Extensions programs guide young gardeners

Published 4:26 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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Submitted by Tana Shealey

Lowndes County Extension Coordinator

The play area behind the Lowndes Academy is busy with more than play these days. Kaye Merrett and Pam Powell’s 16 pre-kindergarten students are busy working in the play area, planting in their learning gardens.

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Each year, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) teaches Lowndes County students how to build raised-bed gardens and grow their own vegetables.  This month, Merrett and Powell selected spring planting to grow such plants as lettuce, spinach, collards, broccoli, and onions.

 “Our students just love to put the plants into the soil and watch them grow,” Merrett said. “It really helps them understand how they get fresh food. They have so much fun!”

According to Merrett, students planted “magic beans”, after reading “Jack and the Beanstalk” and now 6-inch bean stalks are growing in containers on the classroom’s window sills.

Urban Regional Extension Agent, Roosevelt Robinson, said combining learning and doing is invaluable to agriscience instruction.

“School gardens provide learners with a close-up look at a natural process,” Robinson said.. “From seeds to sprouts, flowers to fruits, children who participate in school garden initiatives experience the rewards of growing fresh produce, fostering a culture of environmental stewardship.”

Robinson has taught students to build raised-bed and container gardens at Hayneville Middle School, Ft. Deposit Elementary School, Lowndes Middle School, Lowndes Academy, and at the public housing areas in Mosses and Fort Deposit. He has conducted container gardening classes at the Good Shepherd Community Center and the Hayneville Senior Center.

While the Extension office in Lowndes County works with educators developing in-school gardens, Mr. Robinson explained parents can continue the learning process inexpensively at home.

“Growing fresh fruits and vegetables at home is as easy as using the 4 R’s, ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose. Incorporating this methodology in the home reduces household and landfill waste”, he said. “For example, each year over 17 billion toilet paper tubes are thrown away, with most ending up in landfills. A household of four people may throw away a toilet paper tube every single day of the year. Try using toilet paper rolls to start seeds for your home garden. Below is a step-by-step guide.” 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension Office receives support from Alabama A&M, Auburn University, the Lowndes County Board of Education, and the Lowndes County Commission to offer its educational programs. 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, an initiative of Alabama A&M University and Auburn University, is an equal opportunity educator, employer, and provider. 

For information on how to use toilet paper rolls to start seeds, visit https://www.instructables.com/Biodegradable-toilet-paper-roll-pots/.

To learn more about this educational program for schools, please contact the Lowndes County Extension Office at 335-548-2315.