The Garden at Oswegatchie School is a sustainable organic garden where children get a hands on experience learning where their food comes from while developing an appreciation and respect for nature. The Garden will be a learning center to teach gardening as well as incorporating art, music, literature, math and science. It is a place where children are encouraged to join in and participate in the process of creating, developing and maintaining the garden!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Growing In A New Direction

 The growing season has come to an end at the garden,
time to cover the beds and let the garden to rest until next spring.

Garlic was planted in October, from seed that has been saved consistently over the past three years, resulting in enormous cloves of delicious and fragrant garlic that has been adapted to our area. We haven't bought seed garlic since the first year because we save the largest heads to replant each fall.

Bulbs have been planted in some of the beds so there is an array of color in the spring while we wait for the perennials to come up. Last week we had a small group of kids help plant some of those bulbs and collect leaves to cover the beds for the winter.

 We were originally thinking of planting a fall/winter crop this year, but have decided not to after realizing that we need to do things differently to get the results we are hoping to get from this project.

Since the summer, we have been assessing the garden program and have realized there are some areas we need to improve upon. We've noticed that the soil is extremely depleted and the ground is compacted from the construction of the new school. We've also been having a difficult time keeping up with the weeding and watering, especially during the summer when school isn't in session and we've also come to realize that the kids need to have a greater appreciation and respect for nature.

Our original purpose for the garden was to build a self-sufficient eco-system that would produce plenty of yields, create a space that attracted wildlife (and people) while offering a space for children to learn the importance of healthy food. While those original goals haven't changed much, the way in which we wish to achieve them has. 

We've decided to turn the garden into a permaculture garden and change garden club into a nature education program. We believe it's important for children to have a respect for nature before they can really learn the importance of growing healthy food. 

Permaculture, if you are unfamiliar with the term, comes from the words "permanent agriculture". It's the idea of planting an ecologically designed garden where plants are planted in groupings so they all work together. Each plant has an interconnection that will create a healthy, sustainable whole. Some might add nutrients the other needs to grow, and others might attract beneficial insects.

"An ecological garden both looks and works the way nature does. It does this by building strong connections among plants, soil life, beneficial insects and other animals, and the gardener, to weave a resilient, natural webwork" 

     ~Toby Hemenway, Gaia's Garden


There are many concepts to permaculture but these are just a few that we will be concentrating on to bring to the garden:
  • Deep nutrient rich soil that is full of organic matter
  • Plants that add fertility to the garden by pulling nutrients from the deep soil, air and rainwater
  • Planting in layers to create habitats for other creatures
  • Creating mutual relationships between plants, insects, birds, and people
  • An emphasis on perennial plants
  • Creating closed cycles so that we will need very little from outside sources. The garden should be able to provide most (if not all) of the fertilizer, mulch, seed and new plants to keep it going.

 The other big change, as I mentioned above, is to use the garden for a nature education program. Cynthia has already begun getting the children excited about nature by having them collect items they found in nature to share with other "nature pals" (children from schools in other parts of the United States). The children have been enthusiastically collecting items and are equally excited to see what "gifts" they receive from other schools. Everyone seems to be learning a lot by getting out there and exploring nature!

Over the winter I will continue to study, learning how to turn our garden into an ecological garden. I will also be planning for the spring planting and collecting seeds and plants so we can begin building the new garden as soon as the ground thaws next spring!

We have high hopes for turning this small piece of land into a self sustaining Eco-system that will attract many insects, birds and people and will be a place for everyone to reconnect with nature.
We feel we are finally on the right path to doing that,
and we hope you will continue to watch this area grow!