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.

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Harvesting seeds

Melissa shows students how to gently harvest pea pods from the vines.

Melissa shows students how to gently harvest pea pods from the vines.

It’s that time in the garden when cool-weather plants are about to give up the ghost and are producing seeds. Some we  eat, and some we save. This week students harvested snow peas for eating – a lovely yellow variety that was both prolific and easy to spot on the green vines.

Learning to spot a seed and separate it from the flower.

Learning to spot a seed and separate it from the flower.

They also harvested calendula seeds from the dying flowers. Some of these will be planted in school gardens next fall. The cycle of life.

Seed Saving

Seed sorting

G.E.T (Garden Education Training) students at Loften have been learning to save seeds through a collaboration with Forage Farm. A recently tilled plot at the Farm to School to Work Hub on the Loften High School campus will be used this fall to grow a variety of plants which will be allowed to “go to seed.”  Many of us have not experienced that aspect of plant development in leafy vegetable plants – lettuce, collards, kale, etc. – because we harvest them before the seeds pods are formed. This special plot, however, will be carefully observed to determine which plants are the hardiest, and those plants will be the ones allowed to produce seeds to be harvested, sorted, and packaged by students. The seed will then be stored carefully, waiting to be sowed for the next season’s school garden transplants. Since each plant produces hundreds, sometimes thousands, of seeds, there will be plenty left to distribute to community gardens as well through Forage Farms “Southern Heritage Seed Collective.”

[A big thank you to Scott Smith Photographic for the lovely photos]

Inch by Inch, Row by Row: Growing the Farm to School to Work Hub

Heading back to the classroom

Ground was broken (literally!) last week at the Farm to School to Work Hub at Loften High School. G.E.T. (Growing Education Training) students sowed a cover crop and constructed a deer fence around a recently plowed area. This space will soon be producing seed chosen and saved to grow plants ideally suited for Alachua County gardens – and school kitchens.