The students of Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary were extremely excited to receive funding from Farm to School to purchase our tower garden. Our garden arrived in May, and the young Kindergarten students, with help from the garden club coordinator and tower garden representatives set right to work to erect our growing machine!
Many questions were asked while putting together the garden and you could almost see the curiosity blooming in the room. From putting the pieces together to filling the unit with water and growing tonic, to finally planting the seeds and seedlings, the children were continuously amazed at what a seemingly small unit could possibly produce. Perhaps one of the biggest curiosities, even yet to this day, is whether the watermelon we planted along the bottom row will produce one, or many fruits.
About two weeks after we planted the garden, Jennay, a local farmer, came in to speak to the garden club about how the tower garden was growing produce versus how produce on her farm is grown. It was a great opportunity for the students to make connections between what they have seen on farms they have visited, Jennay’s local farm, to what was growing right in front of them in our own school. Students found it incredibly interesting that our garden was growing without soil and asked many questions about the hydroponic process. Students were also intrigued about the life cycle of plants. For example, some of Jennay’s fruit trees are still producing and are nearly 100years old, versus veggies such as the kale in our tower garden will be ready to eat in 48 days and not produce again. The tower garden, though only has been in our school for just over a month, has shown students that food can be grown in many different environments over many different timelines.
The students investigating the growing medium and trying to determine how they are growing in the small space.The tower garden is situated in a bright sunny area in our school, a space where student frequently walk and can see the daily growth (and maybe take the occasional kale or lettuce leaf for a nibble). We are nearing the end of a growth cycle for some of the leafy greens, and may get to harvest before school is out. The first growth cycle is new to all of us, so we were not quite sure how fast things would grow. So far, we are learning that leafy greens are very fast growing, but some plants, such as tomatoes and watermelon are taking their time. The big question the students have right now is “When will the watermelon be ready?” We will all have to stay tuned to find out!