For almost a year, I have been the parent coordinator of our new school garden and have watched a grassy playground spot become a garden. In part, I've been absent from my personal blog this past month, because we have been busy – busy getting the students in the garden, harvesting the produce, getting new teachers on board with us and planning for the fall.
Last year, the Pueblo City-County Health Department put out the call that UGarden grants were available to schools wanting to start a garden. My daughter had just begun her first year in kindergarten and since her school did not have a garden, I thought this would be a great opportunity to start one. In October of last year, we received noticed that our $3,500 grant application had been approved and so began the beginning.
During the spring and summer, the grassy patch in front of school was replaced with tomatoes, squash, basil, sunflowers, marigolds, carrots, chilies, zucchinis, pumpkins and radishes. Students, teachers and parents got their hands dirty and built raised beds, some of cinderblocks and others from hay bales. Seeds were planted in-classroom and transferred to the garden in April and May. Community members donated or gave us discounted rates on material. A watering system went in and a chain link fence went up on one side. Then, this summer, with the footprint of a garden in place, parents, teachers and the Boys and Girls Club stepped in, watering and keeping the garden alive during our 107-degree hot spell.
In mid-August, students returned to school and the garden was still going strong. Tall, beautiful, bright sunflowers were in bloom to greet them on their first day. Since then, I have given garden tours, and I love hearing kids say things like, “I love basil, tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers.” Others tell me how they had been in the garden with their parents over the summer or after school. One parent volunteered to make pumpkin muffins for the first grade classes using a pumpkin from the garden. We’ve been bringing in tomatoes and zucchini for kids to eat in classes, too. Some of our produce has even made it to a monthly Sunday farmer’s market, and students were able to sell veggies and share their experiences from the garden.
As we move into the fall, we are getting the garden ready for the new season. Hopefully, a front fence will go in soon and the artist-inspired gate at the entrance will be completed. Tulip bulbs will be planted, raspberry bushes will be transplanted from a teacher’s garden to ours, and snow peas will grow taller and be picked. Master gardeners are scheduled to visit our garden and advise us on next steps, as well. Some of our produce will again go out into the community as soup dishes made by students and community members for our school’s annual homeless fundraiser event. Hopefully, next year, we can incorporate the garden produce into the school cafeteria. Maybe down the road – I can dream a little – we may someday have a green house. In the end, as we wrap up our first year and look back, our school community has created a pretty amazing achievement with this garden!