Second Chances Farm wants to take vertical gardening to a new level by offering ex-offenders job opportunity and also fresh vegetables to communities in Wilmington’s Riverside neighborhood. Jennifer Corbett, Wilmington
SOUTHAMPTON — Having a salad for lunch might not be a hassle when half the ingredients are already being grown in the classroom.
Southampton School #2 became one of the first in the area to introduce a tower garden in a classroom this week, where students will take care of the plants.
Inspired by tower gardens that are commonly used to grow vegetables in restaurants and urban farms, Elena Pementel has been using two of them in her Southampton home for three years now. And earlier this week, she donated one of the towers, which costs about $975, to her son Anthony’s fifth-grade class after suggesting the idea of implementing one to school officials.
“My dream is to do it at all Burlington County schools,” Pementel said. “Our kids are the future of America, so we’re teaching the next generation to eat healthier and better.”
The tower garden originated at Epcot’s “Living With the Land” display in Disney World by Tim Blank, its former greenhouse manager, and is marketed by the health company Juice Plus.
Commercial farmer Duane McCarthy, who serves as a marketing director for Juice Plus and educates students on tower gardens, said the tower will teach students that they can grow food anywhere.
“When you start having control over your food, it’s safer, healthier and cleaner,” McCarthy said. “There’s technology here, there’s food. People love to eat, people love to grow. The STEM movement is huge and we’re giving our kids a chance to be a part of that.”
McCarthy helped students assemble the tower Monday morning and talked to them about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, as well as the meaning of aeroponic gardening — a technique in which the plants’ roots hang suspended in the air, and water and a nutrient solution are delivered to them by a mist or fountain.
Within an hour class period, the tower had gone from a collection of plastic parts to a multi-level planter filled with budding lettuce, sage, kale, basil and celery plants, with a basin of water and a small mix of minerals.
“I like knowing where all the food’s coming from and what goes on it,” fifth-grader Chase Henry-O’Neal said. “Going to the grocery store, you don’t always know what they use.”
Teacher Kathleen Brady said she’s looking forward to seeing what lessons her students will learn from tending to the indoor garden.
“We talk about plants and animals in science, so I thought, ’why not?’” Brady said. “Kids will love it, it’s interactive, and the more hands-on work they do, the better they learn.”
“We can grow pretty much whatever we want now. We have light, we have minerals, we have everything,” she said. “To me it’s not only science, but it’s health and nutrition, and taking care of things.”
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“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall,” Oscar Wilde once wrote. But 2019 in the River Valley would have required a re-write. Although autumn officially arrived Sept. 23, our highs in the mid-80s fed the gardeners’ complacency of summer, enjoying the blooms of the periwinkle and phlox and datura.
Then, after only a few days of autumn color in early November, temperatures plummeted to the low 20s and finally hit 19 on Nov. 12. The next morning, nearly all the leaves of the neighbor’s pecan tree and my flowering magnolia were on the ground (many still green and attached to stems).
Thirty-plus overflowing garbage cans later, the lawn is back to normal with the Bermuda turning to its normal wintry gray.
To those of us who don’t compost, the city dump is a good alternative. These guys do a great job picking up thousands and thousands of bags/cans filled with leaves and turning them into rich black compost that we can later purchase and spread on spring gardens.
Since all annuals and many perennials were frozen back, it is past time for procrastinators to ready the garden for winter by removing and discarding annuals and cutting back perennials.
Janet Carson, plant expert and mentor/friend to master gardeners, shared the following tip on a recent blog: “Cut back your perennial plants — they should come back fine next spring. However, if you see winter damage on permanent plants, let the damage stay put until spring comes back. If you prune the damage now, you expose even more of the plant so let this damage serve as a buffer.”
There is one annual plant, the lantana, that some of us have found will perform like a perennial if the stems are left intact all winter. Once new growth appears in spring, we prune off the tacky dead stems. It has been several years since we have purchased lantana.
If you planted bulbs or late starting spring plants, it is a good idea to place a marker nearby to prevent disturbing them when spring soil prep begins.
Now is also a good time to add a layer of mulch around shrubs and trees to insulate roots and to add new ones to the landscape.
In late October, my sister Rosemary and I usually spread our native plant seed, including Queen Anne’s lace, larkspur, liatris and cleome, on top of the soil. This year, we were lulled into waiting until late November. Did we wait too long? We’ll find out next spring.
Once final gardening wraps up, it is time to focus on our “helpers” — tools gardeners rely on. Some of us have a bucket of sand mixed with a little oil that we store shovels and hoes in after each job. But one friend not only cleans her tools after each project, but she rubs them with WD-40. A good idea for all of us to prevent rusting. Also, remember to drain water hoses and store so they don’t freeze and burst.
Attention also needs to be given to the lawn mower. Once you have made your final mowing or leaf mulching of the year, store it properly. This includes running it until it is out of fuel since old gas can turn to varnish and damage the engine. It’s also a good time to have it winterized (check-up, blades sharpened or replaced, new spark plugs, etc.).
One of the things I missed about our “autumn-less” season was shutting off the air-conditioning and opening the windows for that refreshing fall air.
Saturday is Dec. 7. Seventy-eight years ago, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “a day that will live in infamy” when he asked Congress to declare World War II. Some of us are even old enough to remember that day in 1941. We all knew someone who fought in that and other wars and today we all know some of the men and women buried in the U.S. National Cemetery in Fort Smith.
So, it seems especially fitting that on Dec. 7, 2019, thousands of these heroes will be remembered at Fort Smith’s Christmas Honors, when wreaths decorated with red bows will be placed on 16,000 headstones by family members and volunteers.
Next week, the topic will be: The Christmas tree — live or artificial — promises memories.
Lucy Fry of Fort Smith is a level 4 Master Gardener and writes the area Master Gardener newsletter. Her column, Gardening for the Record, runs weekly in the Times Record. Send questions to [email protected]
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Life becomes so hectic this time of year that we find ourselves coming and going at the same time. It sometimes helps to take a few minutes to relax and ask ourselves what is important and meaningful in life. What are some things that give joy, peace and stability in a hectic world?
For me, gardening, plants and nature, in general, have been the underlying structure of my eight decades of life. Since my earliest childhood, I have been an outdoor person. About 200 feet from my backdoor were fields, hills, a creek, trees and miles of undeveloped land to explore. Around my childhood home was an acre of ground, about half of which was landscaped with large trees, hedges, lawns, flowers and vegetables.
When jobs were assigned to my sister, brothers and me, it was only natural for me to volunteer for gardening. By the time I was 14, I had responsibility for most of the gardening. My parents encouraged me by furnishing all the seeds, plants and tools that I needed. Both my mother and father enjoyed gardening and spent time teaching me and working with me.
I also spent time helping in a nearby local nursery, volunteering my time. My pay was plants and supplies, and most of all, the knowledge I gained. Later I worked for pay at a garden store. Then I went to college and obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture.
Gardening has provided most of my exercise, although walking and hiking are important contributors. Gardening has provided natural stretching exercises, which has kept me quite flexible for my age. Although I do not spend as much time in the garden as I used to, I still do a significant part of the gardening. Gardening has been a wonderful physical conditioning program for me.
The most important benefit of gardening for me has been the opportunities to be creative. Abraham Maslow, the psychologist, calls it self actualization. Plants and gardens are beautiful, but the satisfaction that comes from putting seeds or small plants into the ground and nurturing them to maturity is hard to match.
It is also gratifying to involve your own children and grandchildren and then watch and help them develop their own landscapes. When my grandchildren come to visit, they usually go directly to the backyard to see what is new and edible before they even come into the house.
No fruits or vegetables taste quite as good as the ones picked from your own garden. And you control what goes on them. I take raspberry freezer jam when I go to visit children and grandchildren. It hardly makes it inside the door before it is on the bread.
Gardening is a hobby with no age limit. There is always something to add or change, even when you have a mature landscape.
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