Monday, 4 September 2017

Elmbank Grow-to-Learn Program 2017

Hi all! Wow, this summer just flew by. I'm Kaila, the full time garden manager at Elmbank Junior Middle Academy. I want to come right out and say I am an amateur gardener, this year will be my first full grow season. I've learned A LOT in the last 4 months from Elmbank co-manager, Clara, and Liane from TCI, as well as all others from the Grow-to-Learn program.

Leaving the garden after planting our Kale and Radish beds, this past May
When I first walked into Elmbank garden in May, I was overwhelmed by the size (though Elmbank is smallest garden within the program) of the garden, and the idea that I had to weed all 29 beds in preparation for summer. But, with Clara's guidance and support, as well as the help of some keen students at Elmbank, we got through it.

 Figuring out the garden set up for the grow season was a bit of a puzzle for me at the beginning, but lucky I had the set up from the previous year to assist in effectively rotating the crops. I had many the suggestion from the junior students on what to plant (mainly watermelon), though they took great interest in the cherry tree and apple tree. Unfortunately, though, as all six of our fruit tree are very young, there wasn't much fruit and the fruit that did ripen got eaten by birds before we got to them (much to my students' disappointment). That didn't stop their continued interest in running into the garden, wide eyed and ready to dig up worms. They loved to gaze at caterpillars which ate my dill, fascinated by the idea that they would turn into butterflies.

Though markets here at Elmbank do not draw in the crowds like TCI and Polanyi, we have our regulars who come every week for our tomatoes, kale, beets, carrots, among so much more. The garden harvest weight is quickly approaching 400lbs as of last week. While all of it doesn't get sold, the local food bank is always happy to see me walk in with fresh veggies from the garden. It's very rewarding to see such big smiles from the community when they see me come to donate.
Our first garden Market, Elmbank students were excited to see what the garden can do
Community members proudly displaying our produce from last week
I do have some regrets, though I'm quite proud of the garden (weeds and all). Seeing the enthusiasm the community has for our tomatoes and eggplants, I could have planted more beds with them. We've also been having trouble with powdery mildew which has attacked all our squash plants (it will be a sad day when I have to tell the students that our cantaloupes dying), and the wind wasn't too kind to our brand new tent :(

All in all, this summer has been quite productive

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