Is it hard to start an organic garden? Three Homewood-Flossmoor High School students will tell you the task has been an enjoyable learning experience for them, their fellow students and community members.
These days there’s plenty of lush greenery in the Homewood-Flossmoor community garden despite the cool temperatures, and some would say too many rainy days, in May and June.
Those setbacks didn’t discourage Homewood-Flossmoor High School students Nora Grasse, Julia Schwieterman and Marcia Schwieterman from planting the first H-F community garden using a generous gift from an anonymous H-F alumnus.
“We had a slow start to the summer,” Julia said. “But the tomatoes have really perked up now.”
Lettuce is coming in, the crop of basil and thyme looks good, tomato plants are standing tall and showing fruit, and the leaves on the pumpkin vines are wide and hiding flowers that will bear fruit. There were a few caterpillars that all but destroyed the brussel sprouts plants, onions didn’t do too well and the cilantro was slow to come in, but for a first attempt the three gardeners are happy with the progress.
The garden is in a space on the east side of the south building. The seniors worked during the winter months with a garden designer who helped them plot out what vegetables, herbs and flowers to include and how to design and place their growing boxes for best sunlight and growth. In spring, students in the Applied Academic program helped cut the cedar planks used for the planting boxes and the maintenance department stacked them to give height so critters didn’t get in. Marigolds, a natural deterent, are planted in the tomato box.
Volunteers came out in May to fill the boxes with rich soil and get the seedlings, started in the high school’s greenhouse, into the ground.
But there is no magic to growing plants. It takes tender loving care which the three were willing to provide, along with members of H-F’s National Honor Society and the zoology/biology Zoobots Club, as well as volunteers from the community. They are charting the progress in the garden.
“The logs help us assess what we need to do in the garden, and serve as a schedule for volunteers rather than us having to be here every day,” Marcia explained. Nora said someone works in the garden at least an hour a day.
Part way through the planting season testing showed the soil had poor pH levels so more rich soil was brought in. A sprinkling system is now in place in each bed to make certain watering is done on schedule. The H-F maintenance crew got a water spigot out to the garden which helped volunteers tremendously.
One donor gave them a rail barrel and another gave mounds of mulch that Julia said is being used to beautify the area and to provide for paths between the plant boxes.
Nora had hoped to sell produce at the Homewood Farmers Market and share with the H-F foods class but those ideas will depend on how much they can harvest. She will be giving presentations to students in the culinary arts program and maybe gym classes about good nutrition, growing organic, eating locally supplied foods and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) that are in foods today.
Nora also is collecting recipes for a healthy eating cookbook. Send your recipes to [email protected].
Photos by Marilyn Thomas/HF Chronicle.