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The Garden

In our garden our goal is to maximize the use of our resources to produce bountiful harvests of fresh, organic produce for us and our community. When we first began the garden in 2008, we had the task of transforming a 3000 ft² space in a field hockey field behind the school into an organic garden. We started with dump truck load of donated compost to build up the soil on which our garden would rest.

carrying soil

We initially planted a smother crop of buckwheat to prepare our garden. Planting this smother crop suppressed weeds in the garden space while improving soil quality by adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

cover crop

In our garden, we create raised beds in order to put the good soil in the growing space where we need it. When building up a raised bed, we typically cover the bed with compost before planting to ensure that the young plants will have nutrient-rich, healthy soil to grow in. We also use compost to side-dress and mulch growing plants, giving them a slow-release nutrient enrichment that will support them as they continue to grow.

Using compost as a fertilizer reduces the need to purchase other fertilizers, while making use of a very valuable resource produced abundantly by the high school: food scraps. We also use other natural, organic fertilizers, including bone meal, dried blood, and fish emulsion, but compost is our primary fertilizer. Below, students side-dress a bed of carrots with our compost.

putting up trellisputting up fence

sidedressing

In our garden, we like to make use of vertical space, as doing so increases our growing area while keeping plants aerated and healthy. We use trellises for plants such as cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and tomatoes to help them grow upward, keeping them organized and off the ground.

Mulch is also a key factor in our garden. We generally use locally grown hay mulch, which we use heavily on the paths of our garden, as to prevent weed growth while keeping the soil moist. For the same reason, we also use mulch on the beds themselves, for example, in between rows of carrots. Doing so decreases the need to water the plants, and is an efficient, organic way to reduce weed problems.

During a typical season in our garden, we grow cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, mixed lettuce, spinach, dill, strawberries, carrots, wheat, mint, oregano, sugar snap peas, cilantro, parsley, peppers, as well as sunflowers, strawflowers, zinnia, tithonia, and cosmos. Additionally, to create our line of value-added products, we grow calendula, arnica, mullein, dyer's coreopsis, weld, Japanese indigo, and shallots. Below, students pick medicinal blossoms of mullein and calendula to be made into our healing oils and creams.

In the process of growing and sustaining our garden, we have developed an essential symbiotic relationship with the high school itself. Quabbin students from the horticulture classes at Quabbin largely help our garden by raising a variety of plants in the Quabbin greenhouse for us to transplant. In this way, students are able to partake in the valuable lessons of organic gardening both in and out of the classroom.

Additionally, we are highly grateful to Quabbin students who give their leftovers to us to be used for the compost that is essential to our garden. Therefore, as a way to thank Quabbin students for their support, during the school year, the QCOGP gives its produce to the school cafeteria to be used for lunches. This way, we are able to complete this cycle of composting that is the basis of our sustainable program. It begins with cafeteria food; the food breaks down to become compost, the compost is used in our organic garden, and the result is new fresh produce that we give back to the school.

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