Garden Club Harvests in January

Who digs carrots from their gardens in January in Butler?  The students at Butler Catholic School do!   Despite snow squalls and wind chills in the low 20s, the garden club students at BCS are harvesting fresh vegetables from their garden beds throughout the winter months.  Planted in the summer, fresh carrots were ready to dig this week, and arugula and spinach will be picked starting next week.

How is this possible?  The garden beds are fitted with cold frame lids, which essentially turn the beds into mini greenhouses.  The sun during the day keeps the soil and plants above freezing through the days and nights, and allows cold-friendly vegetables to be grown at a time when gardens are otherwise lying dormant.

The students all were given a carrot to take home and enjoy.  The rest of the harvest will be used in two ways:  in the school cafeteria for the salad bar and as fresh carrot sticks, and for making carrot soup, which the students will have at their next garden club meeting.   According to club instructor and PA Master Gardener Justine Brown, “our 4th and 5th grade garden club students are learning in-depth information each meeting about a different fruit or vegetable.  This includes growing information, characteristics of the fruit or vegetable itself, and a taste test!  The students are all official Junior Master Gardeners, and we are excited to expand beyond the basics of growing a garden with a healthy eating component through our Learn, Eat, Grow, Go program.   The more we can educate our students about healthy eating habits, and where food comes from, the better they will be equipped to make smart decisions when they are adults with families of their own.   As a bonus, they are having so much fun, and trying new foods they haven’t had before.  Coming up on the schedule – arugula!”

In addition to harvesting carrots and their other vegetables, the students are busy planning for the spring in the BCS garden.  They track the weather at BCS weekly (temperature, daylight length, wind speeds and direction, rainfall and other factors useful in planning and growing gardens) thanks to the school’s weather station (find this at — anyone in the world can follow BCS Weather!)    They also spent some time at this week’s meeting planning out what vegetables, flowers and fruits they would like to grow this spring.  The students each created their own personalized garden map, which many of them will use to plant their own gardens at home.    They also started to plan for what vegetables and plants they will grow for sale as a spring fundraiser at the Spring Garden Market, held at Alameda Park in May by the Penn State Master Gardeners.    On the list so far are salad bowls, and individual vegetable plants that they will grow in recycled milk cartons from their school lunches!