Our chef, Harley Sterling, requested an herb garden to enhance the gourmet meals he prepares for the school. This summer the parsley did not disappoint! We used some of it to show the teen crew how to make humus. They also pulled up a few carrots for dipping. After a reluctant first taste and a “no thanks, no more,” one of our crew members discovered that humus and carrots aren’t so bad. I think she might try making this for a snack again sometime.
This summer we experimented with leaving most of our tomato plants to vine out rather than staking and suckering them. It’s hard to say why the “vined out’ tomatoes did so well, but we certainly had an abundant crop! My theory is that they had more shade to protect them from the drought-like conditions we had this summer. Kudos to the teachers who came out to stake the other side of our tomato patch. Those tomatoes are easier for kids to pick and eat.
Our potatoes were hidden by a dense cover of weeds thanks to early July rain. The teen crew harvested them in mid-August, but the elementary students will still be able to harvest our sweet potatoes whose vines haven’t died out yet. We gave the white and red potatoes to our school chef, Harley Sterling. He washed them a put them in storage for a future school meal. Thanks, Harley! (You can see below what our sweet potatoes looked like mid-summer after the crew weeded and mulched them with straw.) Next are photos of the amazing job these kids did weeding our popcorn:
Meet our new Youth Services garden crew and their leader, Meghan. They’re here through a federal grant and they’ll be able to help us maintain our garden for 7 hours a week for 7 seven weeks! We are thrilled to have their help. When they’re not with us at our garden they work at other gardens in the district. Here they are pictured with a group of summer campers who have come out to the garden to help plant beans. Usually we plant beans in July to harvest them when the students are back at school. This year we had to wait until we got some much needed rain before we could plant our beans. Fingers crossed that we won’t have a frost before the beans are ready.
Our teen crew weeded an earlier bean planting. They showed the campers the tiniest new beans emerging from behind flowers on those plants.
Meanwhile, “Someone’s been eating our broccoli and kale!” We haven’t found the culprit, but I’m betting on a groundhog. It doesn’t seem to be munching lately so we can hope that it’s moved on. Both plants are showing signs of growing back. We’ll put some white clay on them to discourage unwanted munchers.
In the photo above, Nola and Sabin Sciacca and their Librarian and Garden Guide, Mandy Walsh are uncovering the heirloom squash the fourth graders planted last month. It’s amazing how fast weeds can overrun our garden. (Note the beautiful mulch straw in the background. We’ll put that down as soon as we uncover our plants. it should help keep the soil moist while discouraging weed growth.) Equally amazing is the work these two children put in for our garden. We’re lucky to have them. Here they are gathering zucchinis for our chef, Harley Sterling. He used them in his meal preparation that same day.
Also joining us was Paula Borochoff, one of our hard working Kindergarten teachers. We hope to have many more community weeding gatherings during the summer. Again, in praise of community spirit, Mandy’s husband, Chris and her son, Oliver volunteered their time and expertise in our garden last month. Thanks, Chris, for tuning up the rototiller. It now purrs.
Above, are Paula and the beginning of the sunflower house. To the right is one of the peanut plants that the Kindergarteners sowed in early June.
And here are our sweet potatoes, one month into the growing season!
Our sweet potato slips arrived a month earlier than they could be planted here in Vermont, so we kept them indoors in a Mason jar by a window for a month. On a warm afternoon in June, the After School kids planted them spaced about 2 feet apart. Afterwards they helped weed the zucchini squash we had planted a few weeks before. you can see how many weeds have grown since our All School Planting day in mid-May. The ASP kids also built fairy houses under a shady tree. You can see our Kale Smoothie experts handing out their garden treats to the fairy house builders.
You can compare the size of our sweet potatoes with their growth almost a month in the next entry.
Liz Wing’s fourth graders learned a little Native American history and did a some math computing last week. We were given 22 heirloom squash seeds, donated by a member of the Seneca Nation. If we needed to plant four seeds per hill, how many hills would we need to create? This challenged some students to think of creative ways to show how they solved the problem. Often at school, explaining a problem’s solution is more important than how quickly the answer is obtained.
Now that we’re into June, there shouldn’t be a danger of frost (we hope) and it’s time to plant a few warmer weather crops. This year’s new additions are Valencia peanuts, a variety known to produce well in cooler climates. They came in the mail as shelled peanuts and all Kindergartners dutifully planted them about 6 inches apart. in rows about 18 inches apart. They should be ready to harvest at the end of September. I’m hoping these same students will harvest them as First Graders. The Kindergarteners also reseeded the sunflower house. It will provide a welcome shady spot for reading and cooling off later in the summer.
Mr Cafferky’s fourth grade class took their cues from their classmate (lower left) who wanted to create a market for marigolds. Independently she managed to collect recycled milk cartons and rinse them. She and her friends then transplanted marigold seedlings and put them near a sunny window in their classroom. The next week her signs were up and she was in business, selling marigolds and learning a few things in the process. (How much should I charge? How will I make change? How much money will I make? How do I make an eye catching sign? Who will help me get started? How do I persist until grown-ups take me seriously?) Below are a few more photos of her team’s efforts.
Every student at the Westminster Center School got to plant something in our all school garden on May 10th. We chose an early planting date this year for two reasons. It was very warm in early April and we thought it would stay that way. (Ha! In Vermont?) The last day of school this year is June 8th, which is early. It doesn’t allow students much time to observe plant growth and change.
We have two new inspirational garden coordinators: Many Walsh (also our Librarian) and Bianca Zaransky, parent and Social Justice Advocate.
Help came from a variety of sources on Planting Day. Harlow Farms and Paul Harlow gave us a huge variety of starts ( two kinds of kale, tomatoes, peppers and seedling potatoes.) The Clough family of Westminster Community Feeds ( with two daughters at our school) delivered mulch straw at cost. Farmer, Evan Harlow gave us the entire day, helping with everything from explaining planting to understanding the importance of community interdependence. Parents, Mike Zaransky and Jason Goodell tilled and supplied manure. (See previous blog entry.)
The temperatures, day/night vary dramatically in spring, so we’ll have to be more vigilant with the more tender crops for a few weeks…..just like looking after new babies! Watering early and or in the evenings is important during hot days as is some kind of cover for near freezing nights. Babies need a stress-free environment. We also hope to mulch with wet newspaper and straw to keep the soil moist and the weeds at bay.
We’re keeping a few heat loving starts indoors. We’ll plant them during that last week of school: basil and flower seedlings, sweet potatoes and Valencia peanuts will go in sometime during that first week of June. The peanuts are a new addition this year. We’re excited to see how they grow.
Garen Clough and his daughter from Community Feed Store, Westminster.
Yes, we believe it’s time to start carrots in our Vermont school garden. We tried a new method of “pre-thinning” this year. Students glued teensie carrot seeds to a line of Elmer’s glue on strips of paper. The glue will dissolve in the rain and the seeds will be set to grow an appropriate length apart! (We hope.) This is a first time experiment and I’m hoping it works. Carrots should be ready to pull up when the summer camp program is in session in late July.
This turned out to be a carrot themed After School party for 11 students. First they had a snack of local baby carrots. Then they put together a recipe for healthy carrot muffins. Finally they brought their carrot seed strips out to the garden to plant. It was a super afternoon!