Friday, April 16, 2010

An Element Of Hope


This is the list we came up with when I asked the children what they would like to try to grow in our reclaimed garden.

I'm not much of a gardener myself and, until recently, I've never had a functioning garden at the preschool, so I'm learning at least as much as the kids. We've always had a rag tag bunch of hearty plants growing out there, but they were by definition species that thrive on neglect, like rosemary. 

One of our first acts as caretakers of a real garden was to fill the beds with inexpensive pansies and primroses.

It gave the area some color, but there's not a whole heck of a lot to do with these flowers other than a little dead heading, so once we got them in the ground that was that.

We did keep one bed empty (there at the back in the center). This was where we were accustomed to finding big, fat worms, due at least in part to the fact that this is where our Halloween pumpkins have been left to decompose for the past 8 years.

Finding worms is a popular activity and one we wanted to continue, but I also wanted to use that bed for our seed planting experiment, so we spent last week making that old sand table into a worm bed. So far this has turned out to be a winner. I found some cheap bug boxes at Daiso (the Japanese dollar store) and there are some kids (like Max, Annabelle, and Isak) who have spent most of their outdoor time filling their boxes with worms and "feeding" them scraps of banana peel and orange rinds from the snack table. There's at least one worm in there that's as big around as my pinky! I suspect it won't be long before it has a name.

Early this week, then, we began our seed experiment. I was unable to locate grape seeds (all the stores I go to only sell seedless) or cherry pits (not in season), and we already have some potatoes growing in our burlap bag planters . . .

. . . but did manage to collect everything else on the kid's list, in addition to some snow peas, and we got to planting, carefully marking each type of seed with craft stick signs. (I plan to find pictures of each kind of fruit or vegetable to add to the signs this weekend.)

We then noted the date and type of seed in our garden journal, where we will take notes of our observations. Katherine has also requested that we keep clipboards in the garden so the kids can draw what they see. Excellent idea!

As we discussed our plantings, several of the children started worrying that the "little kids" (the Pre-3 class) would walk on our seeds, so we decided to put up the little white fence. Unfortunately, the segments of fencing we had were too long for the short ends of the bed. No problem. We carried our fencing over to the construction area where we carefully measured, then Katherine and Charlie B. sawed them to the proper length. Voila! This all happened on Wednesday. There was a great deal of disappointment when there was nothing to observe on Thursday.

We added bell pepper seeds from the snack table to the experiment yesterday, and we tried adding pineapple, but the seeds were so tiny we kept losing them before we got them into the ground.

As for those beds full of pretty, but unexciting flowers, we've made the decision to transplant all of them into the pots in and around Little World and turn the beds over to full-on food production. Yesterday, we cleared out room for the radishes we've been sprouting in a little "jiffy pot" hot house. We spent a lot of time talking about the importance of including the root system with the flowers as we transplanted them, and I'm sure some of them won't survive the move, but their growing season is drawing to a close anyway. We then got our two dozen or so radish starts into the ground, Orlando doing much of the work. It shouldn't be long before we can start adding them to our snack table.

As we discussed the prospects of our seeds at circle time, there was a general sense that we are going to be wildly successful. Many of them seem excited about growing apple and orange trees, for instance, but I love their reaction when we get to the Jello. They all giggle and look at each other, but so far not one of them has spoken his doubts aloud. There's always an element of hope, I guess, when it comes to gardening.

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Unknown said...

When I come here I always feel so excited about childhood. It's magic! I am thankful you are doing this fun project with the children! I know they are all going to learn so much : ) I can't wait to find out if jello really does grow. ; )

Have a beautiful day and weekend Tom!

Jason, as himself said...

I'm so excited to see what a jello plant looks like!

Deborah Stewart said...

LOL! If you get that jello plant to grow - I absolutely want to see it! How cute:) I love their enthusiasm and protectiveness of the garden - they are truly invested in this learning process.

Juliet Robertson said...

I like the idea of Jello plants too! In fact I have one parent who used to tie sweets onto trees before his children went for a walk. Then they would be motivated to do the walk in the hope of finding a sweetie tree.

Lindsey said...

We're only just about to start our food growing here too. I hope we're not too late, because I don't know my ass from my elbow with this stuff! We were going to try some upside down tomato plants hanging from the eaves, because we have crazy hungry racoons here. Not sure how to protect the rest of the stuff from the critterfest that occurs at nightime though. I love the worm bed idea. You might want to try the pineapple growing method from here (that's what we're going to try)

Let the Children Play said...

Well Tom, you could have posted this earlier so I could have used it in my post last night on adding gardens to preschools. Very inconsiderate of you :)

I was just thinking the other day how pretty the flowers were looking, and look forward to learning all about your latest gardening adventure.

I'm not to keen on jello, but if those clever children of yours could come up with a chocolate plant I'd be very interested!

Play for Life said...

I've mentioned before Tom that our attempts in the past to grow vegies have been diasterous so I will watch with interest as to how you go ... hopefully you can INSPIRE US to give it another try.

Australian Native grasses and gum trees ... not a problem ... but edible plants ... big problem!

And Jenny I read a post by Elise over at "Inspiration Surrounds ... Creativity Abounds" where her children planted seeds to grow into Easter eggs ... so there's hope for your chocolate plant yet!

Here's her link

Donna :) :)