Tuesday, Jul 26, 2016
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Gardening

Weed It & Reap: Maria Learning Center

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The Blade features gardeners each Wednesday during the growing season. If you'd like to be considered for Weed It & Reap, contact Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.

Name: Sister Marie Suchala and 25 4-and-5-year-old students and their teachers, Lisa Nowak and Kelly Curtis, at Maria Early Learning Center in West Toledo. They dream about being Ohio State University cheerleaders, teachers, basketball players, cowboys, mermaids, and ballerinas.

Garden specs: A 700-square-foot space.


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When did you start gardening? Planning began in September, we cleared sod in March, and worked on it for two weekends with parents and gardening professionals (Denise Gehring, Matt Ross, Christina Antiporda, and Kathy Humphrey). The children started seeds indoors in early spring.


What do you grow? We have a sensory garden. For taste, we grow strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, basil, chives, rosemary, oregano, parsley, lemon balm, and peppermint. For smell: lilac, sweet fern, lovage, yarrow, thyme, ginger root, sage, phlox, lavender, and sweet woodruff. For touch: lamb's ear, celosia, hens and chickens, cockscomb, various mosses, rocks, comfrey, little bluestem, mimosa, pink heather, sedum.


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Sister Constance Marie Suchala, center, with students in the sensory garden at the Maria Early Learning Center.

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We have a water fountain for sound, wind chimes the children helped make, and chirping birds at our feeders. For sight: many flowering plants in bright colors. We have a native-plant section with prairie dock, mullein, butterfly weed, obedient plant, and horsetail. The children painted three Adirondack chairs. And we're growing a sunflower house: an eight-foot-square area outlined with sunflowers they'll be able to play in.


What do you get out of it? Discoveries! They can't believe how fast the flowers have bloomed; they're just astounded by the week-by-week changes. They love the worms and rearranging the wooden rounds that edge the garden. They worked like Trojans carrying buckets of compost. Even our 18-month-olds get involved. As the vegetables ripen, our cook will use them.


Hours spent gardening: Student estimates ranged from 2 to 89 hours a week, but we're outside at least 15 minutes a day.

Annual expense: Answers ranged from $10 to $1 million. Actual was about $1,000 for bushes, trees, berries, the fountain, rocks, and kid-sized gloves and tools.


Challenges: Digging, carrying, and raking the compost; planting, and watering. Fingers ache from using the squirt bottle!


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Sonia Mistry, 5, left, and Margaux Guerin, 4, do some planting.

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We're proud of: The flowers and strawberries growing fast!

Most used tool: Shovels, rake, water bottle, gloves.

Word to the wise: Plants need rain and lots of sun!


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