Spring Planting: School Gardens

Today is supposed to be 93 degrees. It is going to be hot by anyone’s standard. I was outside by 8 a.m. to water my newly planted flowers and foliage. I knew I had to do it early or risk their demise in the heat of the day.  Lots of work goes into planting our yard in the spring and a day or two of failing to water in heat such as we’ll have today means certain death for those in the plant kingdom.

This year, I’ve been enjoying the time spent in my own yard. All the plants I picked were for us, whether at the lake or here at home. This is odd for me. This spring, 2020, is the first year in sixteen years that I have not planted a school garden with students. From 2004-2017 I planted with my garden club students at Evergreen Elementary School.  Trays of annuals were bought along with a few perennials in the early years and put in the ground by students in the club. It made May a busy but fulfilling month. I’d scour the home improvement stores for the best deals (as we had a limited amount of funds) and the healthiest plants.  It was imperative that every student had a chance to put a plant in the ground.

Of course, this effort took help. As the garden club grew from 25 students in the first few years to a high of 63 students in several years towards the end, I could not manage the supervision of planting all by myself. Luckily, I had several parents come forward each year to help as well as National Honor Society Students from the high school who came to be willing role models. In later years, some of the students that came back were also former garden club members. It was a truly special group.

After we planted, usually the third or fourth week in May, and the students had said their goodbyes, I would go back to school in the evening and water. Many of our last meetings were during a hot day, like today, so more water was essential. After planting, each student had a chance to water their own plant with a glass from a bucket filled with the sustaining fluid that ran out of the school’s unlocked outside tap. I got to know the custodians well during those years, as I had to convince them to give me the spigot key and allow me to keep it over the long weekends to keep the plants watered.  It was always returned by Monday morning, and that simple action grew their trust in me.

Mulching was the very last job to be done and in the more efficient years, I was able to have students help during lunch recess. Most years, I mulched the garden by myself or with the very capable help of my husband. My goals included having the garden grow and thrive (therefore the return trips to water) and have it mulched by the time the last day of school rolled around. This year, that would have been this past Friday, June 5th. There was always a whole school assembly at which the 5th graders received their awards in front of proud parents and proud staff. Three times in the last 21 years, I was one of those proud parents.  It was essential to me that the garden looked finished. The students who participated in the Garden Club were always proud of their work and I know more than a few of them showed the garden to their parents on the last day of school over the years.

For me, Memorial Day weekend is always the signal I can plant. So, there has been a lot of effort put in over the last two weeks. But, this year, for the first time that effort has all been in my own yard. It’s been both satisfying and somewhat sad. I miss the students.

 

In the years that followed the Evergreen Garden Club, I moved on to another, yet similar position at another school in a different district. This position was paid, whereas my previous work at Evergreen had all been volunteer.  The responsibilities were similar but I seemed even more committed to making the planting experience a positive one for each student in the school – not just my new group of garden club students. This meant that in 2018 and 2019, I planted the school gardens with over 400 students!  My experience in doing so differed from that at Evergreen, mainly because I did not know each student, and my plant needs that increased exponentially.

Planting with students in the spring will always be a closely held fond memory. But, I am grateful that I can now concentrate on my own yard, my own plants, and my own watering schedule.

Stay cool today, my friends!

 

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