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New garden nourishes campus

ALEXANDRA FELD, FOCUS EDITOR

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Leaves emerge from the ground, giving new life and nutrients to the campus in the latest addition to the Trinity Prep landscape: the box garden behind Witmer Science Center. The garden consists of several different crops such as carrots and dragon tongue beans.

The garden was planted over this past summer vacation as an effort by science teacher Jonathan Gray and his middle school Green Team to raise environmental awareness on campus.

“We were doing a sight survey of the campus, assessing the campus’s ecological impact, seeing what we have good going on on campus and ways to improve it, and having a garden was suggested as a way to improve,” Gray said.

To get things started, Gray contacted the organization Fleet Farming and asked if they would be interested in helping to start a garden at our school. Fleet Farming is a group centered in downtown Orlando which specializes in converting lawns into gardens for people and then helps with the maintenance of the gardens it creates

“I think of [Fleet Farming] as more of the knowledge base for getting our garden on the right foot and as kind of a backup if things start to fall apart,” Gray said. “But their heart and minds seem to be in the right place trying to get the teachers and students to be the ones who are maintaining the garden, learning about growing food and that kind of stuff.”

On top of the maintenance work that Fleet Farming will do just like they do with any other garden they create, Fleet Farming will also be creating a guidebook with the best crops to grow every season. Gray also plans to have them come in and present to his 6th grade classes in order to encourage participation.

Gray also wants to inspire his students to help out by doing something he calls “Farm Fridays,” during which, he will do a lesson in the garden for his sixth grade science classes.

Earlier in the year, Gray took a poll of his 6th grade students to determine some of the crops that would be planted during the first crop rotation; the most popular crops were: cucumbers, potatoes, dragon beans, cherry tomatoes and mint.

The first crop rotation took place during lunch on  Sept. 21. Both middle schoolers and upper schoolers came out to help; the middle schoolers removed the summer crops, and the upper schoolers planted the seeds.

Gray hopes that the Grille will be able to use some, if not all, of the crops that are grown here. The first crops planted were originally just supposed to be there to keep the soil healthy, but the Grille has still managed to find ways to use the food by allowing the students to sample some watermelon and basil.

“Basil provides flavor to our housemade pesto sauce,” the Grille’s head cook Greg Himes said. “We took about 20 chicken breasts, we grilled them and then marinated them while it was still warm. We sampled it with about 60 students …and it was very well received.”

After the good reception that the crops have received, both Gray and Himes hope to expand the garden in the future by adding a wider variety of crops, and continuing to increase student participation.

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New garden nourishes campus