Maplesville students harvest knowledge in garden

Published 10:43 am Friday, May 10, 2019

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The harvest has been plentiful in the first year of the expanded raised bed garden at Maplesville High School.

Winter crops, including cabbage and broccoli, are reaching their end with the last of the vegetables ready to be picked.

Peppers and carrots are still growing, while squash, tomatoes, springs onions, red potatoes and okra are in varying stages of development.

The raised beds have kept the agricultural science students and teacher Joe Dennis busy and given them opportunities to teach some of the younger students at the K-12 school about plants.

Hayden Dyer, a ninth-grade student, said the high school students helped construct the containers for the raised beds and show younger students the garden.

“They have started eating this broccoli raw,” Dennis said. “They like this broccoli.”

The variety growing in the bed is small. Dennis called it stir fry broccoli.

Dennis said he selected vegetables that would do well in a raised bed.

On days when the elementary students come to the garden, the high school students usually split up, with some assisting with indoor plant-based teaching complete with coloring pages about horticulture, and others giving tours of the garden.

Those giving the garden tours explained what plant was in each bed and told about how they grew. Students also answered questions.

These visits took place more in the fall semester as the younger students helped with planting seeds.

Austin Johnson, a ninth-grade student, said he has enjoyed helping other students learn about plants. Johnson said he told the younger classes about the different growing seasons for the vegetables in the garden. One of his favorite plants this year has been the cabbage.

“When we had extra plants that were going to go to waste, they (some of the students) carried them home and planted them, which is really the purpose of the whole thing is to get them interested in growing their own stuff,” Dennis said.

Now that the beds are established, Dennis hopes to have the students out more often next school year.

Dennis said the plan is to build more raised beds, bringing the total to 20, and plants crops that grow in different seasons, so there is always something that can be harvested.

“Probably next year, we are going to give each group a couple beds and let them help decide what to plant and help plant the seeds, count the seeds and put them in the ground,” Dennis said.

Since the raised bed garden is near the lunchroom, Dennis said the students can walk by and see the garden’s progress on their way back to the classroom.

“I’ve had several of them stop me in the hall and ask me when they were going to get a chance to come back,” Dennis said.

Plans for next year also include growing everything needed for homemade salsa.

“We are planning in the late summer to plant another round of tomatoes, and everything we need to make salsa,” Dennis said. “Mrs. (Teresa) Stewart, our home ec teacher, makes an excellent salsa. These kids are going to harvest after school gets back and they are going to make their own salsa and get to enjoy eating it. I think that is something they will really like.”

Johnson said he enjoys “being able to work with my hands” in his agriscience classes.

Dennis said his students also enjoy the opportunity to be outside in nice weather.

The harvest of the garden is donated to the Senior Citizen Center in Maplesville and Through the Grace of God Ministries in Clanton. MHS students also get to take some of the vegetables home.

The expansion of the school’s garden was made possible through funds from Alabama Bicentennial Commission and the National FFA Living to Serve Grant as well as annual financial support from the Community Action Partnership of Middle Alabama.