Parents and members of a Girls Scouts troop plant seeds during ‘clean up the grounds’ day st St. Pius X in West Toledo.
St. Pius X fifth graders Maria Richard, left, and Lauren Hitts with teacher Jen Ohms.
Today, The Blade launches the fifth year of Weed It & Reap, in which Tahree Lane speaks with area gardeners who love what they do, whether in plots small, large, or with unusual content. Tell us what’s unique about you or your garden in a sentence. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 419-724-6075, or fill out the questionnaire at toledoblade.com/weedit.
Name: Jen Ohms, teacher, and the 5th graders at St. Pius X, in West Toledo.
Garden specs: 22-by-20-foot, three 2-by-5-foot raised beds, and a circular pizza garden. Every year we make it bigger.
When did you start gardening: In 2011, I was involved in the YES service project with 120 teens in which we built a garden using plants from Toledo Grows. They donated the leftover vegetable plants to help start our school garden. The following spring, the grandfather of one of our students who runs a farm donated seeds.
PHOTO GALLERY: Jen Ohms' garden at St. Pius X
What do you grow? Potatoes, carrots, different types of tomatoes, radishes, kale, broccoli, lettuce, basil, green and banana peppers, raspberries, parsley, celery, okra, pumpkins, watermelon, cucumbers, acorn squash, and a blueberry bush. The pizza garden has basil, oregano, banana peppers, and tomatoes. Last year someone gave us corn seeds from Peru and people were amazed to see stalks almost twice the size of Ohio corn. Unfortunately, the cobs didn’t mature but the kids could see the different colors of the kernels that were starting to form. We had a pumpkin that was green on one side and orange on the other. We drew two different faces on it and ate toasted pumpkin seeds.
Favorite plant: Kale. The children love kale chips. Here’s how we made them: cut or tear kale leaves from the spines, toss leaves with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. It was fun to watch the pumpkins and watermelons grow. [Fifth graders Maria Richards and Lauren Hitts said they loved baking french fries, having garden celery with peanut butter, and eating carrots and mini salads in Dixie cups. They also liked cutting up veggies and taking them to all the other classes to snack on.]
Give us a tip: Homemade pesto is delicious on crusty bread. We made it with basil straight from the garden: pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, mixed in a blender and served on crusty bread rounds.
Hours spent gardening per week: We will plant our seedlings Tuesday when we’ll celebrate Earth Day, thereafter students will water the garden every school day. Over the summer, families sign up for a week of watering and weeding, and they come nearly every day to care for the plants. When the produce is ripe, we harvest it once or twice a week and the fifth graders make snacks for our class or, if we have a lot, for everyone.
Annual expense: Probably $100 to $200. It’s not in the school budget so we rely on donations. In spring, we hang ornaments on a tree in the church vestibule on which we ask for plants and seeds we’d like to have. Parishioners take the ornaments, buy, and donate those plants. In addition, two parishioners who are landscapers, Kurt and Kyle Kraftchick of Kwik Kutters Lawn & Landscape Care and Scott Horoszewski of ACME NLS, LLC, donate tons of soil, mulch, stones, and rototill new beds. This spring, we had help from a Girl Scout troop of first-graders who helped clean up and plant in April to earn their community service badge. One year we won a grant from a kids’ gardening website which paid for chicken wire to put around our beds. I buy whatever else is needed.
Challenges: Keeping up with the weeds and keeping out the rabbits and squirrels.
I’m proud of how the students are experiencing a variety of vegetables they normally might not eat. The fifth graders love taking ownership and responsibility for the garden. And our garden is, for the most part, successful; I don’t yet have a green thumb and am learning what to do and not to do along with the students.
What do you get out of gardening? Many lessons translate to the classroom. I believe it’s important to teach nutrition. It’s fun to watch plants grow and to learn the science behind it as well as learning about the insects and animals attracted to the garden. I wintered over five swallowtail chrysalises in my garage — they like parsley and carrot tops — and will bring them into the classroom this week to hatch and release.
Contact Tahree Lane at: email@example.com or 419-724-6075.