out to the garden to help. Early raspberries growing on the border are a huge enticement. Today some students discovered the first zucchinis, ready to harvest. They each took a taste of them right there as soon as they picked them. Some liked the crunchy raw zucchini and some didn’t. It always helps when there is enthusiastic modeling of how yummy they are. I can become very dramatic when sampling fresh produce for an audience of children. The campers also brought lettuce back to the cook at school. It will be used for their lunch today! So many great conversations ensued about grandma’s garden or how much dad loves to garden  as the 6 to 12 year olds helped each other pull weeds. Some great plant identification occurred.

The Youth Services group lent their muscle this morning. What  great crew. They’ll be visiting to help out in the garden on Thursdays until the first week in August. They helped bang down stakes, tie tomatoes, hoe potatoes and weed, weed, weed. Harlow Farm Stand gave us some ‘gone by’ marigolds and we filled in a bare spot with a row of them. We think we identified a Tomato Horn Worm Moth and we made short work of it.