Just maybe, the kids will eat a radish | TheUnion.com

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Just maybe, the kids will eat a radish

Custodian Don Fowler built the garden at Gold Run Elementary School, in Nevada City, in 1991 and ” no matter how hard parent volunteers worked at it ” the weeds and trees finally were about to take over.

So parents Aero and Kara Acton, owners of the Leaf it to Me tree and horticulture service in Nevada City, donated a crew on Monday to prune deadwood from the deodar cedar, fruit trees and grape vines and pull out weeds at the little plot on a corner of Zion Street.

“It’s enough for the kids and the moms just to plant,” said Kara Acton, whose two boys attend pre-school and second grade there. “We’re just trying to calm the jungle out there so they can work.”

Beneath the jungle canopy, children have been harvesting tomatoes, potatoes and winter squash. Dahlias from the garden adorn the school office, and children have hauled in pumpkins planted by last spring’s pre-schoolers.

With irrigation equipment donated by D & D Plumbing Supply, in Nevada City, the existing drip system will be updated in time to provide sufficient water for next summer. With compost donated by Rare Earth, in Grass Valley, the beds soon should be ready for students to plant cool-weather crops: Lettuce starts, onions, garlic, carrots and radishes, Acton said.

Most teachers make frequent use of the school’s garden program for their science instruction, Principal Kate Wiley said. Every classroom has its own raised bed.

Students “learn the whole process of seed to plant to fruit,” Wiley said. “It also teaches children the love of something that’s yours, and the pride of completion.”

Students also learn about the food cycle, live the value of patience and, when spring greens pop up, get the chance to try things they might not try at home such as ” ugh! ” salad, Wiley said.

Fowler created the garden in 1991 in his spare time with money donated by the Parent-Teacher Club. In like manner, he built the greenhouse in 1993, he said.

“At the time, nobody had a way to grow anything in their classrooms. … I wanted to get something up,” Fowler said. The greenhouse has misters, a potting bench and tool shed. The entire garden is on an automatic watering system, he added.

About 220 children from pre-school through second grade attend the school.

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To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail tkleist@ theunion.com or call 477-4230.