Thursday, 29 July 2010

how green does your school garden grow?

It's Summer vacation for the kindergarten right now and I've taken the opportunity to get in there and do a bit of creative re-evaluation. It's been a lot of fun. The garden is small, about 12 meters by 6 with a 5 by 3 shaded area between the buildings. When we started in February we wanted as much free running and playing space as possible, and we thought we might only have the site through July, so we just cleaned it up, planted a couple of small beds and started a loofah vine up the front of the building.

The loofah took over and though it was pretty against the bright yellow wooden building it started looking really raggy by the windows and covered one bed entirely. I like the shambling cottage look, but it was too much crazy wildness for the children and so it has been cut back to a trim central column climbing to the ridge of the roof then out across the yard on a narrow trellis and onto the front fence. Only now is it beginning to flower, we thought we would have loofahs by October but it looks like it'll be later if the flowers are only now starting. I was hoping we'd get enough to eat (loofahs are very edible when young), but I think we'll get just enough to make Christmas gifts for parents.

We had a couple of pineapples and they fruited, producing several suckers: we now have a fairly respectable pineapple patch with maybe 16 pineapples plus others in beds and lining the path to the bathroom. 

Our sand box surrounds a dear old grapefruit tree. I've fenced the box off on one side with Nadera Negra which are leguminous short trees which give a pretty pink flower, edible when cooked. Madera Negra is grown from a stick, I planted 10 a foot apart and strung twine between them. I've planted Sorosi on the trellis, Sorosi is a very feathery, sweet delicate little vine with cheery yellow flowers and a knubbly yellow orange fruit. It's very bitter and a strong medicinal, all the children here know it and know that their neighbors and grandparents take it to "strengthen the blood".

Beside the door to the kindergarten I've planted Aloe Vera under the eaves where the rain won't reach, it's a tricky plant to grow in this humid climate, but worth it. On the other side I've put a Bandera de Espana, a pretty vine with olive leaves and creamy white flowers with a dark pink center.

Our tomatoes are doing well trellised up a wall with plenty of mid morning sun and protection from the rain. I've put another three papayas in bringing our count to 5 - necessary because one never can tell who'll be a boy! Our largest papaya has just come out as a boy, which we really don't mind as the flowers smell wonderful! But I'd like all the rest to be big strong fertile girls.

Our tea corner now contains Lemongrass, Ginger, a local Licorice and Orozuz (a local relative of Stevia), I'll add some Carpenter's Bush which gives a really nice subtle calming tea  and makes a pretty groundcover.

Our coconut palm is coming along. It was a volunteer when we took over the school site and we kept it, it'll be 5 years before it fruits, who knows what will happen in that time?

In all I've added four more beds with mixes of edibles and ornamentals. I've tried to keep the colors in the purples, pinks and blues to tone down the brilliant yellow of the building and the sheer green of the garden. The beds sculpt the layout of the garden and give it a bit more definition and direction. The next thing I'd like to do is put in a very small, very shallow pond (about the size of our dishwashing bowl) purely to add some water hyacinth, tadpoles, duckweed and dragonflies. The newest ornamental additions all attract butterflies. How lucky these children are!

Let's see, so we have coconut, papaya, pineapple, grapefruit, tomato. I've still to put in a banana. For teas we have ginger, lemongrass and hibiscus sweetened with orozuz. For fresh greens I've planted katuk, camote, two types of wandering jew and culantro which can be prettied up with petals from the hibiscus and impatiens. I've still to add the carpenter's bush (tilo) and some purslane I found growing in a meadow neighboring the school. And there are two types of edible mushroom; oyster and wood ears, which we use in our Thursday soup.

That sounds like a pretty well rounded garden! More edibles than ornamentals and a good handful of medicinals. Plenty of scents, colors, textures and layers to stimulate the children's senses and imagination. And of course foster their love of plants and gardening!

Successful compost delivery!


  1. Thats sounds like quite a garden! Is sorosi Momordica charantia?

  2. Hi Nicole,

    Yes, sorosi is Momordica charantia! What do you use it for?

  3. Wow. AmaZzzZzing. Quite the garden.

  4. Just dropping by from Puerto Rico, USA.

    Excellent post!

  5. It's so interesting to compare the plants that I use to teach children about the garden (here in Massachusetts, USA) with what you are growing there. It sounds like they will really enjoy seeing and learning about all of those plants.

    This post also reminds me to plant more herbs for tea this year!

  6. Wow, good idea to have kindergarten with farming teachings. They both look so naive.
    dean graziosi

  7. This blog is incredible. Love it! But how do you guys handle the pest control? Do you use any particular pest control company or are you just handling it in house? I know the tropics can be an awful place for bugs. Especially ones that eat crops and flowers.


thanks for sharing!