Spring has most definitely sprung down here in the Southern Hemisphere and all our attention has turned to the garden. We use the produce from our garden for two significant parts of our community life – the first being our weekly community lunch, which the children take turns to cook for the whole class, and the second being our annual camp, where we try to meet as many of our own fundamental human needs as possible.
Growing our own fruit, vegetables and herbs are a big part of this and the children know that they need to get everything planted in time to harvest and preserve it so we have plenty of nutritious food to eat whilst we are away.
One of the delights of growing your own vegetables is that you get to experience far greater variety than you would if you simply bought your food from the supermarket. This year we have planted purple cauliflower, giant pumpkins, foot-long beans, black tomatoes, striped beetroot and, as an extra exciting experiment: luffa and soapwort. Yep, we are actually growing our own soap!
The children have carefully planted seeds and labeled them so we don’t get mixed up and check them every morning to see if they need a little more mist. Imagine how excited they’ll be when something they can eat (or wash with) pops out of the soil! Of course, our whole botany curriculum is now tied to our garden: Are the seeds monocotyledons or dicotyledons? What will the leaves look like when they germinate? Let’s look at the apple tree foliage to work out where we need to put the water. How are we meeting all the needs of this plant?
In previous years, we have grown potatoes in sacks, but have found them hard to manage as they dry out easily and don’t seem to produce a very high yield. This year, after doing some research, we decided to build a wooden potato bin. We sourced some free wood (mostly pallets) and started to figure out a plan. There are plenty of tutorials around to show you how to make these but we found that nothing quite fit the materials that we had so we just winged it and made a three-sided crate. Then we cut some plywood pieces to fit in the front, which we will slide into place as we add more soil to the potato plants through to growing season.
Our seed potatoes had been happily chitting for a couple of weeks so they were well ready to go into the bin once we had filled it with a layer of mulch and some lovely fresh soil.
We have two incredible parents in our community, Melissa and Regina, who come and garden with us every week as volunteers. We are super lucky to have them and really would not be able to manage everything we do without them. One day, Melissa mentioned that she was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the work that needed to be done on her own garden, particularly a steep bank that was covered in weeds.
We saw this a perfect opportunity to be able to show our gratitude for all the help Melissa gives us, so we all went and spent a day working in her garden. We cleaned out the chicken house:
Weeded around the raspberry canes:
Collected river rocks and built a fire pit:
And weeded the dreaded bank:
Melissa rewarded us by firing up her pizza oven so we could all fill our tummies before getting stuck back into work.
The children worked incredibly hard and you could see the effort it took to get stuck back into the work after lunch, but they did it, and returned to school with a sense of pride in having helped a community member and achieved something significant through communal effort. I love that our teaching philosophy gives us the freedom to do this big work!