BRISTOL - The kids attending summer camp at St. Joseph School are getting a chance to cultivate their green thumbs, with the opening of a new community garden there Friday morning.
The Public Works Department built a five by 12-foot raised garden at the school campus on Federal Hill, as part of the “Bristol Gardens - A Work of Heart” program.
The idea is to encourage students to go outside and get their hands dirty by growing their very own garden each season, said Lindsey Rivers, Public Works analyst.
She said every year Public Works gets a grant from Covanta, which operates an incinerator on Enterprise Drive where the city brings its solid waste. This year she decided to use the $23,000 grant to create school gardens, as well as purchasing rain barrels and composting buckets to go with each garden.
In May, South Side Elementary School got the first garden under the new program. St. Joseph got the second one.
“The kids are super excited about it,” said Brianna Serio, who teaches fourth grade at St. Joseph. “They are in kindergarten all the way through sixth grade. They’ve been asking all day when everyone is coming to plant it. The kids that are here for camp will get to tend it all summer and hopefully keep the plants alive. Then the kids can keep it going when we get back to school in the fall.”
“There’s some lettuce, some celery, I think they said peas,” she added. “The kids asked ‘can we eat it when it’s grown?’ We said, ‘sure, why not.’”
“South Side’s garden is bursting, just bursting now!” Rivers said. “We’ve got lettuce, peppers, squash. The peas are out of control. They have one tomato plant that they said the tomatoes are huge on it. The kids are taking stuff home. The PTO parents send me pictures, the principal sends me pictures. It’s going fantastic.”
Sarah Larson, Parks and Recreation Department community outreach coordinator, said the South Side kids will have a table at the downtown farmers market this summer. Then in the fall, the St. Joseph students will get their turn to sell their bounty.
Larson was helping Noah Frenette, who is going into kindergarten, plant some lettuce. Noah said he likes lettuce and the type he was planting is called “red leaf.” He pointed to the red edges of the leaves.
“Most of these are fall plants,” Larson said, indicating the lettuce. “We will probably see them ready to be harvested in late September, or October, but the farmers market goes into November so there will be plenty of time to sell them there. It will teach the kids entrepreneurial skills as well.”
Rivers said the next school set to get a garden is Stafford Elementary.
“In August we’re going to build it and we’ll do the ribbon cutting in September when the kids come back to school. They’ll do fall lettuce, pumpkins, stuff like that, so they can at least keep it going for a little bit. Then we’ll teach them to prepare it for winter, and in the springtime they will get going right away,” she said.
Rivers has previously said Mountain View Elementary and Bristol Central High School already have community gardens, so they will each get a rain barrel and compost bucket from the program.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.