Student Guest Post by Chloe and Rachael from the Buford Garden Crew:
This week we planted potatoes! In order to plant potatoes, we first got seed potatoes generously donated from Farmer Todd Neimeier with the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC). Check out their website by clicking here, he rocks!
Second, you put the seed potatoes about a foot apart in the soil. Lastly, you cover the potatoes and wait. Well you have to water them of course! The potatoes should be ready to harvest around summertime.
Garden crew time isn’t all work, work, work… Mrs. Donahue used it as time for a cat nap!
Yay for spring weather!
~ Chloe & Rachael
To expand our programming during the blazing heat of the summer and the bitter cold of the winter, we’re building a brand new 13′ x 28′ hoophouse at Buford Middle School. To support this project, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding and community awareness. The 360 square foot (13 ft x 28 ft) hoophouse will greatly increase our capacity to start seeds and will enable us to supply student-grown seedlings to schoolyard gardens at the City’s elementary schools, community garden plots, and neighborhood gardens throughout Charlottesville.
Can you help us hoist up our hoophouse?
Starting seedlings and growing crops is only part of our vision for the hoophouse. A gathering space that is heated in winter and shaded in summer will also allow us to expand programming to match our increased growing capacity. We aim to teach about the entire lifecycle of plants – from planting seeds and caring for them as they grow, to harvesting and enjoying their roots, shoots, leaves, and fruits, to saving their seeds to plant the following year. The hoophouse will be an integral part of helping us do just that.
We’re hoping to raise $6,000, which might make you think, “Why so much for some metal and plastic?” It’s because included in that sum is the cost of everything it will take for us to operatethe hoophouse: the metal framework and stake pipes; base and hip boards; hardware; wood to build end walls; doors, and six potting tables; double layer plastic; shade cloth; solar-powered exhaust fans; a year’s worth of seed trays and potting soil; watering equipment; a garden cart for transport of seedlings; and a weed wacker to keep the grass down inside and outside the hoophouse.
Our garden has expanded to include over 120 varieties of perennial and annual vegetables, herbs, and flowers. That many plants produce a huge bounty with many uses. We are excited to dry herbs with the Family and Consumer Science class in their spring garden-to-table unit, process grains during our spring and fall PE/Health class units, press flowers with English Speakers of Other Languages classes, and cure onions with the year-round Buford Garden Crew. That is only the beginning of what this space will hold for us! A few other ideas:
- Extension of our garden CSA into the winter.
- A space for students to conduct experiments for the annual science fair.
- A gathering spot for school counselors, administrators, teachers, and students out of the rain and/or cold.
We hope you will consider supporting this project – we have awesome rewards for donors, and those are on top of the great feeling that comes with supporting a project striving to truly make a difference in the lives of young people. Thank you for your help and come visit us!
With the snow behind us (we hope!) and sunny skies ahead, the life science classes came out to the garden this week to begin their six-week experiment. This semester, students are helping gather information for Buford on the symbiotic relationships between garden plants.
There are four primary types of symbiotic relationships:
- Mutualism (both organisms benefit)
- Commensalism (one organism benefits and the other organism is unaffected)
- Amensalism (one organism is harmed and the other organism is unaffected)
- Parasitism (one organism benefits and the other organism is harmed)
Students will be looking at whether a symbiotic relationship exists between members of the allium genus (garlic, leeks, onions) and pea family (sweet peas and beans); and if a relationship exists, which type it is.
The preparations for the experiment started in November, when the PE/Health students planted garlic in the center of two, 20-foot long garden beds (see photo above, left). Then, last week the life science students transplanted sweet peas alongside the garlic and in two other beds without any garlic.
Students conducted research to form their hypothesis and will return to the garden each week for six weeks to measure their plants and compare the weekly average height of the sweet peas grown with garlic to those grown without. The students are also competing to see who can get the earliest pea pod to develop (a similar, but separate, competition from the one going on at City elementary schools right now! – check out the details of their competition by clicking here).
The results of the life science experiment inform planting plans at Buford in the future, so we are grateful for the student’s hard work collecting data in the cold, rain, sun, and mud! Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up on their results.
Last fall we worked with the APO Service Fraternity to weed the garden border, put in a terrace at the garden entrance, move debris piles, and prepare garden beds. This spring, they sealed The Bird’s Nest, painted garden plant signs, leveled the site for our future hoophouse, dug a new strawberry bed, and sat and snacked around a lovely fire to keep hands warm. We are so grateful for their enthusiasm and the craftpersonship of their work. Thanks APO!!!
Above: Painting sealant on The Bird’s Nest exterior.
Below: Painting garden plant signage.
Above: Excavating and leveling the hoophouse site with a water level, pickmattocks, shovels, and rakes.
Below: Before and after all their hard work.
Below: A shot of the winter garden, readying for spring.
Buford’s art teacher, Mr. Cormier isn’t all about drawing and painting, at home he has a heard of 12 sheep, a donkey, bees, and a beautiful garden. He and his wife, V-Anne Evans, own and run Thistle Top Farm selling pasture-raised lamb, wool, cut flowers, and wreaths at the Nelson County Farmers Market. Here are some pictures of their sheep being sheared to make wool last weekend.
Kevin Ford from western Massachusetts is a master shearer with over 30 years of experience. He gets the ewes (female sheep) in a seated position by turning their head in and taking them down to the ground. Once off their legs the sheep are relatively calm. So adorable!
Bella’s coat will be spun into beautiful white wool. The sheep look about half their size with their coat all gone.
Mr. Cormier brings the last ewe into the shoot to ready her for her trim.
Olive standing by, keeps watch over the farm. Ian and Frances, Mr. Cormier’s two rams (male sheep) are in the background ready for a haircut.
With their winter coats gone, it takes a bit for Ian and Frances to recognize each other again.
These sweet sheep make me want to get a few to graze on the field at Buford. It would be a great way to save on lawn mowing. Thanks Mr. Cormier!!
The snow this past week was a reminder that it is still winter, but with the days getting longer we can already feel the beginnings of spring. Here are some of the happenings on the horizon at Buford; scroll down to see new programming for Buford students:
Life science classes will return to the garden at the start of May to practice using the scientific method to study companion plantings. Plants in the allium family (garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, etc) are said to inhibit the growth of legumes like beans and peas; students will be testing hypotheses to see how peas react to growing with garlic.
PE/Health classes will return to the garden as well. All 7th graders will rotate through a 1-week garden unit and 8th graders will have the option of working in the garden for two 2-week sessions.
Garden crew is continuing to meet twice weekly through the winter to help plan the crop rotation for the growing season. Crew members are taking responsibility for the planning, planting, and care of four beds in the front of the garden. We’ve also had some fun roasting peanuts, planting perennials, and harvesting greens during the off-season.
NEW THIS SPRING:
Ms. Wisbauer’s Family and Consumer Science (FACS) class will engage in a month-long garden unit where students will spend two days each week in the garden; one day growing healthy crops and the second day cooking with fresh ingredients.
Garden CSA: Starting this semester, 10 students will be selected to receive a weekly share of garden produce. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, an alternative food distribution method utilized by some farmers to reduce the amount of marketing and risk they must do to sell their produce. At the onset of the season, members pay the farm to receive a weekly share of the produce harvested each week. If the farm has a productive growing season, members receive more food and if the farm has an unproductive season, members receive less. At Buford, students won’t pay, but will instead practice persuasive writing to explain why they are interested in receiving a share from the Buford garden.
Hoophouse: We are planning to put up a hoophouse this season to allow us to start seedlings for school and community gardens throughout Charlottesville. More details coming soon!
What better way to honor our new firepit than with chocolately, graham-crackery, sticky s’mores. This week teacher advisory students, English Speakers of Other Languages classes, the Thursday garden crew, and National Junior Honor Society members came and roasted marshmallows in the winter garden. Though we didn’t grow any of the ingredients in the garden itself, we do grow Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) and Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), two close cousins of the Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis), which was used in the original marshmallow recipe.
Fall in Buford’s garden was truly full of wonder! We hosted our 3rd annual harvest festival, implemented a new program with the PE/Health classes, added another garden crew work day, expanded the perennial planting beds, experimented with arugula and mustard greens, planted garlic, harvested peanuts and daikon radishes, and so much more. Below is a picture essay of all that happened!
Mr. Driver, Mr. Benson, and Mr. Presley’s Civics classes made seed bombs for the garden fence line as part of their study of community service. There isn’t a much happier sight than students all muddy!
This fall the garden was fortunate to have help from two UVA student volunteer organizations, the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and APO Service Fraternity. With a combined 25 volunteers and six hours of work, they shredded apart the end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall garden to-do list. We are so grateful for their energy and smiles throughout all the weeding and digging.
Our Monday and Thursday after-school garden crews, 8th grade PE/Health classes, and ESOL students helped harvest corn, black beans, and peanuts. The PE/Health classes also helped dig paths to The Bird’s Nest garden shed and French classes came and made a map of “le jardin de Buford en francais.”
Life science classes experimented this semester with Southern Exposure Seed Exchanges (SESE) Even’ Star Winter Arugula and SESE Red Giant Mustard Greens grown under row cover vs. out in the open. The covered plants were the clear winners and as one student put it, “It was fun to see that something so thin made such a difference.” Well said, growing good food can be so simple!!
Buford teachers volunteered time in the garden harvesting greens and loading plants pulled out of the ravine into trucks to be composted at a Parks & Recreation Facility offsite. Teachers are the best!
The after-school garden crew harvested our SESE Black Spanish Round and Misato Rose Radishes. We then chopped and fermented them in a salty brine. Delicious!
The garden crew played with pumpkins before the harvest festival.
Buford hosted the 3rd Annual Harvest Festival on October 19. With music, soup tasting, straw bale sitting and stacking, bread munching, barbeque feasting, apple pressing, garden touring, field running, and general merrymaking. Such a blast!
PE/Health 8th graders helped dig six new perennial garden beds for planting before the chill of winter sets in and ESOL students helped prepare beds for garlic planting. The garden feels like the lazy dusk of day, ready for winter sleep. Come on by and check out the greens, beets, and carrots ready for harvest.
For the third year in a row, Buford Middle School, City Schoolyard Garden, and the Buford Parent Teacher Organization will host the Fall Harvest Festival on October 19, from 5 – 8pm on the grounds of Buford Middle School. The event is a community celebration of food, the Buford Schoolyard Garden, and the season. Attractions include old-fashioned cider pressing, activities for kids, garden tours, free food, a free raffle, seasonal soup competition and live music by the Downbeat Project. The event is free and open to anyone in the community.
“We love the Fall Harvest Festival, because it’s an opportunity to welcome the community into our school,” says Buford principal Eric Johnson. “We see Buford as more than just a school – it’s a community center.”
In addition to free food provided by the Korner Restaurant, Albemarle Baking Company, the PB&J Fund, the Local Food Hub, and Whole Foods Market, this year’s Fall Harvest Festival will also feature a return of the wildly popular Iron Chef Soup Competition; using a secret seasonal ingredient, Buford’s cooking clubs will compete for honors including Culinary Creativity, Best Soup Story, Best Price, and the People’s Choice Award. And if you’re feeling lucky, you can enter a free raffle for a chance to win a harvest basket from the Buford garden, or gift cards from Mona Lisa Pasta and Sticks Kebob Shop. Buford’s AVID Program also will be hosting a mini craft fair in the cafeteria, featuring vendors selling handmade crafts, baked goods and more. Additional support for the event is provided by Barton Malow Company.
“We love this event, because it brings so many people together to celebrate one of our city’s wonderful schools, and also one of the most productive and beautiful seasons in the garden,” says City Schoolyard Garden board chair and festival organizer Lisa Drake. “We’re looking forward to showcasing Buford’s garden, as well as just having a good time.”
What: The 3rd annual Fall Harvest Festival at Buford Middle School
Where: The grounds of Buford Middle School, 1000 Cherry Ave, Charlottesville. Free parking is available in the school lot.
When: Friday, October 19, 5 – 8pm.
This summer Buford garden put in a small garden shed to house tools, seeds, pots, row cover, and all the other necessities for a schoolyard garden. Construction started with Buford 8th grader Hunter Feggans (pictured top left) clearing the area of porcelain berry and ivy. Post holes were then dug and notches were cut in the top to support the structure of the band beams and roof.
Once posts were in and lower and upper band beams were secured in place, roof joists went up and Charnya (pictured top center) wrenched tight cross braces for the 4 foot exterior roof overhang. Gerald Axelbaum (pictured top right), volunteered on the project to help Emily get the structural framework in the ground.
With the roof on tight, Kyle (pictured top left) and Buford’s summer garden crew (pictured top right) helped finish structural work to ready the shed for siding. Garden friend Caitlin Howell (pictured bottom center) put the remaining screws in the roof and Boys & Girls Club kids (pictured bottom right) helped add the flooring.
Boys & Girls Club kids were all over the shed putting almost 300 screws in to keep the siding up and looking good. Their craftsmanship is inspiring!
Then all that was left (well almost all), was hanging the doors. Tyrese Wheaton (pictured bottom left) lent a hand screwing the shed doors together and Buford staff (pictured center from left to right: Mr. Tristan Benson, Mrs. Marcie Wisbauer, Mr. Brad Presley, and Principal Eric Johnson) helped raise them into place after the staff breakfast in the garden.
Bamboo harvested in Charlottesville makes for great shelving and drying racks for the garden’s gorgeous hot peppers.
Tucked into the Black Locust and Tulip Poplar trees swaying above, The Bird’s Nest seemed like the perfect name. Come check it out!
We are so grateful for support from The City of Charlottesville’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Edward and Nancy Schapiro for funding the project. We also want to thank Bryan Holt at Better Living Building Supply and Martin’s Native Lumber for helping provide materials, James Pierce for advising on the construction, and Gerald Axelbaum, Caitlin Howell, the Boys & Girls Club kids, and the Buford summer garden crew for volunteering their time and labor.
For more information and/or the shed design or materials list, contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.