Yesterday we had our first school garden class come to the Ladner Community garden. This year we have 40 grade three students that are coming to learn about gardening. Since it is such a large group, we have one class in the morning and the other in the afternoon. It was much easier to have twenty students at a time. That way we could work in smaller groups and they learn better.
The day before the class I had dug out some compost and placed it near eight of our newly planted shrubs. Each shrub has a small area of garden around it and I decided to have the children plant some spring bulbs under each shrub. They had a great time planting twenty-five grape hyacinths under each shrub. They learned all about why it takes so long for bulbs to grow and why we plant them now. They also had fun using the compost and spotting insects as they spread it over the new gardens. If there is anything kids love, it is looking at bugs, catching bugs and watching others squirm at their sight.
The children had not been to the garden before so we started the class with an introductory tour. They were excited to see pumpkins growing in the garden. I had to explain to them that we would be using the pumpkins to make soup later in the fall. We will harvest the pumpkins in October and take them to the school to be made into soup. The children will chop up the soup ingredients and get a taste of the soup for lunch. Many children will be learning how to use a knife for the first time.
I had hoped that the children would have time to do some harvesting of yellow beans. All the food grown by this class will be donated to low income families. I was able to pick about three pounds of beans this morning for a donation but there are more to come. I love bush beans, they just keep on producing.
I quizzed the children on whether they recognized different vegetables. For many they have only seen them at the store. When I showed them this celery, they were stumped. The stores trim all the leaves and roots off the plant before they put it out on display. It wasn’t until I mentioned that you eat the stem in salads that one child figured it out.
I showed them the squash and they were so surprised to see how big a squash plants gets. This plant has travelled several feet across the grass and continues to produce a healthy crop of Delicata squash. A few months back I complained at how slow these plants were at growing. They sat for ages just sulking. One day they burst into growth and they haven’t looked back.
The seating area was ready for the children when they arrived. We gather the children here for discussions at the beginning and end of class. I encourage them to ask questions. Yesterday I was asked if the seeds they just planted would be ready in five minutes. Ha ha, don’t I wish food grew that fast! The children were also all very surprised at how tiny seeds were. They still don’t believe one seed will grow one large plant. Yesterday they planted corn salad, spinach, kale, lettuce, radishes and arugula. We are lucky enough to be having a very warm week here considering it is September. I will bet those seeds grow quickly.
The children also learned a lot about bees yesterday. We have so many bees. I always wonder how anyone can be short on bees in their gardens. This lazy bee was cozying up to the Sunflower for a nap. Bees are everywhere in the community garden as we have lots of flowers in bloom.
The students went home with a lesson about how important it is to eat locally, how to plant a salad garden for fall and winter eating, how to plant a spring bulb and the needs of plants. They had a visual lesson on what happens when your seedlings don’t get enough light. Last spring the previous class had grown Sunflowers in class but they became very leggy. We planted them next to Sunflowers grown from direct sowing. Check out the twisted stem on the one from the classroom. It has been in the ground since the end of May but it never straightened out. This was a good lesson on the importance of light needed for plants.
The day went by so quickly and I can’t wait for the next class. Just seeing the children get excited about their new seeds growing makes this class a pleasure to teach.