Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Past Deadline: Greenish Thumbs

In the spring, some classes at Boychild’s school took part in the Junior Gardener’s program.

Members of the Perth and District Horticultural Society visited the classrooms and worked with the students to teach them about gardening.

For several weeks, the students in Boychild’s class took turns bringing home a different house plant. They had to enter information into a journal about the plant and its care, and then they were tasked with keeping it alive for the week.

Fortunately, keeping the plants alive proved to be relatively easy. Remembering to bring them back to school on the appointed day was the hard part.

At the end of the program, we reaped the benefits of the Junior Gardeners’ experience. The kids learned how to pot some plants and had planted seeds, and they brought home their handiwork.

We have a bowl filled with hens and chicks (the plant, not the birds), which now grows prolifically in our kitchen window, and Boychild got to bring home a little goldfish plant.

I have wanted a goldfish plant with the cute orange blossoms for years, so I was pretty happy to see the two little sprigs in a tiny cracked pot (no doubt it had been carted home by more than a few nine year olds over the weeks).

We put it in a pretty new pot and left it on the kitchen table where it would get just the right kind of light.

Unfortunately, it also got just the wrong kind of cat. One of them decided to investigate our work while we were out, and one of the little sprigs did not fare well. The other one got off to a very slow start, but seems to be showing some interest in, you know, growing.


That’s not all. The Junior Gardeners brought home outdoor plants, too.

“What are these?” I asked, knowing the tiny seedlings were either marigolds or tomatoes.

“I dunno.”

“Would they be marigolds?” I said.

“Yeah, I think so.”

Thinking marigolds would look nice in a couple of hanging baskets combined with some of the nasturtium and cosmos seeds that also came home, we set to work and performed the transplant.

Everything grew.

I still haven’t seen any marigolds, but I did (ahem) end up moving several tomato plants out of the hanging baskets and transplanting them into the vegetable garden. Yeah, we’re real horticulturalists over here, for sure.

In addition to the plants and annual seeds, the Junior Gardeners also brought home some vegetable seeds.

Typically at our place we plant a few tomato plants (um, done!), as well as peas, carrots, yellow beans and pumpkins.

The peas and carrots tend to go over well with my vegetable-wary crew, but I end up eating a lot of the yellow beans on my own, and each year I am amazed by how few pumpkins are produced by so many blossoms!

Thanks to the Junior Gardening program (and seeds donated by Home Hardware and Canadian Tire), we had a whole variety of different vegetables to try.

We yielded a couple of nice zucchini before the plant shriveled up when we went away for a few non-rainy days. We have one pumpkin underway so far. We have been munching green beans, which were liked by all, and the “marigold” tomatoes turned out to be cherry – our favourite.

We also got beet seeds, which I had to protect with an elaborate chicken wire-and-stake arrangement to dissuade the local bunnies from eating the tender young leaves. Despite their popularity with the long-eared critters, I suspect I may be the only one eating the root part.

With the addition of our own pea and carrot seeds, we’ve had quite a dandy little harvest over the summer. I even had a little help at times with planting, weeding, watering and picking, so it has been true Family Fun™.

Thanks to the Perth and District Horticultural Society and Stewart School for getting students involved in this program. We have learned lots about plant care, not to mention driving home the message about where our food comes from.

Oh – and if the goldfish plant thrives, it will be a true success story!

Published in The Perth Courier, Aug. 25/11

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