This blog follows the building, cultivating, and harvesting of the Sanderlin IB World School schoolyard garden in St. Petersburg, Florida. Since January 2009, the Edible Peace Patch Project has been developing innovative community-oriented food system and nutrition educational programs in south St. Petersburg, Florida. Sanderlin is the 2nd school to participate in our Garden Education Program.
"If a healthy soil is full of
death, it is also full of life: worms, fungi, microorganisms of all kinds
... Given only the health of the soil, nothing that dies is dead for very
- Wendell Berry, The Unsettling
of America, 1977
Yet another beautiful day in the
garden! Today marks the end of our little chilly streak over the last few
days and we expect a solid week of sun and temperatures in the low
80s. Already we can see little rows of cucumbers, squash,
radishes, and many other little baby leaves popping out of the ground and with
this heat if we keep them well watered we should start to see some real
greening of the beds!
Today’s lesson focused on the soil.
We talked about the grain sizes of sand, silt, and clay, how different soils
come to be the way they are, and what that means for the soil. We also spoke
of death and decay. This is actually one of my favorite topics when
speaking about gardening as these concepts have so many negative connotations
associated with them. I enjoy re-framing things generally seen as
frightening and disgusting into the magical natural steps in the
bio-cycle. After all, without death and decay, we would have no organic
matter in our soil. No organic matter, no water retention, no nutrients,
and no vital living soil. Soil is the nexus of life and death. The
ultimate recycler, where the death of one organism provides the life-giving
energy and nutrients for millions of other organisms.
For a bit of hands-on experience, we
put our students to work getting their hands dirty pulling up nut sedge.
I must admit, I admire the tenacity of that plant. No matter how many
times we knock it back, it just keeps creeping back in the beds!
Finally we played a review game to
drill the lesson home. As we tried to play, silk caterpillars descended
onto the students from the oaks, causing reactions ranging from mild interest
to absolute disgust, disrupting the class. Overall though, the game went
off well; the class remembered the vast majority of the lesson, and we were treated
to some classic humor.
“What are pores?”
Kids say the darndest things, don’t
they? Unfortunately, you don’t have to be all that poor to be
homeless in St Petersburg, but I kept my class-analysis out of the lesson for
the time being. The important lesson for the day was one of the living Earth
who we step on carelessly every day without bothering to give her a second
thought or the gratitude she deserves.
"If I wanted to have a happy
garden, I must ally myself with my soil; study and help it to the utmost,
untiringly. Always, the soil must come first."
- Marion Cran, If I Where Beginning Again