Summertime + Summer School = Seed Saving

We will have summer school through the month of June, and then we are DONE (well done) till classes begin again in the Fall. This week, students headed straight to the Grow Zone – aka field plot – to harvest crops before the heat settled in. It’s been close too 100 degrees several times during the last week.

The beautiful Moon and Stars watermelons are the reward for the hard work in the garden. This variety was thought to be extinct, but a Missouri farmer had saved the seeds – and we got some (thank you Forage!). The students carefully saved the seeds of these, too – for next year’s crop.

No, Daniel is not a gnome. These squash (next to the moon and stars watermelon) are HUGE - grown out for their seeds.

No, Daniel is not a gnome. These squash (next to the moon and stars watermelon) are HUGE – grown out for their seeds.

They are also saving the seeds from two other American heirlooms:  the red-striped greasy bean, a nutrient-packed  “soup bean” from Appalachia and the Hopi Red Dye amaranth from Arizona, a grain that has been cultivated in the Americas for thousands of years.

Growing these plants and saving the seeds, the students are learning about the cultures where they originated and the relationship between horticulture and human culture. They are part of the chain.

And we get to eat watermelon.

Cash Crop

Basil replaces lettuce in the NFT table.

Basil on the grow-poles.

Our greenhouse production is heating up – for one crop: basil.  While the school system is not quite ready for pesto yet, our community is, and summertime is a great time to shift from school lunch production to local restaurant.  Plus the basil seems to really love the rising temperature in the greenhouse. Selling summer basil will help keep the program sustainable the rest of the year.

This week, Satchel’s Pizza and Tempo Bistro will be featuring lovely Loften basil on the menu. If you stop by, please thank them for us!

Basil takes over from lettuce in the NFT table.

Basil takes over from lettuce in the NFT table.

Last hurrah – and how to help us keep growing

basil and cukes

basil and cukes

We shipped off our final harvest of cucumbers yesterday to a number of schools where most, if not all, students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. While we had high hopes of continuing the harvest during the summer, spider mites had another idea. We will be spending the first weeks of the summer cleaning out the greenhouse allowing the summer sun to have at it. By the end of a few weeks, the pests should be history.

The lettuce stopped a few weeks ago, when the combination of rising temperatures and a faulty emitter fried most of it. Still there were a few remaining heads last week that melted in your mouth…

We are raising money to restore a third greenhouse and purchase another NFT table (the basil is growing in one above) so we can double our lettuce production – from 150 to 300 heads per week!

If you would like to help, you can make a contribution here – or check out this page for other ways to help. Our produce is grown by students for students and benefits both disabled high school students (job training) as well as students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch. A great bang for your charitable buck!