Sunday, April 22, 2012

Veggie Time!

You'd never guess it with today's gloomy, rainy weather, but earlier this week was just gorgeous. Take Thursday. Clear and sunny and warm: a perfect afternoon for a garden scavenger hunt and some spring planting with a dozen or so boisterous kiddos from a nearby elementary school. It's all part of my local farmers' market's Youth Garden project, which teaches elementary and middle school students in Columbia Heights how to sow, care for, and harvest vegetables in the North Columbia Heights Green.

[Incidentally, this particular community garden is so well hidden I only discovered it after living in CH for five years, and even so had to be shown where it was by one of its founders, and then had a heck of a time finding it again on my own two weeks later. I know! Me! Lover of all things local food and gardening and Columbia Heights! I am humbled. Granted, the first time I saw the Green was later in the evening after a couple of beers at Wonderland, but still.... Though I will say that a friendly stranger who claimed to have lived two blocks away from the garden his entire life had never heard of it. Like I said: well hidden.]

The youth garden project is linked with Kid Power's "Veggie Time!" program, where students study food issues and environmental sciences, operate citywide urban gardens, sell produce and prepared foods at markets and restaurants, and use the profits to support home and community service projects focused on nutrition. In the case of the CH Green, Kid Power helps students promote and sell the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors at the Columbia Heights farmers market. And wouldn't you know it, coordinating market days for the Youth Garden project is part of my job now -- how cool is that?

Before we could plant anything in the raised beds, which would eventually produce those market vegetables, Katie and I had to go over a few ground rules: Don't bother the bees and they won't bother you. No running with sharp tools. No standing on the beds.

Then we pulled up the cover crops -- winter rye in one bed, clover in another -- and composted them. These young gardeners weren't slouches. Look at that stack of rye!

Then it was time to loosen the soil -- boy, do these little people love wielding shovels. That soil was well loosened by the end, let me tell you. Finally, we got planting. Squash, okra, basil, tomatoes... mmm.... add a little water, and the plants look great. Ready to start cranking out a bumper crop, I should say.

Looking forward to next week, when I'll head out with students from the nearby middle school....

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