Constructing a Strawberry Tower


strawberry tower
The strawberry tower, newly constructed.

My kiddos, like many of their age-mates and fellow humans, LOVE strawberries. In fact, the promise of 1-2 garden strawberries was often how I bribed them to walk to our community garden with me! Our strawberry patch was getting a little tired, and we knew we needed to refresh with new plants this year.

Then along came Taylor.

As you may recall, Taylor was one of our weekly winners for Kids Garden Month. She had a container garden in a baby pool, and the most fascinating strawberry tower made of fence pickets.

strawberry tower
Strawberry plants peeking out of the planter.

I was intrigued. I showed Taylor's video to my spouse, who promptly headed to the lumber yard to buy fence pickets and the correct size hole saw. I promptly ordered 75 bare root strawberry plants from Stark Bro's.

Within two weeks, we had our own strawberry tower! The one hiccup my construction worker reported was that drilling the holes required the use of a corded, rather than cordless drill, since it took so much power to make the holes. (Thanks, Dad, for the loaner. Did we give that back yet?) We buried the bottom of the tower in a planter, then filled it with organic raised bed soil mix, which was a very messy process that resulted in me being completely showered with soil several times. Then we tucked the little bare root plants in the drilled holes. We very carefully wheeled it to the community garden in our Red Flyer wagon, and within a few days, the plants had come to life!

Our next step is to toss some netting over the whole thing so the crows don't get to the berries before we do. We are really excited about this project, and I am so grateful to Taylor for sharing it! Here's to a summer of strawberries!


We Have Ears!

Corn in a raised bed

We always try to incorporate one new thing in our school garden each season. This spring the something new was planting corn to go with our Tops and Bottoms theme (inspired by the book by Janet Stevens of the same name). The beds containing lettuce, kale (tops) and radishes (bottoms) took off quickly as I knew they would, but our corn germinated very slowly (we had a couple of late cold snaps) and even after the sprouts appeared, it did not take off at quite the growth rate I thought it would.

The kids kept asking me where was the corn and I started pondering whether I was going to need to run to the store to buy some ears of corn for the classes who planted in those beds (and if I could attach them to the plants without anyone noticing – just kidding…. okay, maybe it crossed my mind in passing).

And then one Monday we returned from a long weekend and there were tassels on top of our corn plants! Yes! I am pretty sure I was more excited than the kids. In fact, I think adding something new each season is more important for motivating the volunteers and teachers than it is for grabbing the students' interest. And then the questions started coming in and I realized my knowledge of how the corn plant works was lacking. Fortunately our friends at the National Gardening Association have an excellent resource all About Corn in their Learning Library. The tassels at the top are the male flowers that produce pollen that rains down on the female flowers which appear as threadlike silks further down the stalk in the joints of the leaves. The female silks will eventually become the ears of corn with each silk corresponds to a single kernel. Pretty cool right?

Whew! It worked. With the last day of school approaching,  I am not sure if our corn will reach full maturity, but the ears are at least getting big enough so that we can open up a few and show the students that they did in fact grow corn this spring.   Now if our cherry tomatoes would just ripen up, we will be golden. We currently have hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of very green cherry tomatoes and only 5 full days of school left—yikes! Just a reminder for me that it is always a challenge to match the school and garden calendars.

Thank You for Gardening With Kids

Last night I took my pre-schooler to soccer. It's not a team, more like a few weeks where the littles get some experience running around with a ball and having fun. Parent participation is expected, and my kiddo still likes when I'm right by their side in group events. At the end of the time period, the coach said, "and  now I want all of you to yell THANK YOU to your parents for bringing you!"

That's what I want to do! I want to yell THANK YOU to all the parents, teachers, volunteers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and educators who facilitated the record-breaking participation in our Kids Garden Month contest this year. We know the kids love it, but they don't have any money to buy plants or they need adult supervision to use the glue gun for a seed mosaic. They are able to reflect on what grows in their garden because of YOU!

We are constantly amazed by all of the folks out there who garden with their kids. Every parent who makes it a tradition to plant seeds in early spring, every teacher who goes the extra mile to get their students engaged in the school green space, every volunteer who helps make a school garden possible. Because of you, kids know where there food comes from. Because of you, kids are connecting with nature. Because of you, kids are engaged in experiential, hands-on learning. Because of you, kids are caring for the earth.

Here are KidsGardening, we try to make that work a little easier with activities and lesson plans, garden basics and growing guides, and grants, contests, and giveaways. But it all comes back to the caring grown-ups in kids' lives who get their hands in the soil and make it happen. So, once again, THANK YOU!

(Garden art pictured above is by Oliver R, a kindergartener at the J Center for Early Learning.)