Friday, May 2, 2014

Putting down roots in SD&G: Spring 2014 School Garden Update

Our garden workshop season is in full swing in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry! We started planning garden layouts at the beginning of March with students in Crysler at École élémentaire catholique Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire.

Plan for the grade 4/5/6 garden in Crysler. Students used companion planting principles to design a garden that will resist pressure from pests, attract beneficial insects, and share soil space and nutrients well. After learning that plants need space students were careful to indicate seed spacing on the plan so that they could remember that some of the tiny seeds we'd be planting will become large plants!

Since last fall, our partnerships with schools have expanded and we are thrilled to welcome two new schools to the GUO family: the Akwesasne Alternative School and North Dundas District High School!

The garden at the Akwesasne Alternative School will feature two raised beds, as well as a central planting of the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash). Using traditional plants, and locally adapted seeds grown out on the island are just a few of the features that make this such an exciting project!

Students recently learned to make biodegradable seedling pots and planted squash, cucumber, zucchini, tomato, and white sage seeds in order to have plants ready to transplant in a few weeks.

Seeds sown and ready to sprout at the Akwesasne Alternative School. 
This garden will also feature 4 potato plants – thanks to Homestead Organics for donating seed potatoes! In two weeks, when the beds are built, we'll be able to plant certified organic 'Russet Norkota' and 'Russian Blue' seed potatoes.

Jeanette and Isabelle of Homestead Organics show off the certified organic seed potatoes donated for the garden at the Akwesasne Alternative School. 

The North Dundas District High School garden site is actually inside an old glass greenhouse, which has remained unused as a teaching tool for several years. GUO is pleased to be able to help teachers meet curriculum expectations and help students engage with how their food is produced, and why food choices matter by offering our workshop series in the greenhouse.

Students at NDDHS select tomato varieties, plant them and then group varieties together – they want to make sure folks who purchase tomatoes get the variety they think they're getting. 
Students got to work starting heirloom tomato seeds last week, learning about the loss of genetic diversity in our seeds. When we discussed what an heirloom seed is, we even had first hand knowledge - one family has been preserving a beefsteak tomato for many generations which purports to grow well in our rather variable summers and produce beautiful fruit that completely cover a slice of toast for that perfect tomato sandwich. Mmmm! (If this paragraph leaves you wondering where you can find an heirloom tomato plant, keep an eye on our Facebook page – NDDHS is hoping to sell some of the tomato plants in a fundraiser, so you may be able purchase one in the coming weeks. What a great way support school gardens and biodiversity all at the same time!)

Despite our long winter, it's proving to be a very promising spring. We're delighted to be out learning about food, science, health, and gardening with students!

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