Sowing excitement while teaching kids and community about food production
Till Next Time Farms is really excited to be working with Sitton Elementary in our neighborhood to set up a school learning garden.
We are so excited about this collaboration and have an extensive plan in place. We have already repaired and moved existing raised beds and have plans to build new ADA approved raised beds. These upgrades will add over 500 square feet of gardening space at the school.
A school learning garden
Gardening provides various forms of engagement for children from participating in the gardening lifecycle (planting, maintaining, and harvesting), to learning to work cooperatively in groups. It is also a great way to learn about science and nutrition in a real-life setting. Most of the produce harvested in the garden will be utilized in school meal programs or given to the families of children that participate in the gardening program.
The garden plot now has a compacted gravel pathway that is both limited mobility and wheelchair accessible. An upcoming project includes completing the row of raised beds by adding in two ADA approved raised beds. These will allow for a wheelchair to roll underneath the beds making growing produce easier for students who use mobility devices.
The garden plot has three rows of garden beds on the ground and a row of raised beds. The paths between the beds are lined with wood chips and the path next to the raised beds is compacted gravel to allow for easier mobility access.
Workspace tables were added between the raised beds to allow for easier working and places for students to observe educational materials. Two, 4 tiered strawberry pyramids were built to act as a showpiece for the garden entrance.
The middle garden bed is planted with tomatoes and squash this year, but the bed has already been prepared to be a row of blueberry bushes starting next year (or late this year if we get a donation of bushes). Deep wells were dug and then back-filled with Douglas Fir wood chips and native soil for each bush to help provide a long term acidic environment they thrive in.
We are already planning to add in a few more rows to allow for more perennials and are putting in a grant application for funds to install an edible hedgerow.
What we are growing
One of the requests from the school when we started this was to have things that are fun to pick. This year the plot has tomatoes (both cherry and slicers), peppers, squash, lettuce heads, onions, and basil. As summer progresses, turnips and a few mounds of winter squash are going to be planted. The summer flush of veggies will help provide extra learning activities for the students who participate in summer school programs as well.
If you get to walk by the school, you can’t help but notice the partially buried buckets at the far end of all of the garden beds. These are worm composting buckets and provide a farmer with a variety of benefits. Basically, a mix of dry materials and vegetable scraps are added to the buckets. Worms, which already exist in the soil, move in, and flourish in the food-rich environment. As they eat, they poop! Over time that poop builds up in the bottom of the buckets. When the time to harvest the worm dropping comes, we add another bucket on top of the stuff in the bucket and add start adding vegetable scraps and paper to it. The worms finish up in the bucket below and then move into the new bucket. After a little switcheroo, we have a bucket of worm castings to use in the garden to help improve the soil quality.
When composting veggie scraps directly in the field, those nutrients stay close which helps create a sustainable system.
A community effort
This project would not have been possible without the involvement of many different members of the community. We would like to thank all of the businesses who have donated materials and money as well as the many individuals who gave their time and money.
Thank you to the following:
Recology Organics – Western Machine Works – ACF WEST – Portland Decorative Rock – Interstate Rentals – Shur Way Lumber – Concentrates INC. – Linnton Feed and Seed – St. Johns Ace – For the Love of Trees – Portland Public Schools – Doug – Ron and Karol P – Hannah and Kate Fillman – Anonymous – Tyler and Jen Joki – Keith – Josh P – Liz and Steve – Alfundo – Neesie Steinke – Gary and Gina Fillman – John Szafranski
From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs – Karl Marx