Garden Buddies is a program that offers the Grade Four students at Immaculate Conception School an opportunity for hands-on experimental learning that can be integrated into a wide variety of subject areas. Students learn that healthy and sustainable living starts with our soil as they make their own compost and study the organisms working in it. Teamwork, relationship with others, physical activity, and improved life-skills are all benefits from the activities of designing a garden plot, to building a trellis, to harvesting potatoes, to tending the gardens. Best of all – we eat what we grow! Good nutrition is reinforced as students are introduced to new tastes, smells and textures picked straight from the gardens. Their produce is proudly made into delicious food by the Garden Buddy students to share amongst all the students at Immaculate Conception School.
The weather in October was beautiful so we took full advantage and spent our time outdoors digging, hauling, chopping, snipping, lifting, watering, and tidying. The cleanup job was enormous and it took incredible team work, lots of muscles, and willing spirits. Our main job was to prepare our garden beds to plant our cover crop, which will protect them for the winter. Before we’re able to plant the crop, we had to dismantle last season’s trellises (those were built by the former Grade Four class to survive a hurricane!) We then had to clear away all the debris, chop it into little pieces, and add it to our composts. Lastly, we had to thoroughly dig and turn over each bed.
As we anticipate cooler, wetter, winter weather, we have also worked hard to plant garlic and to put our garden beds to rest. Each student had the chance to plant a garlic bulb which will grow over the winter and into the next year coming to fruition in early-mid July. If all goes well, the garlic can then be pulled, dried, and saved to sell at our annual Christmas Fair!
Finally, we set out to protect our valuable topsoil in the garden boxes. Farmers know that it is far better to plant a cover crop to cover their soil during the winter months than to rotate crops and leave the soil bare when not in use. Cover crops have many benefits - they protect soil from erosion, they improve drainage and water retention, they add organic material and replenish nutrients back into the soil, they are a natural weed suppressant, and they increase soil microbial activity. As a result of all this, they also reduce the need for use of herbicides and pesticides. The Garden Buddy students planted a mixture of fall rye, crimson clover and field peas into their garden beds. The fall rye naturally produces its own “chemical” that discourages weed growth, and the crimson clover and field peas fix nitrogen to their roots thereby replenishing the soil. We will wait and watch throughout the winter as our garden beds show us their winter look!
Stay tuned for Garden Buddy developments!