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florida gardening FNGLA Royal Palm Chapter San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Happy Harvest at the School Garden

Today I was invited to San Carlos Park Elementary to see the progress the children made this year on the gardens. I was surprised by the number of excited kids, the great work they had done and the quality of their produce.
The surprise continued with their appreciation for the work we did to make the beds for them to plant in. I got choked up with their ceremony of card giving and sharing the harvest.
I applauded them for their efforts and complimented them at how good everything looked.
We did more than build a garden, we built a fun classroom.


Inside their cards the children wrote; “Thank you for your hard work…Thank you for making our school garden. It looks really pretty when I go by the garden…we really appreciate it…We all love our garden its beautiful…”

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artful gardens San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Rounds on the Ground

Thanks to Mark, the owner of Artful Gardens in Buckingham, for cutting and donating these pine pavers. Judging by the rings, these came from a 40 year old tree.

Like any pavers, you don’t just drop them on the ground. I raked the mulch away, then dug down about an inch in the sand for a solid, level base, and nestled each log slice into place. If this were my garden I would spray them with preservative. But I am sure the students at San Carlos Park Elementary would rather paint them. Pardon the fuzzy photos: it was 95 degrees and the lens steamed up. (http://www.artful-gardens.org/)

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florida gardening Royal Palm Chapter San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Beds Intact, Tools In Boxes

After an historic rain event (7″ in three days) I expected soil and mulch to be washed into the next county, but they were unscathed. The beds are level and the mulch is thick so all these bulky materials just settled down.

I just stocked the tool box benches with new gardening tools. The short bench accommodated three totes perfectly. A dozen kids will be busy with

trowels, transplanters and cultivators. Ames has a nice line of long-handled tools with a 15 year guarantee. Here we have a round shovel, flat shovel, hard rake, leaf rake, hoes and a broom. And the cutest short handled shovels too.

We will give Mrs. Williams a $50.00 gift certificate to Johnny’s Selected Seeds. They have a full line of flower and vegetable seeds for her to plan the fall and spring garden.

http://www.johnnyseeds.com/

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FNGLA Royal Palm Chapter San Carlos Park Elementary

Thank you Royal Palm Chapter, FNGLA.

Last March, this garden was just an idea. San Carlos Park Elementary Resource Teacher, Mrs. Williams wanted an activity for the after-school kids. Then, members of nearby Parkway Baptist Church wanted to benefit the school with volunteers and talent and the idea took shape. Then came the issue of funding. We asked the Board of Directors of the Royal Palm Chapter (Florida Nursery Grower Landscape Association) for grant money and they obliged.

The funds bought lumber, hardware, paint, soil, mulch, tools, and more. This fall there will be money for seeds, fruit trees, fertilizer, and pots. The investment will benefit the students and teachers for years. We are grateful to the Royal Palm Chapter for their generosity and their commitment to horticultural education.

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florida gardening San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Beds, Soil, Mulch, and Rain

The weather cooperated with our plan. Thursday morning nearly 20 men, women, and children showed up at 7:30, eager to move a mountain…of potting soil.

It rained all night but paused long enough for us to shovel five yards of soil into wheelbarrows, walk it 300 feet to fill vacant planter boxes, then spread a pallet of mulch. In two hours we were done. More photos to follow…after the rain stops.

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florida gardening garden bench San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Garden Benches

Every garden needs tools and a place to store them. For the San Carlos Park Elementary garden I came up with the idea of combining a storage box and a bench.

Typical chair height for adults is 16″ but for children it’s 12″ so I made one for each size. The frame is pressure-treated lumber lined with T-11 siding, topped with tongue and groove cypress decking. The leaves are 3/4″ pine painted with acrylic.

I put these details here for two reasons: People go to the internet for inspiration and instruction. (What can I do…then how do I do it?) I hope this helps. Click on each photo for captions.

When the teachers and parents return this fall they may look at the handiwork and say “The second graders sure are talented here!” My desire is that a second grader looks at this creation and says “Hey, I could do that!”

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florida gardening San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Mark Out the Beds

Here is the final plan.
Here is the final garden plan.
The marking paint won't stick to sand for long.
The marking paint won’t stick to sand for long.
Looks like everything will fit.
Looks like everything will fit.

Now is the time to drive stakes and mark where the beds will be at San Carlos Park Elementary. Next week we begin building raised beds.

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florida gardening San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Ground Breaking!

No ceremony here, just hard work. My son John and I cranked up the rototiller and prepared the garden area at San Carlos Park Elementary.  We agreed to work until it ran out of gas or the temperature exceeded 90. But within two hours we had tilled the 14×50 area four times and we ran out of Gatorade. Mission accomplished.

Now to mark off the bed areas and start building raised beds.

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bird feeder florida gardening San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Bird Feeder

This bird feeder will go to San Carlos Park Elementary in the new garden. I tried to lean on the arts theme and included a little whimsical element with the colored pencils. It’s made from Florida cypress, both solid and pecky for textural interest. It is four feet tall but I will mount it on a short post to make the filling still accessible.

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florida gardening San Carlos Park Elementary school garden

Before: San Carlos Park Elementary garden area

This is where we will be building a vegetable garden, in the courtyard.

The first idea was to have one raised bed made of concrete blocks that the students will paint. But then I got creative: let’s make eight smaller gardens in different shapes, made of different materials. I can imagine every classroom coming out to visit this area to see and learn about shapes (math), cells, insects, climate (biology). Other dirt-under-the-fingernails lessons will be food production and nutrition (more science).

We will make room for flowers to attract pollinators. Warm colors on one side, cool colors on the other. Art class, have a ball out here!

On the west end we will plant fruit trees that will bear soon (papaya, bananas, Barbados cherry, pineapples, dwarf mango). Dividing the areas will be “green” walls planted with mints made of pallets to contain compost.

It’s my nature to jump into things with both feet and go all-out. But I know that a garden requires work to build and plant and water and weed. We have a 7000 square foot “canvas” work with but I have scaled down the planting area to 700 square feet including mulched pathways and stepping-stones.

As I was measuring, a teacher guided her students past and asked them “Is he measuring area or volume?” They are learning even before the garden is built.