Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fruits and Flowers

Summer in Somers beams on, and here are some more things the garden has to show for it!

Our sunflowers are growing proud and strong--and we don't just love them because they're beautiful! They are attracting plenty of interested birds and insects who help pollinate our plants and keep the garden a healthy, diverse little ecosystem. . . And not only that! In the fall, the after-school Garden Club can use the seeds to roast for a tasty snack. Did we mention that these sunflowers completely seeded themselves this year? How wonderfully low-maintenance.

If you'll remember those promising brownish berries just on the verge of ripeness from my last post, my volunteers and I were thrilled to see juicy red berries ready for our consumption this past week. There aren't any camps going at this time of the summer, but a few lucky students stopped by the school and got to harvest a few for a snack.

On the left are some exquisite bean flowers on the purple bush beans from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds via FoodCorps... Thanks, FoodCorps! And on the right is the beginning of one of many zucchini that have shot upwards and outwards for the past month. Those things can grow.

And the whole garden, in all of its newly wood-chipped order. We hope the wood chips will keep it looking sharp when kids come back to school! Thanks SO MUCH to our volunteers who made this possible, and happy end of July, everyone!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July Comes Around

After months of cold and wet weather, the Montana summer has finally exploded into days of 12-13 hours of hot, beautiful, bask-ible sun. And suddenly everything is growing, including at our Somers School Garden! Here are some highlights . . .

The broccoli is forming heads:

 The garlic scapes are curling and bulging with future flowers:

Our newly seeded zucchini and buttercup squash are growing leafy:

Our Red Russian Kale and red cabbage are growing big and strong:

And our raspberries are forming, to be ready in a few weeks! See those greyish, aggregate fruits full of possibilities? Yum.

Things are really happening! We can't wait to get harvesting and prepping food for our school food program--stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

And . . . We're BACK! The 2014 Edition

Three years later, I am reviving this blog from the very beginnings of the Somers School Garden in Somers, Montana, to share with the world how our garden is doing in the summer of 2014! My name is Zoe Tucker, and I'm the current FoodCorps Service Member serving in Somers and Lakeside as well as in Bigfork and Cayuse Prairie Schools. I've been teaching in classrooms, assisting with procuring local food for the cafeterias, and engaging kids in the garden this whole school year (check out the Montana FoodCorps blog here), but now that it is summer in Somers again, it seemed like the time to start posting some pictures. . . 

Like this one of third graders at Lakeside Elementary dissecting some dirt earlier this spring!

Anyway, some high points of the year: at Somers Middle School, we had a small but faithful Garden Club crew who met after school to plant seeds, transplant starts, weed, generally tend the garden, and come up with ideas for how to make the garden more popular among the other students. We will resume that next fall and hopefully it can grow a little each year! Led by Robin Vogler, our intrepid Food Service Director, held our annual Montana Food Day in October to showcase local Montana produce across the menu, and tried out a few new recipes and items such as Montana lentil hummus and local beets, both of which went over pretty well with the middle schoolers. At Lakeside Elementary, we continued serving snacks through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, highlighting many delicious local products including apples, butternut squash, radishes, and even kale for National Kale Day. We also continued to cultivate our hydroponic greenhouse at Somers, which we use primarily to grow head lettuce for the school salad bar. Nice, eh?


In May, we had a wonderful work day featuring the folks from Montana Conservation Corps--our ever-faithful helpers in the garden--and the awesome youth from the Center for Restorative Youth Justice. This was the BEFORE, A.K.A. the Land of Quackgrass:

The worst of it--it's hard to look at:

But our devoted volunteers really went at those vicious rhizomes, and here is AFTER:

Note the brand-new three-bin compost system next to the school, the newly transplanted broccoli on the right, and a significantly reduced population of quackgrass. . . We hope.

Thanks, MCC and CRYJ! You all rock. Now, our broccoli, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, garlic, tomatillos and sunflowers are on their way to success. More pictures coming soon!

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or ideas at zoe.tucker@foodcorps.org.