The School Garden, Year Three

mexican petuniasThis summer was hot. And the end of it was very dry. Which poses a major quandary for a small School Garden like ours: how do you take advantage of the best growing season when the students are out of school, when it’s near 100 degrees every day, and you have no water spigot near your plants? My answer this past summer was: you don’t.

Even though, in the Deep South, we usually mark the end of summer by the start of school or by the start of football, tomorrow is actually the first day of fall. The students who help with our School Garden have been hankering to plant something, but I’ve encouraged them to be patient. If we got out there in mid-August and planted some things that would normally thrive in the fall, this ongoing heat would just parch the plants, mainly since we have no way of putting anything like a soaker hose on them. For our little fledgling School Garden, we need it to cool off a little bit before we plant anything.

Even though we skipped the summer season this year – in 2015, we did grow a good variety of summer veggies – there are still good options for the fall. In our few raised beds, I can’t grow enough kale or collards to supply to all of the teachers and students who want some. Of course, we’re all-natural, chemical-free, locally produced— and free, so the demand exceeds the supply. But we’re glad to do it, and both the students and I enjoy growing and sharing.

In addition to those mainstays, I think we might try beets this year, and maybe rutabagas, too. I’ve not had much luck with root vegetables over the years – mainly because I can’t tell when they’re ready – but I learned a few things when we went to a Good Food Day at EAT South last spring, so I think I might can do it.

This is year three for our simply named School Garden, and in each of the previous two years, we’ve had a goal. The first year, we began in February, and the goal was to have the raised beds built by the end of school in May. The second year, which was last school year, the goal was to procure tools and a shed to house them, so we didn’t have to carry our equipment back and forth every time. We got everything we needed, but we didn’t finish assembling the prefab shed; it’s laying in pieces among some tall grass right now, to my great shame. For this year, I’m not sure what the goal will be— well, not completely sure. One goal is definitely to get that shed built, and we’re already planning on enlisting some dad-help to do that. The only other big construction task left is to have a water hook-up put in, but I’ve gotten quotes and that would cost a lot of money . . .

For now, there are simple things that need doing. I covered the beds with black plastic to kill the creeping grass and weeds so we can pull them. The compost needs to be shoveled into the beds after that. The grass still needs cutting, too. Then there’s planting. So, even without a long-term goal, we’ve got plenty to do for now.

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