Friday, December 16, 2011

Nipigon-Red Rock District HS Garden - Establishing Bounty

The three sisters (well, four really) garden in late August
This post is long overdue, but better late than never!  The school garden is something that had been talked about for some time.  Shasta Booker and Joan Duke worked to get the project approved and secure grant funding.  Later on, I participated in a meeting with Anya Scheibmayr, the Alternative Ed. teacher, whose class I visited in early spring and gave a talk about the whys and whats of a school garden and how it connected with the current world situation.  It was a lot to take in for them, but I think that I opened a few eyes.  As famous permaculturalist and my former teacher Geoff Lawton says, "the problems of the world can be solved in a garden."  There is far more truth to this than most realize.

The students broke ground in the school courtyard in June.  A perfectly sheltered micro-climate in the heart of the the school.  I gave the students a basic design to work from and they chose to implement five elements of it in the first year.They hauled some soil from the nearby bush to help get the beds going.  They dug the three sisters garden, three raised planting beds and made a compost.
Three types of tomato are seen here
The three sisters garden a few weeks after planting in June, some mulch would have been nice!
The raised beds were constructed a little lower than intended and basically were given a wooden border and filled with finished compost.  These beds were seeded according to companion planting techniques researched by the students.   The southernmost bed was planted with peas, cabbage, beans and radish.  The east bed was planted with carrots, onions, lettuce and beets.  The northern bed was seeded with three varieties of tomato, basil and lettuce.  A few weeks later we would mix in some homemade finished compost and garden soil which was donated by Lewis Martin and also add in some mesclun mix and a few other flowers.  Lewis has been gardening organically in Red Rock for over 15 years and likes to paraphrase the ancient Chinese proverb by saying "the best fertilizer is the gardener's footsteps".
The tomato bed in July with some other flowers and vegetables added in
Early season harvest of radishes
The three sisters garden was planted directly into the existing soil.  Corn, beans, squash and the fourth sister, sunflower were put in.  After a few weeks the corn and sunflowers came up strong but the beans and squash were a bit lacking. We added compost to the planting mounds and put in a few more plants. Another week or so went by and the garden really began to take off!  It was like a small jungle in there with all of the tall sunflowers, corn with beans spiraling up its stalks and the huge leaves of the squash to provide ground cover.
The three sisters garden really took off.  A symbiosis of nitrogen fixing beans climbing up the corn, with the earth sheltered by the squash leaves.  The sunflowers help to bring in pollinators and provide a windbreak on the north side.
Susan picking some radishes
Susan Harkness, my mother, and I volunteered to look after the garden for the summer whilst school was out.  Susan also played a big role in getting the project off the ground.

The summer had very little rain so we were forced to use tap water a few times. Hopefully in the future, a rain barrel system can be established to collect the copious runoff from the school roof.
A squash flower, a delicious treat in itself!
Maturing maize tassel
A sunflower basking in its namesake
As the summer went on the plants grew very well.  All who witnessed the garden were quite impressed.  It was truly a great start to an extremely important project.  When the students returned to classes in September, they saw the fruits of their labours.  They were then able to harvest this bounty and prepare a few meals from it, thereby getting to experience the taste of real organic food. What our grandparents simply called "food".
The three sisters garden, now that's abundance!
Ripening tomatoes in late August
The tomato plants produced quite well
A view from the tomato bed towards the three sisters
Students from the Alternative Ed. class and a science class harvest the bounty.  Here we see carrots, onions and beets.
It's a jungle in there
Students enjoying some fresh, local, beyond organic food
Preparing to make soup, with a few of the delicious apples from the old courtyard apple tree
Cutting up a squash is a big, but rewarding job
The garden can be integrated into the curriculum of any subject.  Given the importance of the issues of food security, the integrity of our food and the right to grow it, peak oil, local economy and so forth, this project is giving students the education they truly need.  It is in its infancy, like a seed sprout coming up strongly from the soil, striving to reach its potential.  There is much room for expansion, especially into perennials such as fruit trees, bushes and vines.  With further support, this garden can contribute to a crucially holistic and relevant development of real world skills and a  far deeper understanding of things than any textbook can hope to convey.  There has been an explosion in the creation of school gardens in the past few years and a wealth of evidence has mounted as to the myriad of benefits they provide.  Give your support to this project and watch the simultaneous flourishing of life and young minds.

1 comment:

  1. i suggest eat only non-GMO food. it is not a genetically modified. GMO are the reason foe cancer. also est only seasonable food are best way to maintain health organically.

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