School Gardens Update: Adaptation

“Start where you are, do what you can, use what you have.” ~ Arthur Ashe

Week four of building beds at the school and the big job of amending and planting is nearly complete.

A few things have thrown the wrench in my gears:

  1. Accessibility and time limits
  2. Availability of green waste
  3. Coordinating 50 kids to plant beds in a short time-frame
  4. Ongoing construction at the school

The most frustrating thing about being a volunteer is working on other people’s schedules. There are six lunches daily, only three of which we actually use for collecting given the chaos in dealing with children still too young to efficiently follow instructions. Children still have to get moved in and out of the cafeteria efficiently while still giving 5-10 minutes for the custodial staff to clean up in between. Each lunch begins and ends a particular time.

Most days, very little goes according to plan. Flexibility and patience is key.

The three older grades have it down, so that’s what we’ve been using. At the end of each lunch period — and with help from three trusted and hand-selected 4th grade volunteers — all the green waste has been collected by sorting into a box, distinguished from the non-green waste like meats, milks, cheeses and plastic waste which all goes to the can. It takes all three kids: two to carry the 30-lb box to the space out back, and one more to let them back into the school through the locked door outside.

When it was just me, riding my bike around to the front of school was the only way of getting back in to repeat the process 2-3 more times. It was exhausting. I am now spending more of my time building the lasagna gardens and giving bedside instruction without the added stress of meeting a anothers schedule.

Home-grown Earthworms

The Evil Bermuda Stem — Still Green

Gray Tree Frog
Named Him ‘George’

Some materials are limited in winter; we chose the green waste coming from the cafeteria. There are plenty of leaves on curbs for easy collection in winter. The compost microbial infusion (and even some earthworms) comes in the form of soil from my own garden. Flattened cardboard is equally abundant from local grocers. There is practically no other waste in the form of green ‘nitrogen’ aside from manures (which comes with its own downsides).

“Why don’t you just go the farmer’s market in town and get all you need to build all the beds at once?” the lead custodian asked me into Week 3. Because this is a reduce, reuse, recycle unit, and using cafeteria waste requires no transportation or cost. That and who has time to drive to and from Houston every day? (Not me.)

But her comment gave me another idea. What if my own grocery store produce manager could fill that need for me? After all, I’m there every few days shopping for my own family.

Ha! Ask and you shall receive.

Manny! My Superhero!

Kroger’s Green Waste and Cardboard
DirtNKid’s Compost,
Neighbor’s Leaves

Onion Waste — These Will Get Planted

By far the greatest challenge is in planting the seeds. Fifty some-odd kids wanting to plant beds all-at-once in a short time-frame can be quite chaotic. Not having a plan with the Round 1 didn’t go so well, but luckily the teacher had her expectations set pretty low. The kids still had a good time and two beds got planted.

Round 2 was only slightly better organized, but the arrays weren’t set up in a good enough fashion for the more preferred orderly experience. I get the feeling that this teacher might have expected more from me. “At least you didn’t get sloppy firsts,” I told her. We are all learning from this — even me.

Perhaps Round 3 will go better. Some twine and duct tape were put to use so that kids could quickly identify their ‘plot’ for planting. As before, they will use their fingers as trowels and drop seeds in to the right depth and density per square foot. Smooth out the soil, and BAM. Done.

48 Lasagna 1-Foot Squares
Ready For Seeds!

Serendipity Seedling
Round 1 Planting

One Last Watering For The Day

There are only two more beds left with all the materials to build having been staged on site. Scheduled concrete pours will have me swinging in whenever there is a ‘window’ into which I can slip.

Now, if the weather will just hold out for me too, all will be done. And I can move on to bigger and better things for myself.

Learning as we ‘grow!’

5 thoughts on “School Gardens Update: Adaptation

    1. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t think of it first! Good luck on yours, and thanks for coming by to comment. So easy — and cheap — to make soil from recyclables. They’re everywhere. 😀


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