By Ashley Lodato
No one (except, perhaps, those who held outdoor weddings on Saturday) should complain about the rain, but I’m going to indulge a little whining about the mid-June frost – following on the heels of a heat wave, no less ? that dashed my hopes of a bumper crop of beans, potatoes and zucchini. At least we managed to cover the tomatoes and basil.
Classroom in Bloom was a little more proactive than we were, with staff members Annie McKay and Emily Post spending two hours before the first frost covering sensitive crops with floating row cover and plastic, and removing it again each morning during the three nights of frost. The work paid off; all covered crops survived but some – like fragile basil, flowers, and squash ? have frost-burned tips. Classroom in Bloom director Kate Posey says that with gentle pruning, these plants too may make it.
Kate also says, “Overall our school garden fared well, thanks to the forethought of Emily and Annie, who watch the weather report and responded accordingly. The 2,000-plus pounds of produce we grow for MVSD students is too important to risk when there are frost warnings. We are lucky to have such conscientious staff members.”
In the past during fall frost times, says Kate, the garden staff move the sprinkler heads above sensitive crops and adjust the timer to come on between 4-7 a.m., the coldest time of night.
“It’s more water than the soil likes,” Kate says, “but it staves off the frosty early morning air and is worth it.”
I was reminded of that scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, when the whole Wilder family has to go out into the corn field before dawn and pump buckets of water to individually water each corn plant to save the crop. It’s a race against the sun, and they just barely win.
For kids interested in learning more about the many adventures associated with gardening, there are two camps available this summer. One camp, led in the morning by garden staff and in the afternoon by artist Nicole Ringgold, is already underway this week, but the August camp, led in the afternoon by artist and music teacher Matt Armbrust, still has some space in it (enroll at www.classroominbloom.org). Students ages 5-11 will spend camp days working on harvesting, learning garden-related cooking in the wood-fired oven, playing games, exploring the surrounding hills, and doing art projects in the afternoons.