We used our $1500 AtlantiCare New Edible School Garden Grant to purchase a more efficient heater and benches for our greenhouse, potting soil, seeding trays, and gardening tools. We had a small oil heater in our greenhouse this winter, and saw that it did not keep the greenhouse warm enough for the tomato plants. The heater we purchased was the King Pic-a-Watt 240V Electric Heater ($409) which was rated for our 12’ x 24’ greenhouse. We used www.littlegreenhouse.com/heat-calc.shtml to calculate the minimum BTU needed for our greenhouse (14,112 BTU). The heater was not installed by the time this winter occurred, but we look forward to being able to grow veggies earlier next spring. We also had no benches for our greenhouse, so we purchased 4 24” x 96” Benchmaster benches to keep our seeding trays away from the ground to prevent critters from getting to the seedlings. We bought 3 bales of Organic ProMix potting soil to ensure we had plenty of potting soil for this spring and also for any transplanting we needed to do in the summer and fall.
Since we could not get the heater installed in time, we planted cold weather veggies (Rainbow Chard, Kale, Lettuce, Carrots, Onions, and Parsnips) in the greenhouse over the winter and early spring. At night, the greenhouse was about 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature (due to the oil heater), and the cold weather veggies survived during the really cold periods of 15-20 °F. We transplanted them into the beds in the spring and made our first salad in mid-April during a warm front. One thing we learned is that students have many different tastes in salad dressings, so next time; we will probably make some homemade salad dressings when we make a simple salad. By mid-May, the students noticed that the kale, lettuce, and chard tasted bitter so we looked for a recipe that could mask the bitterness. The recipe below, from allrecipes.com was edible, but students still tasted some of the bitterness.
The students loved pulling the onions, carrots, and parsnips out of the ground, rinsing them off and eating them as is. Out of a class of 10 students, about one of them already knew the taste of kale and said out loud that he loved it, which helped the other nine students try something new. I think it was also good to discuss with students that some really healthy veggies have a bitter taste and how that bitterness can be reduced and made into delicious recipes without adding a lot of fat or sugar.