School Gardens Get Head Starts with Free Seeds

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Sue Matz, a W. H. Taft Elementary volunteer, collects flower seeds for the school’s garden.

Sue Matz, a W. H. Taft Elementary volunteer, collects flower seeds for the school’s garden.

By Christine Wolff

Come May, William H. Taft Elementary School’s students could be making salads and herb dressing — all from ingredients grown in Taft’s school garden.

Sue Matz, a retired chemist who loves gardening, is working with Taft’s students toward that salad-making goal. First step, plant some seeds.

On February 13, Matz joined a dozen other volunteers and teachers interested in nurturing school gardens at the annual free School-Garden Seed Giveaway sponsored by the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati. In a hands-on workshop at the Center’s home on Reading Road, they learned the basics of starting seeds indoors so young plants are ready to move outside in spring.

Each participant then enjoyed browsing among bowls of seeds, collecting in little plastic bags the varieties desired for each school garden.

Bowls of free flower and vegetable seeds filled four tables.

Bowls of free flower and vegetable seeds filled four tables.

Bowls brimmed with seeds for veggies such as kale, peas, a red-and-green lettuce mix, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula and carrots; and flowers such as Bachelor’s Button, Zinnia, Nasturtium, Valentine Sunflowers and Sonja Sunflowers.

“The kids asked for more flowers this year,” said Matz, scooping Bachelor’s Button seeds into a bag. “So we’ll have lessons about pollination.”

This is Matz’s fifth year volunteering in Taft Elementary’s garden in Mt. Auburn, and she sees the advantages for students as they learn about growing from seeds and harvesting what they grow.

“There are a lot of kids who don’t have the chance to put their fingers into dirt,” she said.

Lizzy Chirlin, another volunteer, has “big plans” for a new school garden on the Hays-Porter School campus in the West End. Chirlin lives across the street. In November, planting beds went in, about 40 feet by 40 feet, which will be home to all kinds of vegetables, she said.

Lizzy Chirlin, a volunteer, scoops up arugula seeds for new garden beds at Hays-Porter School.

Lizzy Chirlin, a volunteer, scoops up arugula seeds for new garden beds at Hays-Porter School.

“I work with the kids one afternoon a week,” Chirlin said. “We’re also putting in fruit trees — pear, apple, peach, plum — to form an espalier (trellis or framework) along the fence.”

This is the fifth year for the Center’s seed giveaway to school gardeners, said Ellie Falk, the center’s youth education coordinator. Her goal is to support schools to start and maintain gardens; currently, about 20 gardens are thriving on Cincinnati Public Schools’ campuses.

Missed this seed giveaway?

Contact Falk; some seed varieties still are available.

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