Please describe your garden, is it raised beds, in the ground, do you have a greenhouse?
The Q Garden is a mix of raised beds and in ground gardening. We do not have a greenhouse at this time but if we were able to find the funding we would very much like it. We would like to be able to collect rain water more efficiently and a greenhouse would allow us to do that!
This year our garden doubled in size. We have our original u-shaped wooden beds and some in ground beds along a fence. We have tried to use the fence for things to climb on. This year we added four metal raised beds and in ground corn field.
What vegetables/fruit do you grow in your garden? What do you have a difficult time growing in your school garden?
I was so impressed with the variety we were able to have this year. We grew herbs (curry, rosemary, lemon grass, lemon verbena, sage, tarragon, sweet majoram, mint, sweet basil and purple basil). We had green leaf lettuce and romaine lettuce as well as purple kale from the Earth Day seed pack. We had three varietys of cherry tomatoes - midnight, orange and red. We had dracula purple peppers, red chilli peppers, yellow snackable peppers and a few others that didn't do as well. We had rainbow carrots and regular orange carrots. We grew a lot of radishes. We had one egg plant that did fairly well. We grew cucamelons for the first time and they were probably the best thing we grew. The kids loved to eat them. Our strawberries did very well and were the most delicious. In our corn field we grew The Three Sisters - corn, squash and beans. We had a watermelon that produced 3 watermelons but we suspect they were harvested too early by people in the community. Our blueberry bushes seemed not to produce much fruit this year which was surprising. Our other fruit bushes are a little young for fruit as well. We also planted asparagus from seed which will not be mature for three years or so. Our volunteer students propagated strawberry plants this summer and we planted the new strawberries with the asparagus.
Why did your school decide to add a school garden?
I was looking for a new way to teach French to students who really didn't want to learn it. It was also during covid so being outside was really encouraged. As a gardening enthousiast myself I thought this was a perfect opportunity to make my program more hands on. The more I thought about it the more I realised a garden was the answer to a food scarcity issue our school and surrounding community face. In two years we've increased the amount that we're able to grow and we've been able to invite the community to take from our garden during the summer months.
What classes participate in the garden, what subjects are taught in the garden?
This year our science and math classes planned and built our new Three Sisters addition. They learned about soil health, timing and spacing of the traditional Indigenous farming practice. Our grade 8 art class also spent time sketching in the garden during the warm spring months. A grade 8 language class was responsible for learning about the different species of plants and creating signs that would educate the public on how to use and when to harvest our crops. They learned to make QR codes that would link to helpful videos or recipes. We were also able to start our Graduate Volunteer Program as well. We invited a small group of grade 8's back over the summer to complete volunteer hours that count towards their high school diploma. They even came in the pouring rain.
Who manages the garden day to day? Who manages the garden over the Summer break?
We have a passionate group of teachers who really see the value in the garden. There are five teachers who either have their classes in the garden or they take a small group or club there to look after the plants. During the summer months we have sign up sheet for teachers (outside of the regular 5), to pick a week to look after the garden and take any crops available for harvest. We now also have a successful volunteer program where we invite graduated students back to look after major garden projects. We give them community service hours which they need in order to graduate high school.
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?
This year we invited our community to take from our garden which was a great idea! We've had a lot of positive feedback about how the garden has impacted people's ability to access fresh produce. We sent our garden volunteers home with bags full of produce when they came to help as well. When school is in session, we pick strawberries and cucamelons to snack on. Both are a delicious, healthy and convenient snack for our kids.
Do you have community involvement? Do you have parents and volunteers? Have been able to source other funding to help your garden grow?
We have enough variety to invite the community to take from the garden. This was great for July and August when our crops are mostly ready. In August, we had 13 cobs of corn ready one evening and they were gone by the next morning. Our lettuce also disappeared faster than we could grow it. This summer was about learning what the local community needed and I think we understand that now. This is our garden's second year and we feel like word is spreading quickly.
We have partnered with Green Horizons and BigYellowBag for fundraising. We have a discount code that people can use to buy soil and mulch for their own gardens. We are also the drop off location for the empty bags. We receive $5 for every empty bag that's dropped off. This season we raised almost $1200. We also made a little bit of money through Plantables. We expect our sales will be much better in 2024 since we will know how to promote it better.
What are your future plans for the school garden?
Our dreams for the garden are never ending. We want to be able to expand and have a community area as well as a separeate area for the things we grow for the kids like cucamelons and strawberries. We would love to teach our garden club to make tomato sauce and host a spaghetti supper. Our garden volunteers have challenged us to improve our fence and add a greenhouse by the time they graduate grade 12!
In 2024 we are going to improve our ability to grow our cucamelons by adding trellises. We were so happy with the Three Sisters but we learned we need to improve our spacing to increase our harvest.
Any words of encouragement/tips for a school starting a school garden?
You won't regret starting, no matter how small it is to begin with.
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