The Full Garden Experience at Upper Township Middle School

Our gardens are coming along as best as the weather permits.  We have our rain barrels situated and ready to hook up to drip irrigation line.  We have a parent experienced with irrigation systems coming to assist with this endeavor.

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We have trays of vegetable plants started from seeds coming along and should be ready to transplant around the 15th of May.  Our strawberry and beach plums are in bloom and we hope to see the pink lady slippers in full bloom also around the 15th.  In addition to our AtlantiCare sponsored school gardens, I thought I’d share some information about how we have been addressing topics organized and suggested as school-based topics/projects by Eco-Schools USA and NJ Audubon:

1. Biodiversity – Students maintain trails on the school property, transplanting native shrubs around the school, creating rain gardens, pollinator gardens and herb plots.

2. Consumption and waste – Students love to pick up the compostable materials each day from the cafeteria and dump it in the school’s composting container, we also often gather up half filled water bottles and redirect the water to house plants and bottles to recycle bins.

3. Healthy Living – Students learn that gardening is a fun exercise that can be done in their own back yard or even in containers.  Students learn to plant and enjoy healthy food like carrots, peas, kale, tomatoes, onions. They learn to share these fruits with classmates and parents.

4. Sustainability works to help kids with other class work by developing their sense of responsibility and ownership in the enterprise of school.  Developing a sustainable system requires communication and coordination of resources.  As students continue to pick and share produce with the school cafeteria, students become aware of the practicality of knowledge; wise use of water and space can result in a product enjoyed by classmates and teachers in the school.

5. School Grounds – Our students have helped develop natural spaces and outdoor classrooms – courtyards planted with native shrubs and small trees, trails that lead to vernal streams, pink lady slipper orchids, raised bed gardens, and beach plum orchard. The school grounds is becoming a year round resource.  Neighbors and those organizations using the athletic fields in the summer, are drawn to the beauty of the gardens and enhancements.  Volunteers offer to take care of the garden plots during the hot summer months.

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