Pre-freeze, Parkade Elementary vegetable garden flourishes

By BROOKE SHUNATONA

neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

The leaves are falling, but the garden hangs on by its roots.

“I think the typical first freeze is Oct. 21” said Karen Birk, master gardener and supervisor of the Parkade vegetable garden, who plans to wrap things up at the first hard freeze. “It’s warmer than usual which is good for our garden, because kids could continue to pick things still growing at this point.”

Vegetables such as radishes, mustard greens, lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach are growing in the garden at Parkade Elementary.

The Parkade Elementary garden, an idea brought to PTA president Amy Larson by families about a year ago, presented new lessons and flavors to young students this fall.

“They go in rounds and go out and water everyday,” Larson said. “They’re picking them, washing them and eating them.”

It started as a learning experience for the kids, but gardening has also proved to be enjoyable.

“They all get to try the vegetables, and some of the classes trade around to other classes and have a lot of fun,” Larson said.

Birk, who is also a friend of Larson’s, checks on the garden weekly and reports back to Larson on which plants are ready to be picked.

“It’s a little different than I was expecting, because I don’t know anything about gardening,” Larson said. “It sounds like it’s going to be a process, but everything is coming along really well.”

Birk said that of the fall vegetables planted, the radishes, mustard greens, lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach have all beat the freeze in time for the kids to sample.

“I think a garden is pretty unpredictable,” Birk said. “You plant it and care for it and hope it all grows, but it never all grows. Some of the rows look a little sparse and I feel bad, but it’s good for them to know it doesn’t always go perfectly. It’s going really well though, especially for the first time.”

The school is considering sending the vegetables home in the “buddy packs” of students through the program that provides weekend food to the children of low-income families.

“Amy Watkins (principal at Parkade Elementary) and I talked to the teachers and if they knew what students had buddy packs, they may send home baggies with students,” Larson said. “We’re still experimenting how it’s going to work right now and hopefully we can go from there.”

“It’s going much smoother than I expected,” she said, “and everything’s great.”

Birk said they haven’t started planning yet but do have plans to revive the garden come spring.

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