Imagine this…..Prince George’s summer has ended in dramatic fashion, going from forest fire evacuations one week, to leaves yellowing and snow falling the next. School has begun, with teachers busy teaching and students happily learning. NO ONE is thinking of starting a garden…..OR ARE THEY???
Hart Highlands Elementary PAC would like to introduce our school Tower Garden!
Traditionally, our school has only been able to utilize our outdoor container gardens from May to June for fresh salad greens, which the whole school enjoys. We then do a second planting of root vegetables for harvest in October for our Fall tradition, a school-wide harvest soup. We struggle with finding neighborhood volunteers to water over the summer and with people who can’t resist picking a fresh veggie from our garden. The garden turns out plentiful or scarce, but our kids love it just the same! We know our gardening limitations ☹
Our PACs garden goal is to help provide an educational experience while giving kids fresh, healthy food. We allocate funds every year to help with the school’s container garden upkeep, supplies and learning materials. We arrange volunteers to help within the class when needed. Our PAC believes that kids must connect to nature daily and we support the school in any way possible to make that happen. We then heard about Tower Gardens and the ability to grow healthy vegetables/herbs in any season. Whaaaaat? Fresh in any season?? Yes!! With Farm2School’s generous grant and a few easy clicks on the website, one was on its way!
The Tower Garden arrived at the end of May in 4 large boxes, and I quickly discovered the grow lights were on backorder with a delivery ETA of end of June. The delivery of such big boxes created a stir in the school, with students peppering me with questions. They were delighted to hear they would have an indoor garden, but due to the lateness in receiving the whole unit, it was decided to not start it until fall, and the busyness of back-to-school had subsided. Mr. Andrew Bond, our Principal, has been the spearhead for this project, and its greatest champion. He set up the Tower and has coordinated the first planting. The kids are so excited to see the process of growing aeroponically, versus the traditional soil growing method, as many have never seen it before.
The process starts with growing seeds on a tray, then seedlings are then transferred to the Tower Garden’s ports to mature. All done with no soil!!! The liquid media will become the lifeline for the maturing plants. Unfortunately, root vegetables are not able to be grown in a Tower Garden, but peppers, strawberries, tomatoes and kale can be! There is a list of over 150 plants that can be successfully gown in a Tower Garden and we hope to try as many as we can!
Our traditional container gardens are an important part of our school’s curriculum, and with the limitations of our northern climate and the changes it has experienced over recent years, the Tower Garden fills an important gap in future food procurement. We will be able to grow more in less time and with fewer resources. We can move the Garden around the school with the use of the dolly, so bringing it into a classroom for a lesson is no problem! Tower Garden provides free, approved learning materials to incorporate into our school’s curriculum, so rain or shine or snow, the kids will continue to learn as the plants grow. The plan is to grow enough salad greens for two class lunches at a time. We have helped the school stretch their hands-on nature education into the whole year, and nothing says success more than a child who is proud of something they grew. The kids love it and the Teachers and Staff love it too, so all-in-all, a big WIN!
We are eager to share our progress with our new Farm2School family, so stay tuned!!