BRISTOL - Students at Greene-Hills K-8 School got their chance to show off their green thumbs Wednesday morning, as their school became the third in the city to plant a community garden through the “Bristol Gardens - A Work of Heart” program.
While students were on summer break, the city’s Public Works Department built raised gardens at Greene-Hills, Stafford and Ivy Drive schools. Greene-Hills students planted theirs with lettuce, herbs and garlic, with Stafford to plant on Thursday and Ivy Drive on Friday.
The program’s mission is to use gardening to promote hands-on learning experiences that complement curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to bring the garden items home to eat with their family or sell them at the farmers market in the fall.
Herbs planted at Greene-Hills included sage, parsley and rosemary.
The sage will be made into an all-natural cleaner, said Lindsey Rivers, Public Works analyst. “You mix it with vinegar and lemon, it takes about two weeks to make. Then the kids can use it as a cleaner in art or science class, or whatever they want to use it for, science class. It’s just one more project for them to learn and do.”
“We have a neighbor who lives right nearby. He’s going to help take care of the garden next summer, and his kids will come out and help,” she said.
The neighbor, Roger Castonguay, has two children at Greene-Hills - twin first-graders Lucy and Layla. The girls were among the 10 children who helped with the planting.
“We just moved to our house next door to the school in April but our other house had so many gardens,” Castonguay said.
Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu; Principal Scott Gaudet; Sarah Larson, Parks and Recreation Department community outreach coordinator; and Katie Hennessy, Parks and Recreation intern, were among the other adults on hand to help.
Rivers handed out the plants and explained where to position them, how to poke a hole in the soil, and how to spread straw over the garlic to keep it warm during the winter until it grows next spring.
“In the springtime, we’ll do a huge garden with tomatoes and squash and all that but right now we can’t because it’s gonna be cold,” she said. “This is just to let the kids do a little bit, get their hands dirty right now.”
Last May, South Side Elementary School got the first garden under the new program. In June, St. Joseph School got the second one.
Rivers 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 for the school gardens, as well as purchasing rain barrels and composting buckets to go with each garden.
“We’re working with Northeast next,” she said. “We’re meeting with their principal next week, to build with their garden. If any principal wants a garden they can reach out and we meet and figure out where to put it.”
That includes parochial schools, she added. “At St. Joe’s we already did it. If St. Matthew or Immanuel Lutheran want to do it they can reach out to me. We’re more than willing to help.”
Rivers has previously said that Mountain View Elementary and Bristol Central High School already had community gardens before this program got started.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.