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How does your garden grow?

By Jason Gabak, Skaneateles Press
At State Street Elementary School, not far from the playground, a patch of land has found a whole new use.
Through the diligence of Skaneateles resident and State Street parent, Ashley Palmer, this space is now dedicated to a third grade garden.
Palmer brought the idea with her when she and her family moved to Skaneateles two years ago from Virginia.
“My daughter’s school was already doing this in Virginia,” Palmer said. “When we moved here I thought this would be a great idea to do here.”
It didn’t take long for Palmer to find others who were responsive to her idea.
She spoke with Heather Carroll, executive director of the Skaneateles Education Foundation and before long she was awarded $500 through the elementary PTC for a pilot program.
“So many people thought this was a good idea,” Palmer said. “We received a lot of support to help get this started.”
With the PTC on board, Palmer also reached out to the others in the community to help with supplies.
She said Skaneateles Town Square also made a donation to help get the project on its feet.
Palmer also sought the support of the school board, which granted her the go ahead in early spring.
“We took this to the school board in April,” Palmer said. “They wanted to know what our lesson plans would be and how much class time we would use, but they were very supportive of our efforts and they gave us permission to do this.”
Once permission was granted, Palmer began working with the third grade students and teachers on the project.
This involved preparing the space, clearing the land, setting down mulch and erecting planter boxes.
“We had everything planned out,” Palmer said. “Everything we pre-cut and ready to go. We had a lot of help and volunteers and got everything ready to go.”
Since then, Palmer and other volunteers have met with students several times, taking their garden all the way from an empty patch of land to seedlings to a garden that is beginning to bloom.
“It has been exciting to see,” Palmer said. “We have had a lot of feedback from the teachers and parents and students. It has been really well received. The kids are going home and sitting around the table with their family and talking about what they are doing and they are excited about their garden.”
During a recent lesson, students met with Palmer and committee members Lori Harper.
Now that the garden is beginning to yield the beginnings of crops, there is more to pay attention to.
Harper shared a lesson in thinning with the students.
“It is hard to pull out a perfectly good plant,” Harper said. “But if you have three plants growing together and they are all squeezed together then none of them can really grow so sometimes you have to thin them out so they can grow as well as possible.”
Palmer said this is a project that she hopes will carry on and will continue to grow and develop year after year.
Throughout the summer, students and their family members have signed up to tend the garden. The “Water Week” volunteers visit the garden during their week of the summer. In addition to watering, they are welcome to pick and take that week’s harvest.
Palmer also plans to keep this a project for all incoming third graders.
“Maybe we will do something else for others grades someday,” Palmer said. “I hope this fall we will be able to have a little ceremony so this year’s class can sort of hand the garden off to the kids that will be in third grade next year.”
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Lynda Quick
45 East Elizabeth Street
Skaneateles, NY 13152