School gardens plant seeds of healthy eating

November 27, 2016

Four North County schools have planted new gardens through a program that aims to help California students learn to grow and eat fresh food.

Healthy Planet, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, has sowed the seeds of school gardening at 39 sites around the state, including about 20 in San Diego County.

Over the past month Twin Oaks Elementary and San Marcos Elementary School in San Marcos, and Vallecitos Elementary School in Rainbow, planted gardens on campus. Temple Heights Elementary School in Oceanside is scheduled to dig its garden in the next few weeks, said Bryan Jersky, CEO and chief grower for Healthy Planet.

Dig Day at San Marcos Elementary

Dig Day at San Marcos Elementary

Each school installed raised beds where they will cultivate fruits, herbs and vegetables such as lettuce, potatoes, kale, spinach, basil, oregano, rosemary, carrots and strawberries, Jersky said.

The students help tend the gardens, while learning about nutrition, agriculture, ecology, composting and water management.

?They?re all edible gardens with a smattering of flowers,? Jersky said. ?We want to make sure they?re drought-resistant and attracting beneficial birds and insects. They have compost bins appropriate for the school size, so the kids can learn about waste reduction and decomposition. And then drip irrigation, to make sure that things are drought tolerant and water efficient.?

Students will also participate in projects that help them understand those concepts, Jersky said.

?Every school also gets access to our curriculum, which aligns with common core,? he said. ?Our curriculum is project-based, which allows them to take the garden into the classroom or vice versa.?

For instance, students can create miniature compost bins out of soda bottles, fill them with items ranging from apple shavings to plastic pieces, and test the differing rates at which they decompose.

A garden and corresponding school program costs about $4,000 to start up. Healthy Planet pays for that according to a sliding scale based on the number of students on free and reduced lunch programs, Jersky said. Schools contribute the balance, but must chip in at least 25 percent of the cost, in order to establish their commitment to the garden program. Twitter@deborahsbrennan

*Addendum by Healthy Planet:

A huge thanks to our partners: Eartheasy, Grangettos Farm & Garden Supply, Hawthorn Feed Store,?San Pasqual Valley Soils, DIG Corporation, Lowe’s, Woolly Pocket, Tarter Farm & Ranch Equipment, and?WTT Transportation.


Copyright ? 2016, The San Diego Union-Tribune