By Amani Ally
Garden Club — simple, easy, chill club, right? Think again! Club members face many challenges and difficult tasks. They have… growing pains.
The club is growing tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, beans, radishes, and jalapeno and bell peppers, report club leaders Annalise Wellman and Sofia Oliveira, both eighth-graders. They also have mint and parsley coming in and hope to add a “strawberry tower” after winter break. But the growing hasn’t come easily.
Two of the most challenging plants to grow have been tomato and cauliflower. The tomato plants caught a disease called blight. It is highly contagious and spreads through the air, infecting and killing all the tomatoes. The tomatoes also have a pest — nematodes, a worm that attacks the plant’s root
And the cauliflower never seems to survive.
“We went through at least 20 cauliflower plants,” Annalise said.
So the club is trying to focus on plants that can thrive in the garden, which covers 220 square feet in Okeeheelee’s courtyard.
Getting enough gardeners has been another challenge. Only five students have signed on, and the plants will die if they don’t get proper care. The group meets on Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m., and it welcomes new members.
Even the weather, which had been wet, has been a challenge.
Still, club members remain ambitious. In fact, they soon hope to start selling some produce in the front of the school.
Fortunately, the club has a number of factors going for it.
“I’ve been gardening since I was very little,” Annalise said. “I have a garden at my own house.”
She says the club’s goal “is to teach kids who live in an apartment or small space that they can get fresh vegetables no matter what their circumstances are.”
The 4H group provides donations and comes to help, Annalise’s father, construction teacher Nathan Wellman, pitches in, and band director Sarah Shearon offers advice.
Nathan Wellman said the garden probably needs to be enlarged and will start using hydroponic plants, those grown without soil. “We’re really trying to find out what will grow well,” he said.
By Amani Ally