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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

Autumn in the School Garden

Our students have returned and the Garden Clubs have begun! We were all excited to see the many surprises that grew in our absence. A huge thank you to Leah U and her team of volunteers and our mighty Seniors who kept our greenhouse life watered and nurtured throughout the summer! The first day of school greeted us with mammoth sunflowers standing in full glory of bursting joyful yellow petals in our lower gardens. Beets, beans, nasturtiums and pumpkins taking over the greenhouse, and enough carrots to share with our school community at the Back to School Barbecue!

So thrilled we are to see the fruits of our Spring efforts. When we take a look at what last year's harvest in comparison to this year it teaches us that you can plan ahead but the unexpected will happen and it's not always a bad thing. Many things will grow in the garden one year and not the next. For example, last year was a bumper crop for our zucchini and apples. This year, we had a handful of both. We all know the bees had something to do with that and, yes, the late Spring rain. Although we so loved our zucchini muffins last year, we know it's all an experiment. Our highlight was that our kiwi vines produced many delicious kiwis for the first time. Amazing, right? In a rainforest.

We did bring in some delicious organic apples from Salt Spring Island so we could do our annual taste test. Local and organic is what we say! Our students are always keen to develop their new taste buds straight out of the garden. There is nothing like picking fresh kale, blackberries, sorrel, fennel, strawberries, autumn peas, fingerling beets and carrots. More veggies and fruit in our bellies right from our gardens keep us healthy and strong. We don't have to encourage our students to eat their veggies. "When can we eat?" is their first question when we begin Garden Club.

Did you know we now have four growing areas at our school. The bottom garden, which was the original (thank you past teachers) the Food Forest created in November 2018, (way to go Board of Directors), our greenhouse donated last spring (we love you Grandma JoJo), and 4 new growing troughs donated by Meg (you're amazing) a Wickaninnish Community School retired teacher. We have been so delighted to have this space and busy building healthy soils for our new troughs. Just in time to put in our fall crop! Yes we, volunteers and students carried A LOT of wood chips for the bottom halves, then manure, promix, compost and old healthy soil on top. We added broccoli and violas seedlings, while soil blocking lettuce, mustard, arugula and radish. Some are sown undercover, some out in the open. We're eager to watch how they grow. We're happy to report we reaped 20 buckets of potatoes, spinach, basil and garlic so far this year to add to the school lunch program. Chef Ron is always so creative with incorporating the garden's harvest into delicious meals that benefit all the students.

September and October have been so abundant for us this year and now as the rains and cool days return we are beginning to put some of our garden beds to bed. Plants that are tired from producing are put in our compost adding much new energy and life when it's time to plant our spring seeds. Some of our sunflowers are left to feed the birds and create homes for the little critters who will over-winter with us. Straw, leaves and seagrass create a blanket to keep our garlic bulbs and tiny critters warm for their resting time to come. Autumn for us is a busy time in the garden and a time of great beauty. We are reminded that with the autumn season comes new opportunities to explore the garden with new eyes!

"Autumn, the year's last loveliest smile" - William Cullen Bryant

See you in the garden!

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