This week, I taught a raised garden class for GreenUp Orlando at Bill Frederick Park. I spent an hour showing a group of children how to plant seeds, the art of thinning baby seedlings and the benefits of companion planting. And somehow, by some universal blessing, I kept their attention for the entire time. In the heat, with crazy sunshine beating down our necks, they wanted to get their hands dirty. We planted okra seeds; I shared the tip of planting the seeds at the depth of their length. That’s a gem they got to take home. It works with all seeds. A giant bean seed gets pushed down a good bit further than a tiny carrot seed.
GreenUp Orlando provided seeds for a Three Sisters garden…so we went with it. It’s the wrong time of year to plant squash and corn, but who knows? Maybe we’ll have a mild July and August (probably not). I love the idea of a Three Sisters garden, it’s companion planting at its best. The corn is the anchor of the garden, providing stakes for beans to grow on. The green beans provide nitrogen to the soil around the corn, giving it extra energy to grow. And lastly, the squash’s large leaves cover the soil to keep it shaded and prevent it from drying out as easily. The Native Americans were on to something. Smart.
After an intense and rewarding hour at the park, I went to check up on the New Image garden. It was looking pretty rough last week after Tropical Storm Debbie. Our green beans were torn apart by the wind, ants infested some of the beds and the tomatoes gave up. I was hoping the beds would rebound within the next few weeks. But…holy cow, it can be amazing the difference a week makes in the garden. The peppers are producing buckets of fruits, the strawberries are still flowering, and the okra is at its peak. Yay!
GreenUp Orlando generously donated a truckload full of awesome pine compost to the center that’s been sitting on the basketball park for almost a week. The children aren’t exactly thrilled that it’s taking up a portion of their court, but they’re putting up with it. It’s payback for the basketball that keeps ending up in the watermelon plant. Payback! The fabulous four who work with me at the farmers market helped shovel the dirt into our beds to replace what Debbie washed out and to top off the plants with some healthy new soil. As we were working, on the concrete, again, in the hot sun, the younger kids begged…no joke…begged to come shovel the soil. And we obliged. They did a wonderful job shoveling the dirt, being careful not to cover plants and not to injure each other with shovel heads. I was thoroughly impressed and grateful for their help.
To end a laborious and rewarding day of gardening, we harvested a seed head from our mammoth sunflower. Alphonso climbed the dead tree in our planter, like Tarzan, and tossed the giant specimen down. It took five of us about a half hour to break apart the flower and shake the seeds out. I can tell you from this experience that a mammoth sunflower produces a gajillion seeds. And in cheesy closing, I’ll share that I hope these moments in the garden together create about a gajillion gardeners.