As often is the case in small towns with volunteer city officials, our North Powder mayor has a day job and wasn’t able to join us for Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service on April 1st. We do look forward to hanging out with her in the future, though! As a representative of the mayor and city government, our city councilwoman Sue DeHause joined our 5th grade students for a fun afternoon of newspaper-pot-making and seed planting.
Through our FoodCorps and Farm to School program, our North Powder kids were learning about biodegradability way back in September. I bet you $20 that every North Powder 4th and 5th grader can tell you what can and can’t go in a compost pile; most of them can pronounce and define “biodegradability,” too! In keeping environmentally-friendly practices at the forefront of our garden program, we decided to try our hands at making newspaper pots. I took a wonderful seed-starting class in Hood River at Grow Organics (check them out!) and bought a wooden newspaper pot maker for $15. It makes a perfectly cylindrical pot from a strip of newspaper–and the wooden base allows you to create a sturdy bottom that doesn’t even need tape! I couldn’t purchase 2o of them, so we also used 8 oz mason jars and tomato paste cans (sealed with a bit of tape that can just be pulled off before planting.) Kids love that these little plots can be plugged directly into the garden!
We planted two types of broccoli: DeCicco, an heirloom variety, and Besltar, a hybrid. We touched briefly on the differences between heirloom and hybrid plants. Students learned how seeds from hybrid plants carry genetics from both “parents,” meaning the seeds won’t produce the same characteristics as their host. Some gardeners think it’s fun to plant collected hybrid seeds–who knows what bizarre or wonderful new variety may appear? But oftentimes these seeds may just produce undesirable flavors or be, well, “blah.” My favorite question came from super enthusiastic 5th grader Dalton: “If the seed grows something all freaky and weird looking, can you still eat it??” There’s nothing quite like seeing kids pumped about plant genetics!