Lake Simcoe Public School Garden Project
Lake Simcoe Public School opened in September 2016. At that time, landscaping was implemented around the flagpole and across the entire front of the building which included general perennial shrubs. Over the past 5 years, the gardens have not been well maintained. Many of the shrubs have died and the spaces have become overrun with weeds. In the fall of 2021, I started up a Garden Club with a very large and eager group of students between grades 3-8. Our job in the fall consisted of pulling weeds, turning the soil and planting a few tulip and daffodil bulbs.
We have chosen to focus on two garden areas with the intention of moving to the other garden spaces as our group grows.
After sharing ideas and visions for building and maintaining garden spaces, the students decided to break into two groups; one chose to develop a pollinator garden of native plant species to attract bees and butterflies, while the other group was eager to plant a vegetable garden.
After reading an article in the local paper about a honeybee farmer experiencing an alarming decline in their honeybee population, the students in the pollinator group (grade 5-7) became interested in helping build and maintain the bee and monarch population. They learned about plants that attract bees and butterflies, generated a list of plants they wanted to acquire and created a map of the proposed garden. The vegetable garden group (grades 3 & 4) quickly became excited about planting vegetables that they enjoy eating and sharing with their family and friends. I had heard about Caja garden boxes (https://mycaja.ca/product-info/) and thought these would be the perfect way to begin planting while we prepare the space for our future vegetable garden. We hope our vegetable garden will become a space where all community members will work together to maintain and harvest and share locally grown vegetables.
At this time, the pollinator group has dug up the dead cedar shrubs, thinned out and transplanted some of the existing lillies and ornamental grasses and planted milkweed, lupins, dahlias, coneflowers, butterfly weed, gaillardia, brown-eyed Susan, zinnias, lilacs and hydrangeas.
The vegetable garden group has planted (from seed); beans, peas, cucumbers, pumpkins, carrots, onions, beets, squash and corn. After learning about the Three Sisters, some in this group were interested to plant squash, corn and beans together. At this time, many of the vegetables are beginning to sprout and have been transplanted to the caja garden boxes. Once the plants become more hearty and we have finished preparing the vegetable garden area, we will transplant the vegetables to the larger space. Our plan is to offer for students and their families to sign up for weeks over the summer holiday to check the progress of the garden, water and pull weeds.
Since I am only able to meet with the Garden Club during recess once a week, my Kindergarten students have been supporting the efforts by assisting with planting seeds, watering and observing the growth of the seedlings which has contributed to their interest and learning about life cycles and the natural world.
Since the entire $500.00 budget was spent on the caja boxes, seeds and plants, we have reached out to the community for donations of soil and mulch. We have secured some free mulch from the County of Simcoe and donations of soil from local garden centres and hardware stores.
We are planning to partner with the Enviroventure class at the local high school to assist us with our projects.
We are excited to be developing a shared community space!
Reflection & Celebration
Since we began our planting a few short weeks ago, much of our work now is maintaining our new plants and waiting. The students are excited to see the growth of their seedlings each day!
I imagine that our real celebration will be in September when we return to school and witness the growth in our plants and begin harvesting our vegetable crop! The pollinator garden group is hopeful that we will find monarch caterpillars in the garden where they can witness their magical transformation and help support a healthy population of both bees and monarchs.
I hope that this group continues their enthusiasm for planting and learning about native plants as they grow into adulthood. Understanding natural food sources and the ability to sustain their own nutrition by growing their own vegetables is important for supporting local, natural food sources and reducing the environmental impact of large farm corporations / fertilizers and transporting goods long distances.