Is There a School Garden Near You?

Have you noticed gardens sprouting up all across America at elementary, middle and high schools?  They are on many college campuses, too.  Typically planted in the spring by faculty and students then tended through the summer, when school resumes students participate in final garden tending and harvesting.  This sowing of seeds and growing of plants is a novel task for many of the participants.  A century ago a majority of Americans grew some portion of their own food.  Many of them lived on farms (30.2% in 1920) where they produced most of their own food as well as food to sell.  Knowing how to supply yourself and your family with food was a skill passed down through each farm generation.  Currently, farm and ranch families now comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population.  Today many students are 4 or 5 generations removed from the land - and from knowing where their food comes from.

At Thomas More Prep-Marian in Hays, several teachers have taken steps to help students learn where their food comes from and how to grow it.  Faculty members Melissa Pinkney, Kelli Jo Kirmer, Randy Brull, and Jay Harris came together this spring to help 8 students establish a garden.  For several years Melissa Pinkney had initiated conversations with others about organizing the project.  Last fall, in “the most favorable place” on campus, Jeff Pinkney tilled the soil.  With positive interest shown by students, planting began on March 26.  Joining the onions, radishes, carrots, potatoes, spinach, and lettuces growing on April 17, Red Siberian tomatoes were transplanted into the garden with student Bryan Weber’s help.  Melissa Pinkney and Kelli Jo Kirmer stated that one of the project’s challenges was coordinating garden work schedules with students’ many other school activities.  Randy Brull said that a problem in getting a consistent water supply to the garden had been solved through ingenuity and team work.  Recipients of the garden’s yields will be student and faculty gardeners, with excess produce going to St. Joseph’s Food Pantry.  One significant yield of tending to a garden is best summed up by Bryan Weber’s words as he was hoeing, “It is very nice to get away from everything and get back to the basics in the peaceful environment of garden work.”

How Does Your Garden Grow

I love the month of May!  (Except for the parts where you have to take cover when the tornado sirens are wailing.)  May can be such an uplifting month, brightening our winter-worn spirits with greens and gracious colors, especially when generous rains have blessed our yards and gardens.  As each day in May ushers in exuberant growth and blooms, my enthusiasm for planting a new season’s patchwork of vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals matches the burgeoning abundance around me.  

How do you like to garden?  Are you a traditionalist, tilling the soil with rototiller, or by spading, and then sowing seeds in nice, straight rows?  Or do you like to experiment with various ways of growing plants?  Different styles of gardening have been practiced for millennia right up until today.  From broadcasting seeds on likely parcels of land to double-digging, by hand, two feet down in the French intensive method, and many other kinds of gardening in between, people propagate plants in the ways that work the best for them in their climates, soils and seasons.  Some folks chose specific plants for their gardens to benefit birds, butterflies, and wildlife.  Those gardeners restoring native plant communities create sustainable habitat that nurtures birds and other animals perpetually.  Gardeners seeking ways to grow more food in small spaces often try forms of intensive gardening: square foot, keyhole, lasagna, container, vertical, interplanting, and succession, to name a few.  Have you heard of organic, biodynamic, or deep mulch gardening?  These forms of gardening have been tested and proved over the years in many different countries and climates.  Perhaps your passion is nurturing lovely flowers.  For our area again this year, it has been a fine spring to bring forth luscious, early greens and delightful flowers.  Roses, Dame’s Rocket, and Irises are profusely blooming for me in my gardens now, nestled between aromatic garlic chives and various mints.  Whether you grow food or flowers, or both, the common reward for all gardeners and farmers is the pleasure and the bounty they derive from their efforts.  For me, those efforts begin with building the health of the soil that nourishes my plants and the life within it.  May you have a fulfilling garden season this year as you tend your own patch of earth!