The district drilled the holes, the fence went up (though the gate took forever, we’re still waiting for two gates). Most of the students’ crops worked well, though some perished for lack of water or poor planting. At the end of the year, we harvested 40 pounds of food for the cafeteria (lettuce, field greens, kale, bok choy, and radishes). Summer is when everything happens. Students were offered social studies community service credit to maintain their plots over summer and several students took us up on this. The harvest exploded this summer with cucumbers, cantaloupe, beans, popcorn, jalapeno peppers, sweet banana peppers, green peppers, tomatoes, Swiss chard, pumpkins and watermelon. Those working on the garden took the harvest home. This includes several students and several adult volunteers who supervise the students. We had potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, popcorn and cherry tomatoes to give to the cafeteria staff in the fall.
Last year all seventh grade students worked in the garden when Yvette de Boer agreed to have her students use the garden. We had made 15 new plots using raised beds with black locust borders. In October we had a leaf drive and built a huge pile of leaves that we used to lasagna compost the new plots (which worked great) and cover old plots. We planted in 46 plots. Liz Falk from Cornell Cooperative Extension came in to help us learn about composting and build three compost bins. The pile of leaves served as our browns for the entire year. Because few students planted greens, we only sold eight pounds of harvest to the cafeteria before the year let out. Summer was a different matter. We had six adult volunteers come in every day of the week for two hours. In all, around 35 students came in throughout the summer to keep the garden going. Tuesday through Thursday we have between five and nine students joining us each day. Take a look at the summer photos to see what we did. As we start school next week we have the following harvest for the cafeteria: carrots (4 pounds +), potatoes (16 pounds +), onions, garlic (30 head), red cabbage (4 pounds), sweet corn (3 quart bags of kernels only), cherry tomatoes, kale, salad greens, peppers, 3 kinds of winter squash, crook neck squash, cucumbers and hopefully broccoli.
Funny how I always seem to do this update around the same time. Last school year, six classes took part in the garden, five of my classes and one of Ms. deBoer’s classes. Once gain, we filled all 46 plots with different crops. COMPOST: We have begun adding weeds to the compost piles and have a lot of compost. Not enough to take care of all of the plots, but a lot. SCIENCE CLASS 2012: the journals did not go as well as expected. They were a mess. It was hard to divide them out when there weren’t enough for some plots and too many for others. It was difficult to leave enough time for everyone to make journal entries. We did not do a soil component, but added a seed saving lesson. That worked very well. Students saved seeds and made seed packets. Some groups used the saved seeds to plant this year’s crops.
HARVEST: Last year, we sent 230 pounds of harvest to the cafeteria. We were paid market value, which is not a lot for organic produce, but is a good deal when you consider that it’s part of the garden’s manifest and it helps pay for seeds. This year, we have given about 35 pounds to the cafeteria, but there will be a lot more. We will have squash, watermelons, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, kale, Swiss chard to give. In addition, we have done several second plantings of beets, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach and other salad greens that should work until December. Corn did not work this year because the crows ate the seeds before they sprouted. Next year, we’ll cover them better.
SUMMER CAMP: once again, students came to help work on the garden for community service credit. Ms. Porchedu-Ion and Ms. Cernera each took a day a week to supervise and I continued with Monday and Wednesday mornings. I tried to get money for summer camps, but nothing came through. My hope is to have a group of 10 underserved middle schoolers come daily to work on the garden, work on long-term projects, sell produce or design their own plan. I’m hoping that it will come through some day. I’m looking for about $5,000.
THIS YEAR: It looks like only four classes will be taking part this year. I’ll divide them into smaller groups or give each group two plots. We’ll see. Until next year.....
Last year went very well. I believe we gave 140 pounds of food to the cafeteria. This seems like a drop from last year, but Kristin Fink the FCS teacher became involved, so she took some of the produce for her FCS classes. This is good. Asparagus we planted is doing well. This year will be the first year that we can actually harvest and we’re very excited. Strawberries (another perennial) did very well last year. We were able to give a few pounds to the cafeteria. We didn’t plant cucumbers because of the previous year’s blight. Corn did very well because we sowed in the greenhouse using newspaper pots. Students didn’t plant them close enough together, but we still got a good harvest of black Dakota popcorn, which has been dried, popped and eaten. It’s very good. In the summer we have a pretty good turnout of students, but fewer than last year. We still haven’t received funding for a summer program, so it continues to be on a volunteer basis. I’m beginning to think that we should leave it this way. This school year we’ve decided to do some selective breeding with sunflower seeds. I finally have succeeded in collecting seeds before the birds do. I wait until all of the flowers have been pollinated and the seeds are turning black. Then I cut them off at the stem and bring them into my room. The seeds (from Mammoth sunflowers) are on the small side though. Two sunflowers that were particularly large were set aside for seed saving. We measured the unselected and selected seeds and made graphs. In spring, we’ll plant the selected seeds to see if we can grow larger seeds. Compost has been working very well. We had enough compost to amend half of our plots. We used cover crops (hairy vetch and winter rye) on the rest. Every day we get about a five-gallon bucket of kitchen scraps between the cafeteria and the students. I stand by the composting station every day during sixth period to help them separate trash correctly. Carlene Corey (head custodian) stands there fourth and fifth periods. It is vital to keep on top of the supply of compost material if you want good compost. We also did another leaf drive and got a good turnout. More next year.
No update this year
Harvest: We had a decent harvest last year. I believe we sent about 100 pounds to the cafeteria, which seems light, but we also had a sale at the Caroline elementary school "farm to table" fair. We made about $100.00 selling crops. We also sent a lot of crops to FCS this year. They used carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and onions to make salsa and other dishes. Our FCS teacher is here to stay, so this will be a good partnership.
Sunflower seeds: Again the birds have thwarted our efforts. They have begun eating the seeds before they're ready to harvest, so we have not been able to save them.
Soil amendment: Our compost continues to grow. We have enough compost to cover almost all of our plots. To finish the job, we got 4 yards from Cayuga Compost. They give it to us for free, since we provide them with food scraps. For the first time, our compost remained hot through the winter. This is a milestone, probably aided by the very mild winter.
Pro-Mix and other problems: We have noticed that increasingly our harvests are not as large as the first few years. The kale didn't do very well this year. We didn't have as large tomato plants and the corn was small. It seems our soil is becoming depleted. The compost we've been adding to the plots is apparently not enough. We've decided to add an organic liquid fertilizer this year. Hopefully, that will bring our crops back to normal growth. We also noticed that the seedlings have not done as well as in previous years. We were told that Pro-Mix does not last more than a year. So, we bought new Pro-Mix (we just ran out of our last batch). Hopefully, we'll see much better growth than in previous years.