Alabama

A few months later . . . voila— a vegetable garden!

We finished building our school garden on Earth Day, April 22. That morning, which was sunny and a little cool, a half-dozen students and I started shoveling gravel and then dirt into our six raised beds as the sun was coming up. I’ve always been a believer in the old saying, “many hands make light work,” and that morning, we got it knocked out before the homeroom bell rang, shortly after 8:00. This school garden project that students named OPPA (Organizing, Producing, Providing, Agriculture) had arisen from discussions during the winter months among a handful of teachers and students, was spurred forward from a grant by our school’s booster organization, and was now ready for growing.

We had begun our work with soil testing back in February, meeting on a chilly morning to dig our spades into a bleak, gravelly patch of ground at the back of the campus to obtain our samples. The spot looked like this:

IMG_0674Through the late winter and early spring, we carved out our space, measured  and marked off a grid. And in that greening little spot, we laid out weed barrier and staked our corners.

2015-03-20Finally, we finished construction about two months after that initial soil testing date. It seemed like it would never quit raining, but we snuck in work days when we could. Here’s what we had when we all headed to class on Earth Day morning:

2015-04-22 10.24.43Six raised beds, a compost bin, and a few leftover cubic yards of “super soil” may not seem like much, but it’s a start! I remember watching an episode of “Growing a Greener World” that featured The Edible Schoolyard, the long-standing program in Berkeley, California, and the lady who was speaking said their beginnings in 1994 were pretty humble. I remember thinking, “I could do that.” If there’s one thing that gardeners have, it’s patience. Truth be told, even before the soil testing, here’s what we really started with:

2015-05-01 15.14.33Just a drawing on graph paper and a few of us willing to realize what was sketched there.

Unfortunately, we didn’t make the top-50 on the Seeds of Change Grant program, but that fact isn’t stopping us. Last week, we pooled our resources, got our hands on what we could, and planted cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, eggplant, squash, sunflowers. green beans, basil, carrots, cantaloupe and watermelon. And this week, our tomato plants are flowering, and the kale, cantaloupe and squash have sprouted. Watering every day to fight the now-90 degree heat, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

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