At the Walker Grant Building they have a flower and vegetable garden for the children. It's sensory oriented, they get to touch, smell, harvest and taste what they grow. This garden is a bit different from surrounding gardens that are close by. It's tucked away in the back corner of the Walker Grant building on the preschool side and it's a Microclimate. What's a Microclimate? The dictionary defines a micro climate as a small or restricted area, especially when this differs from the climate of the surrounding area. Basically, it's a lot warmer in that corner because of the brick wall and large windows from the classroom and gym. This allows the garden to flourish when others in the neighborhood are dormant or no longer producing. The slightly higher temperature in this area can be good and bad.
The good is what the children get to see. They've witnessed strawberries flower and ripen in December. Tomatoes are still being harvested up until mid November after Autumn's first frost has claimed others. Some of the leafy greens will survive the winter, the closer they are to the wall. It's like a cozy blanket keeping them warm in the cold. Many root vegetables stay snug and yummy tucked away in the soil all winter.
With all the warmth this area produces for the garden in the cool Autumn and winter months, when spring and summer rolls around it produces a heat that feels like a million suns bearing down on you. The temperature can sometimes feel double of what it actually is, even on a day of 60-70 degrees the garden can feel the heat and it begins to show through the plants. This produces something the children get to see that many people don’t. Most of the vegetables in the garden don’t always get harvested in time and if we have a warm weekend or a holiday some of the vegetables go into survival mode.What do I mean? The children will come back and see the carrots and radishes they planted grow tall and begin to flower, from this they learn where the seeds come from. Who knew Radishes created seed pods for their seed and carrots are in the queens anne's lace family and produces a really pretty flower?
They see Brussel sprouts grow tall and the flower buds resemble Broccoli, of course they do because they're in the same plant family and Broccoli is a flower that we eat. How exciting! Once that bud opens up its pretty yellow flowers, the bees buzz all over and enjoy.
The small salad green arugula that many of us love for its spicy kick in our salads and on our pizza can grow to a massive bush and produces the prettiest pale yellow flower that turns into long pods filled with seeds. They'll grow, dry out and pop open and fall to become our volunteer plants for the next fall season's arugula, and will survive the winter in the garden.
Khalilah Brooker is a Garden Educator at Downtown Greens. She works closely with the children in the Garden Sprouts Program and the Youth Farm Program.
This article was originally published in the June 2023 edition of Front Porch Magazine. Read the full publication by using the link below.