Thursday, August 15, 2019

Some Summer Gardening Success at Princeton Schools

There can be a tendency for school gardens to suffer neglect during the summer, but many in Princeton are doing surprisingly well. There are the gardens on the grounds of Riverside Elementary that are best known and continue to flourish, but quite a few others as well. Behind Community Park Elementary, there was a wildflower garden in the courtyard behind the school that over the years got taken over by the most aggressive wildflowers--sunflowers and goldenrods, which have those strong rhizomes that other wildflowers can't compete with. This year, a friend and CP parent, Georgette, decided to renovate the garden and asked me to co-teach an after-school class for the purpose. After a lot of work, some of it done by the kids, who went at it with considerable zest and confidence, the garden now is transformed, with hills of corn planted Indian-style, a tipi trellis for string beans, a few wildflowers and switchgrass from the original planting, and some unusual crops,

like cotton,

and amaranth. The quinoa, not shown, looks a lot like the amaranth, which makes sense since they are both in the Amaranthaceae family. It was interesting to discover that a common edible weed in our summer gardens, lambsquarters, is in the same genus as quinoa: Chenopodium.

Some of the weeds at Community Park, as the photo shows, are hard to reach (hope that's not evidence of some serious deferred maintenance),

but we did manage to pull out enough foxtail grass, pilewort, and velvetleaf (photo) to get the intended plants ready for the opening of school. The velvetleaf, by the way, is in the same family as cotton, the Malvaceae, as is the native Hibiscus in the wetland below.

Now's a good time to take a stroll down Walnut Street and stop by the Princeton High School ecolab wetland. Native hibiscus, joe-pye-weed, wild senna, giant cup-plant all are at a perfect height for viewing from the railing. I was over there the other day and happened upon a woman holding a large bouquet of flowers (bought, not picked from the wetland) and a young man all dressed up and serious, who appeared to be proposing. A proposal of marriage next to our wetland? I think we're onto something with this wetland garden thing.

The wetland was completely unfazed by the recent heavy rains. I just hope the school survived. This fan on the wooden performance stage brings back memories of the flood damage a couple years back, but a sign said they were waxing the floors.

And behind the highschool, the gardens may not be proposal-worthy, but a few of the raised beds are in good shape. Though the bed on the right shows how foxtail grass will take over any bed that's not cared for, the native cutleaf coneflower (tall yellow flower) and New England aster we planted a few years back have expanded to two beds instead of the original one. Some angel gardener must be helping this happen.

The coneflowers in turn will attract more yellow in the form of goldfinches as the seeds begin to ripen.

Visited a month ago, Littlebrook Elementary has a fine crop of milkweed feeding the monarchs, and a nature trail that handyman Andrew Thornton has been tending to with the help of some sophomore volunteers.

1 comment:

  1. I'd never heard of velvet leaf and found this:

    Interesting enough, there appears to be quite a bit of beneficial faunal associations with this non-native plant.