Two master gardeners were on-site to help a team of fourth and fifth graders build the new additions to their school garden.
Following the trend of going green, Osceola Elementary, under the direction of two master gardeners, took that up a notch and added the first hydroponic garden powered through its own solar tower on school grounds in Ormond Beach.
A team of science-loving fourth and fifth graders stayed after school to help Master Gardeners Russ Royce and Karen Diedo build the school's new garden, taking turns digging a hole for the solar tower, arranging pipes for the hydroponic garden and putting in the nutrients into the white baskets. The project will help to further the kids' STEM knowledge, as well as teach them discipline, said Royce.
The vertical hydroponic garden will be virtually self-sustaining, but it will still need to be checked by the students every so often.
“One of the unique things in using a vertical tower is that we use no soil," Royce said. "It’s soil-less. So in order to supply the plants with the proper nutrients, we have to put a nutrient in the water.”
Diedo said helping out in the school garden is helping the students see the process of planting and gardening firsthand, which is new for many of them.
“They like the produce, but none of them have ever had the chance to grow it themselves— or very few," Diedo said.
She said the very first day they began planting this year in early September, some of the students asked if they would be able to eat the produce the following week. Since then, they've learned that it takes a little bit longer than a week for seeds to sprout.
Osceola Elementary's garden is almost in full bloom, with Swiss chard, radishes, collards, tomato plants, pepper plants and beans ready to be harvested. The students have to wait a little longer for the lettuce, carrots and beets, which are just emerging.
Another lesson they hope the students take away from the new hydroponic garden is that it can be used to grow produce even if they don't have a yard back home, Diedo added.
“You don’t need to dig," Diedo said. "So even if you’re a renter, your landlord won’t let you dig up your backyard, you can still have one of these and grow your own produce.”