New Germany, Nova Scotia
Please describe your garden, is it raised beds, in the ground, do you have a greenhouse?
Over the past 10 years, we have constructed eight raised beds through our construction technology classes. Last year we planted a dedicated raspberry patch, a number of blueberry bushes, and around 12 flowering shrubs to promote pollinators. We have a newly placed small greenhouse (4x6) that was recently damaged in a wind storm. We are in the process of fixing it. In the school, I have two grow tents, a classroom set of grow lights and racks, and a newly purchased hydroponics grow tower that I placed in the school office so all students can watch food grow. These indoor options allow us to grow year round. The grant from you (Nutrients for Life) have allowed us to purchase cherry, apple, pear, and plum trees locally that we planted on the lower edge of our garden (previously a unused grassy lawn).
What grade levels worked in the garden and did you or another teacher link some of your curriculum outcomes to the garden?
What vegetables/fruit do you grow in your garden? What do you have a difficult time growing in your school garden?
This year, we will be growing: tomato, squash, cucumber, potato, beans, hot peppers, sweet peppers, lettuce, arugula, spinach, carrots, peas, rainbow chard, basil, thyme, dill, sage, a pollinating raised bed (milkweed, butterfly weed, lavender, Jolly jump ups, asters, snapdragons, zinnias, marshmallow plant, etc..). We have a difficult time growing melons and pumpkin in the past.
Why did your school decide to add a school garden?
I grew up on a large dairy farm in New Brunswick. My mother and grandmother had massive vegetable and flower gardens. I sadly never took any interest in their work and only wanted to focus on planting fields with big tractors and equipment. I left farming due to Farmer's Lung and cerebral palsy and when my grnadmother passed, I began to feel regret that I never learned her gardening skills. When I started teaching, I realized so many younger generations also never had the skill or knoweldge so I started it to not only learn myself, but to get my students learning too. The area we picked was a large piece of field by our school that was mowed grass. It was under used and rather boring. We started off small with a few raised beds and have been growing it as we can. I have paid for most of the gardens from my own pocket (because we had no funding and I really wanted a school garden). Over the years, we have expanded each year. My Agriculture 11 classes are usually my main gardeners but we also include all grades in the process. Wether it be fixing and repairing beds, preparing soil, clearning beds at the end of the season, seed starting inside, landscaping, planning our garden map and growing guide, etc.. My ultimate goal is to have seating areas, shaded areas, paths, and an orchard. The $500 from you, allows us to start that orchard with the purchase of apple, cherry, pear, and plum trees. We hope to buy more in the future as well as some peach trees, blueberry bushes, and cranberry. I would also like to purchase (or build myself) a larger, more permanent greenhouse on site as well with rain catchment. The current 4x6 greenhouse was all I could afford and is poor quality (broken before we could even put plants in it in yesterday's wind storm).
What classes participate in the garden, what subjects are taught in the garden?
Over the years, my Agriculture 11 has been the primary class. In the last few years, we began using junior and senior construction tech classes, Options and Opportunities classes, Co-op education students, Learning Stategies students. This year, we had a local landscaping company donate material and time to work two full days with our 7s and other juniors to put new soil and compost in the raised beds, mulch the area, edge the garden and raspberry patch, make a pad for the new greenhouse, and plant fruit trees. The entire school (7-12) have the opportunity to work and learn in the gardens throughout the school year.
Who manages the garden day to day? Who manages the garden over the Summer break?
Day to day management is done by students and staff during the school year. Teachers take students out to work on various jobs and tasks we have. In the summer, I come to the school every few days to water, weed, and harvest the gardens. My three young daughters come with me to learn. All three will be in this school (my oldest comes to grade 7 next year) and I want them to know about gardening. I also have four staff members who also stop in to help during the summer. Next year, we have talked about having a student complete their co-op hours maintaining the gardens
What do you do with the harvest from your garden? Do you have a harvest celebration? Do you use it in the cafeteria, or culinary classes? Do you donate some of the produce?
Our harvest is used in many ways. First, students are encouraged to take food home to eat and share with their families. I have seen students carrying cucumber or even squash home to their relatives. We also use some produce in our school cafeteria salad bar. In the summer, the food is harvested and donated to the New Germany Food Bank. In the future, we have though about growing "salsa" or "spaghetti" gardens where we would make salsa and spaghetti sauce to bottle and sell with dried pasta or other food as a fundraiser. I purchased a commercial dehydrator too so we could dry and bottle herbs like basil, thyme, dill, oregano, summer savory) as a way to raise funds for our garden program. Lots of ideas in the works.
Do you have community involvement? Do you have parents and volunteers? Have been able to source other funding to help your garden grow?
At the moment, most work is done by teachers and students. Local companies have helped us with donations, plants, work (Natures Reflections Landscaping, Land Care Nursury, The Incredible Seed Company, New Germany Building Supplies, Why Not Farm, etc..). In the future, I would like to open this up to being a community garden. I have been approached by neighbors who seem keen on the idea, I just need to wrap my head around the logistics of it. Funding has mostly been from my personal pocket, community and business donors, or grants like this one.
What are your future plans for the school garden?
I want to build a strong and much larger greenhouse, more raised beds, a larger fruit tree and bush orchard, seating in the garden for students, areas of shade where students can rest, as well a a self watering system.
Any words of encouragement/tips for a school starting a school garden?
Start small and don't give up. Many people will be naysayers and doubt your ability to make a garden for a school. Often those people do little to help or improve a school or community. Cherish those who help and give support. Once you see the happiness on student's faces when they learn to garden and grow food, it will all be worth it.
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