As the weather warms up here in Vermont, I’m grateful for the opportunity to get out into the Burlington School District gardens. This year, our school garden plans have changed. For the past few weeks I’ve been diligently working away at a long to-do list—installing drip irrigation, building trellises, hardening off starts from our greenhouse, etc.—in preparation for planting. While I think we could benefit from a bit of rain to moisten our dry soils, the nighttime temperatures are now high enough for our tomatoes, peppers, and other more sensitive plants to finally make their way outside.
I’m more excited for our big planting day than ever before. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Burlington School Food Project gardening team made the decision to amp up our production so that we can donate as much produce as possible to families in need during these unprecedented times. We didn’t expand our garden footprints, but we did practically double our production capacity by remaking in-ground beds and pathways narrower—instead of 12 rows in our Left Field garden, we now have 21!
With more plants in our garden, we’ll really have to stay on top of watering, weeding, pruning, and harvesting. While we’re up to the task, having some dedicated volunteers will help our growing season run smoothly. Many of our schools have received an outpouring of support from the community, with more folks offering to volunteer than ever before. In order to accommodate these volunteer requests we’ve established a series of protocols to encourage safe physically distant gardening:
- A Safe Gardening Guidelines document, created by a local community garden organization, is being shared with all prospective volunteers and posted at all garden sites.
- Volunteers are strongly encouraged to bring their own tools, though schools will be providing sanitizing solutions so that tools and high touch surfaces (garden shed door handles, gates, water spigots, etc.) can be cleaned thoroughly.
- Volunteers are encouraged to wear a mask, especially if others are present, though we’re hoping to limit person to person contact by creating schedules so that volunteers are either working in the garden alone (or with their family) or with one or two other individuals so that proper physical distancing can be maintained.
How is your school garden approaching the growing season? Are you planning on working with volunteers? Do you plan on donating any of your garden produce? Have you adjusted any of your garden plans given the current circumstances? We’d love to hear your creative solutions and approaches!