March 2022
FRESH from the Garden
SEL Activity: Write, Rip, Grow
I recently came across this quote by Sigmund Freud, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” Some of those uglier ways that unexpressed emotions come forth can be acting out, depression and even physical symptoms, like a tummy ache or a headache. However, expressing our emotions can also be challenging, especially for children who may not have the maturity or even the words to express what they are feeling. 

Research has shown the benefits of expressive writing; writing down negative feelings, or thoughts about a traumatic experience. There have also been studies done on how ripping up or destroying those writings can be liberating. But how can we connect with this emotional release in the Garden? Being outside and in nature can create a sense of peace and calmness which makes the school garden or outdoor classroom the perfect place to get out these emotions that may have built up within us. 

The Write, Rip, Grow activity is great to use in the spring or fall as beds are prepared for planting. All you will need is paper and pencil, an unplanted garden bed, some leaf lettuce seeds or mesclun mix and some soil set aside for covering seeds. Instruct each student to write down a negative thought they want to release; it could be a thought about themselves, someone who’s been unkind, something they feel guilty about, or even just a worry. Then instruct them to rip it up (or wad it up) and bury their released emotions in the garden bed. 
Finally, smooth out the soil over top and water until moist. Have students scatter the leaf lettuce or mesclun mix and lightly cover with about ¼ inch of soil. Keeping the soil moist, seedlings will emerge in 7-10 days. 

This activity allows students to name and express their emotion along with seeing something positive come from it. The paper with their thoughts will decompose making way for new thoughts to grow in their place.
Activity Extension
An extension of this activity is to create a drop box that cannot be easily opened and place it somewhere students can readily access it. Allow students to place their worries in the box anytime they feel the need. If a tree is available, attach the box to a tree and create a “worry tree.” The worries deposited can be buried in the garden each planting season.
What's New in Your Garden?
One of the great things many of us enjoy about spring is all of the newness we see around us. Bulbs begin bursting into flower, numerous shades of green from lawn grasses to tree leaves, birds belting out their choruses, and of course the warmer temperatures, are all things that make spring come alive. Newness is a wonderful thing in many areas of life and the garden is no exception. Have you considered adding some newness to your school garden? Would it be good for you as a teacher or for the students to see and experience something different in the garden this year? Let’s take a look at a few possibilities to add a fresh touch to the garden.

Perennial Vegetables – Asparagus is a perennial (returns year after year) vegetable that typically produces for 20 years or more. While they do take up more room than many vegetable crops they give you a lot of bang for your buck over the long haul. Asparagus requires well drained soil so raised beds can work well as long as consistent irrigation is provided throughout the summer. If this is not possible then in-ground beds are definitely the way to go. Learn more by checking out our Asparagus Crop Guide.

Pollinator Plants – Many pollinator plants are perennial as well. Pollinators have a lot to teach us about the diversity of our ecosystem as well as being necessary for certain crops to produce fruit. Pollinator insects often require a closer look helping students hone their observation skills. These three plants perform well in NC and can be found in many garden centers: Baptisia (Wild Indigo), Coneflower (Echinacea), Bee Balm (Monarda). Their beauty only adds to their importance in the garden.
Garden Art – Incorporating garden art of all types is a great way to involve students in the garden and showcase their talents and creativity. “Artsy” signage as well as crop labels, such as rocks painted with crop names, are a fun way to add to the garden. Towers with messages, tool shed murals, and painted planters are just a few examples to add newness to the garden through art. 

The newness that educators really hope to see is the excitement that students exhibit while learning and exploring in the garden.

By this time of the year, many educators may bemoan One.More.Thing. But, maybe
adding one new thing to your school garden will be just the boost you or your students need to finish the year strong. 
Video: Start Your Own Sweet Potato Slips
Sweet potatoes are typically started by planting bare-root vegetative cuttings that have just begun to grow roots. Sweet potatoes are our favorite crop to plant at the end of the school year to provide a weed barrier in the beds through summer while producing a crop that is ready to harvest when school starts back. Slips are often available at farm stores, but you may also want to grow your own. In this video, Amy and Doug experiment with three methods for growing shoots from sweet potatoes. They try growing
in water, growing in soil and growing in soil with a heat mat. Check out the video to see which method was the clear winner. Next month, look for the follow-up video where they will show you how to harvest the shoots for rooting and planting.
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Amy Bowman •
Doug Vernon •