As the winter winds come swooping in and the days are getting shorter, everyone was excited to get back into the garden at Fort River on one of the last warm days of the year, November 5th. The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming crew, along with Ms. Monica Bhomik’s second grade class, had such a fun time talking about one of our favorite foods: garlic! After discussing the strong, pungent, and sweet flavors garlic can have, the kids told us the foods they like with garlic in them, some of their favorites being pizza, garlic bread, stir fry, and spaghetti. Then we spoke about how garlic has a family just like the second graders do: the Allium family, which includes shallots, leeks, and onions to name of few. These related plants smell and taste much alike, and also grow in a similar way.
In two groups, the second graders broke up big garlic bulbs, separating them into garlic “seeds,” peeling back a few layers of the papery skin to give the cloves a kick-start. The students did an AWESOME job planting the garlic pointy-side up and root side down while their peers in group two inspected the radishes we planted in October. The second graders were super excited about the different colors the radishes were as they plucked them from the ground: pink, white, and red, and had a mini tasting of these spicy treats!
There was also another EXCITING FIND popping up in the garden that we “planted” LAST JUNE…..MUSHROOMS! When Willie Crosby, a local mushroom farmer and instructor at UMass came to the garden, we inoculated the wood chip beds with King Stropharia (also known as Wine Caps) and they were popping up among the kale and bok choi planted back in September.
To close our lesson in the outdoor classroom, we all came together put down a “blanket” of straw to keep the garlic bed warm through the winter. The second graders knew that the plants needed water to grow, so they enthusiastically took turns using the watering can to give the garlic the good stuff. We sent the kids off with a garlic planting take home activity to keep the fun with bulbs going at home! The UMass crew will make another to the schools to prepare the gardens for winter sleep! If you want to be a part of the school garden project, we are looking for PARENTS, TEACHERS, STAFF and community members to join us. Contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org. HAPPY WINTER!