School may be out for summer, but the garden boxes at St. James are still overflowing with good green things to eat and the students are now full of new knowledge on how to grow, prepare and enjoy local produce.
“It’s really cool having all these plants,” said St. James student Dominick Kitzman. “We already ate some radishes and we have beans and potatoes and really big sunflowers.”
Fellow student James Lockwood, who lives on a farm, shares his experience and advice.
“We fertilized with cow manure and that seemed to help things grow a lot. And we make sure we water things the right way. The carrots are almost ready now.”
The gardens are part of the School Garden Landed Learning program started by Dr. Linda Peterat, professor emerita at the University of British Columbia, who initiated the Landed Learning project at the UBC Farm in Vancouver.
The Vernon program is run with the Okanagan Science Centre and local volunteer master gardeners serve as advisors.
The junior gardeners in this particular project come from teacher Heidi Routley’s Grade 3 and 4 class at St. James School.
“The children love the program and it fits in well with the science curriculum and includes some other subjects,” said Routley, who will be tending the garden over summer break.
“Each session starts with a science lesson with Carla Glessing of the Okanagan Science Centre. She has done things like have them look at cells and roots with a microscope. Then we come out to the garden to weed and water and take care of things. We have already eaten some of the produce and we will have a harvest dinner in September.”
The students have also learned how to identify native plants that can be safely eaten and about other crops that grow locally. Volunteer nutritionist Jan Hillis provides the lessons on nutrition and recipes. Students are encouraged to try things that are new to them.
“My child was eating dandelions. I can’t get him to eat greens at home,” laughed parent volunteer Jan Barnard.
Students also tried rhubarb iced tea and leeks, and made their own granola and bean sprouts.
There’s always something new to learn.
“I like to learn about the insects, what’s good, like lady bugs and butterflies and bees and worms and the ones that eat your garden like beetles and maggots. You always want to know if there’s bad insects in your garden because they can kill your entire garden and you have to know how to get rid of them,” said Kitzman. “We all really like having this garden here at school.”