The counterbalancing forces of the old and new hit hard when returning to school in September. On the old side, there is the garden, which is in the final throes of harvest and for many is ready to be put to bed for the remainder of the year. On the new side are the seedlings—students—that must be planted into a program. But this year things are a little different with common assumptions flipped on their head.
This year at Green Chimneys we are attempting to get a three-season garden going with fall harvest into December and an early-spring harvest in March. Last year we had a package of mustard green seeds lying around and one of my charges wanted to plant them. Neither Tracy or I saw any harm in the exercise and filled half a row up with seeds mid-September. To our surprise and chagrin, they took off and became fairly large by early November. We thought about harvesting them but one project trumped another and by mid December they were blanketed with snow. Oh well.
But by mid-March of this year, they all started to reemerge and by April became a row bulging with greens ready for harvest. We as well as the children were amazed by this as we hadn’t done anything to protect them: they had just been left out to fend for themselves against the elements. This success and the rereading of Eliot Coleman’s books on four-season harvests led us to believe that we could take this example up a few notches and extend our curriculum to actively work the garden for an additional three months.
So rather than putting the garden to bed, we are waking it up and constructing Reemay hoop houses to protect our crops as the season progresses. Lettuce we planted in August is ready for harvest; we will trim the leaves so that we can get another crop this fall. Pretty much all of our crops are in and I’m looking forward to showing the kids that a garden in the north can be a year-round activity. The kids are a bit weirded-out by the idea that we will be growing vegetables through the fall but I think they will get into it as the months progress.
But our new planting season is just one of the changes going on for me at the garden. The next post will focus on the other unexpected seedlings: my new students.