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MPH students work on creating school-wide garden

A blast of summer-like weather gave Manlius Pebble Hill students an advantage in preparing soil Monday for what will become their first school-wide sustainable community garden.

Students pulled weeds and took soil and wall temperatures to monitor solar heating on the sscience building’s south side, where one of the two garden beds is located.

Lettuce will be planted Wednesday, and garlic one day next week, said Pam Stewart, the science teacher overseeing the project at the school, 5300 Jamesville Road, DeWitt. Students also will be testing and adding compost to the garden.

“Our compost project will let us reduce the number of trash cans in our cafeteria from four to two and also help our garden,” said Ben Koss, a seventh-grader from Jamesville.

“We’ll be growing what we eat, and then what we don’t eat will be put back into the soil through compost,” said Trilok Reddy, 12, of Manlius.

The 1,700-square foot garden, which runs alongside the buildings, is bordered by bales of hay to be organic and economical, Stewart said.

Students will grow seedlings in a greenhouse over the winter, and in the spring plant tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, squash, spinach, collards, kale, and other greens. A brown fig, dwarf plum and peach tree also will be planted.

The idea is for this to be a four-season garden, Stewart said, and that’s why students are monitoring and recording temperatures in the soil and along the wall.

The garden will be integrated into lessons taught at all grades levels.

“We want to give the kids the garden experience, and have them understand the life cycle of a garden,” Stewart said. “They’ll also get that sense of ownership knowing they grew something themselves.”

The garden won’t be truly organic because they’ll use food scraps for compost, but no pesticides will be used.

The younger children will study plant growth, life cycles and the health benefits of eating vegetables. Middle-schoolers will document their observations of the soil temperature, sunlight and rainfall each day, and create spreadsheets to help determine what to plant when, and how the growing season can be optimized.

Seventh-graders will manage the compost project, and measure the volume of raw material and how much compost is produced. Other students will work on a rain garden incorporating a roof drain that empties into the garden area.

Once enough crops are produced, the cafeteria will use them for lunches. If there’s enough, the harvest could be sold to the community.

Students in all grades will be asked to work in the garden, and families will be asked to volunteer for a week during the summer to weed and water crops in exchange for vegetables.
“It’s a lot of fun to work on a garden,” said Fares Awa, 11.

“I’ve learned the temperature of compost has to be about 120 degrees for it to give off enough energy, so we’re monitoring that.”

See photos here.