Sarah P – Education Specialist

We kicked off the spring garden season last week at Glen Loch Elementary, where my daughter, Abby, attends school, with the construction of our new light garden (a 3-Tier SunLite® Garden purchased by our PTO thanks to a fundraiser held at our local Chipotle Restaurant – thank you Chipotle and Slow Foods!) and the planting of our tomato seeds. The light garden looks fantastic! Although I realize appearance is not important to functionality, it is a big plus for the principal to think that the unit is an attractive addition to the classroom. It is on wheels, so that we can easily move it as necessary, and its deep, sturdy trays provide enough planting space to allow each third grade class to start their own tray of plants. Since none of our classrooms have exterior windows, having a light garden is critical for giving the students a chance to see the plants grow from seed to seed and truly experience firsthand their full life cycle.

Why tomatoes? The Texas state curriculum specifies that third graders learn about tomatoes (no clue how they decide on this stuff), thus determining our choice of plants. We gathered a large selection of different types of seeds including cherry, grape, Roma, beefsteak and a couple of heirloom varieties, and each student planted 3 seeds in their classroom tray. We want the kids to be able to compare the different types as they are growing and (hopefully) also in taste tests at harvest time.

The spring garden plan is for each class to pick a tomato-based recipe and then grow a theme garden to match. So for instance, if they pick a pizza garden, they will grow tomatoes, basil, and oregano. A salsa garden might include tomatoes, onions, cilantro and peppers. Brainstorming by the kids thus far has resulted in the following ideas: a spaghetti garden, a lasagna garden, a tomato soup garden, a pizza garden, a salsa garden, a salad garden and my favorite…a ketchup garden. Each class has their own raised bed garden to plant and maintain. Our goal is to have the tomato seedlings ready to plant outside in these beds in March.

The students had some amazing questions as we planted. Some I could answer, such as “What happens if we plant more than one seed in each cell?” But they also stumped me with questions like “Why are the seeds so small?” Honestly, although I told them that each kind of plant evolved to best survive in its native environment, I could not come up with a solid reason for the size of the seed. Guess we will have to do some searching on that one.

We planted on Friday and by Monday we already had seedlings poking their little heads out of the soil. I think I am just as anxious as the kids to watch them grow. Although I’ve started plants from seed with my kids many times at home, my attitude has always pretty much been, if they come up and grow well that’s awesome; if they don’t, well, we’ll just go buy some transplants. But between the PTO investment in new equipment and the kids’ excitement about their seeds, I feel a bit more pressure riding on the success of this planting.

Anyone else out there planting seeds with kids indoors right now? Please feel free to use the comment section below to share any relevant stories and helpful tips!

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