A Letter from the Garden Educator
I was fortunate to take over a gorgeous working garden from my friend and fellow Garden Educator, Priscilla Hayes, in August of 2016. The Littlebrook garden is in a courtyard in the middle of the school so it is protected from deer and groundhogs (but not from squirrels, insects and birds). There are seven raised beds that get great sunlight where we grow most of our vegetable crops. The children plant and tend the beds.
The garden is tended by volunteers in the summer and summer proceeds are donated to a local food pantry (see below).
Beds are planted by plant family so we can rotate our crops to prevent disease and insect problems without chemicals.
- The Brassica bed grows broccoli, kohlrabi, bok choy and mustard.
- The Nightshade bed grows tomatoes, peppers, okra and tomatillo. It also grows basil and parsley.
- The Potato bed grows potatoes and sweet potatoes (not actually a potato).
- There is also a Strawberry bed, a Sensory bed, a Native Plant bed and a Shade bed.
Two beds of lettuce were also planted, harvested and washed (the first time) by first graders. We grew enough lettuce for salads for the whole school three times! It was served with pizza lunch on Friday.
The middle of three beds were planted by the third grade students studying Colonial America. They followed in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson who had a yearly race with his neighbor to see who had the “first peas to the table”. Our kindergarten students planted carrots and beets around the outside of the beds.
The fourth graders again planted the three sisters Native American garden where corn is used as a support for pole beans and squash surrounds them both to control weeds and provide shade. We even planted tobacco (flowering tobacco) and sunflowers. Fourth graders also provided the muscles and energy to mulch and weed! I wish we could harness that energy!
Fourth graders also planted the pizza garden with tomatoes, basil, onions, garlic and peppers. We’ll make pizza in the fall when they are in fifth grade!
Our second graders who are studying insects worked on a major overhaul of the existing butterfly garden. Our milkweeds, as are most milkweeds, are devastated by aphids. It became difficult to collect enough milkweed to feed the caterpillars they collect, observe and release each fall. They researched what plants attract pollinators and especially which plants attract aphid eating insects. We ordered the seeds, grew and then planted our seedlings. So far it is working. We are seeing many lady beetles and hoverflies eating the aphids!
We also applied for and received a butterfly way station designation and sign from Monarch Watch.
In the fall, the students enjoy the proceeds of our beautiful garden. Third and fifth graders made salsa, second graders made potato pancakes, kindergarteners made pickles and first graders make pasta sauce.
Littlebrook Garden Educator
Nothing like a Jersey Tomato
Raised Beds with Lettuce Greens
Students get an up close look at a Monarch Butterfly
A fresh summer harvest of cucumbers, carrots, beets, garlic, onions and tomatoes