A group of Charlotte Avenue Elementary students were all smiles as they painted rain barrels on June 19 to give their school’s Giving Garden a more vibrant look. These rain barrels, donated by non-profit Buffalo Niagara River Keepers, connect to the gutters on the side of the school and provide fresh rain water for the children to water their student-run garden.
Charlotte Avenue’s Giving Garden opened on April 6 with the help of a $500 donation from the parent-run Seeds of Living Education organization. Ever since, the garden has blossomed and is continuing to grow.
SOLE originally founded a Giving Garden at Union Pleasant Elementary School to help provide nutritious food that students grow themselves. SOLE’s mission statement is “to encourage lifelong, nutritious eating habits by offering school children a hands-on, educational experience in a living classroom in the natural environment.”
Now a Giving Garden can be found in the spacious courtyard of the Charlotte Avenue Elementary School.
“It’s a community garden, everyone should come and see it,” said Cindy Newman, one of the many committed parents working on the project.
Currently, there is a “pizza garden,” which is a circular garden divided into six distinct sections, so the students could grow what they wanted to grow. This garden is aligned with marigold flowers to keep rabbits and other small animals from eating the plants and vegetables.
There is also the Three Sister Garden in which some plants were planted directly by seeds so students had the chance to watch them grow. A second grade class kept a journal on the garden to track progress of the garden.
The types of plants grown in the Giving Garden are all organic. They include cabbage, celery, herbs, corn, squash, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes, onions, parsley and oregano. Aside from learning the technical aspect of gardening, the students are gaining valuable life experiences.
“We are doing far too much for our kids. They have to learn to make mistakes. They have to learn how to do things on their own,” said Margaret O’Brian, another Charlotte Avenue parent.
The key, she said, to maintaining the garden and keeping it efficient is to make sure it is manageable. If it is too out of control, the garden becomes very difficult to take care of.
“The hardest part is getting donations,” said Newman. However, she is grateful for all the businesses that have donated to their cause.
The garden has received donations from businesses such as Pegasus Restaurant, John & Mary’s, Zittels, Lowes Home Improvement, Overdorf Co., Dibble True Value, Henry’s Greenhouses and Pinto Construction.
In addition, Lockwood’s Greenhouse and Nursery donated a special soil called Bumper Crop after seeing that the soil they were originally using was not sufficient for garden use.
The Hamburg Alumni Association donated money to school for them to add an arbor to the front of the garden. They are also thankful for the cooperation of Charlotte Avenue’s teachers, staff members, and dedicated parents.
The garden will not be neglected during the summertime when the students are home. “We put up a sign-up sheet so that we would have volunteers to water it over the summer and right away it was filled. The parent’s dedication to this project is amazing,” said O’Brian.
For those interested in visiting the garden, it is free and available for all Hamburg residents to use and pick out fresh vegetables. It will also take part in the Hamburg Garden Walk, which is July 14 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.
For more information on the Giving Garden or SOLE, visit www.seedsoflivingeducation.com.