The first few years I was involved with the school garden, I didn't dare plant anything, only watered. Then I took a chance and planted some seeds, which refused to grow. When I poured those same exact seeds into the hands of a bunch of children with zero gardening experience, they would grow just fine, but if I so much as touched them, instant death. Or so it seemed. Still, I watered everything. And weeded sometimes. Not much. The plants grew well until the rabbits honed in on our location and mowed everything down like little weed-wackers with no taste for weeds. We put up rabbit fencing around their favorite beds, and then everything grew like crazy. It was a good year, and the school's PTO voted in a generous garden budget.
I must have learned a few things over the years because now when I plant things myself, they actually grow. Still, it's better when the kids do the planting. We had four first grade classrooms come out during science class and plant sunflowers and cucumbers. The second graders are coming out next to plant pumpkins, pole beans, and squash. The afterschool program planted snap peas, radishes, beets, and cilantro. My sons planted spinach and kale. I planted bush beans, lettuce, corn, basil, parsley, zucchini, and more snap peas, not to mention a dozen tomato seedlings, peppers, eggplant, Swiss chard, and herbs. Here are some other things that are doing well:
The rhubarb is going gangbusters. There are four others the same size as this one with big thick stalks.
I planted three-dozen bare-root strawberry plants and fenced them in.
The snap peas are growing up and out of their bed. They don't seem to like the teepee I built for them for support and instead prefer to lean on the tall weeds around the edge of the raised bed. It's a favorite hiding spot for baby bunnies, I've noticed, who enjoy the sheltered canopy (until the hose is pointed in their direction, which is their cue to flee Peter Rabbit-style, leaving coats and shoes behind them).
Apparently, deer love Swiss chard. How do I know it was deer that ate all the beautiful Swiss chard in this photo? The hoof prints. And the fact that only an animal that heavy could bend the entire fence down on one side. Luckily, the Swiss chard grew back within a week. (They didn't touch the lettuce and spinach.)
But perhaps the most exciting thing about the garden this year are the apple trees. I planted a Roxbury Russet and a Jonathan last month, which still look like sticks in the ground at this point. The Roxbury Russet is considered to be the oldest heirloom table apple to originate in the New World, a chance seedling discovered right here in Boston in 1635. I've wanted to plant apple trees behind the school for ages. I just love the idea of kids being able to come outside and pick their own apples, even if the reality is they'll probably end up whipping them at each other when I'm not looking.
So now, my friends with the naturally green thumbs, I need some advice. How do I keep the deer away from the fruit trees? They've already sniffed out the cherry tree and done some significant damage. I don't want the apple trees to meet the same fate or I fear it's going to be venison burgers on special in the school cafeteria come fall.