A “Pass Along” Pandemic Garden Project
As the saying goes, “it all started in a garden.” In the fall of 2019, Randolph County Master Gardener℠ Volunteer Kim Lemons was contacted by Nikki Domally, Principal of Lindley Park Elementary School to help facilitate a garden lesson with the kindergarten classes. Master Gardener℠ volunteers are trained by NC State University to be an educational outreach resource for the community. They promote gardening and home horticulture through public education and promote research-based, unbiased gardening practices.
Asheboro resident Worth McBride had built two raised beds near the kindergarten classrooms as part of his 2018 Eagles Scout Project. The initial plants were mostly annuals and had died out. It was time for a garden make-over! The school PTO provided funding for supplemental soil and plants. On a cool day in mid-October of 2019, the young students worked in pairs to dig holes and put in pansies in two raised beds. Mother Nature did the rest. Everything was looking beautiful heading into January, February, and March. Countless teachers and students enjoyed the colorful pansy faces during daily recess. As an added touch, a simple garden flag waved “Hello.”
Fast forward to Friday, March 13, 2020… and the pandemic precautions that followed. All the colorful pansies continued to thrive into spring… although few people ever saw them. Heading into mid-April 2020, Ms. Lemons had lots of “pass along” plants ready for the annual Randolph County Cooperative Extension Community Association indoor yard sale. With the sale canceled, what would be a good use for all the plants that had been potted up since October of 2019? With approval of the school principal, a new garden project was started at Lindley Park School. With most indoor activities canceled, volunteer opportunities were limited. It was the perfect time to get outside in the cool spring air. Using only “pass along” plants, seven patio garden areas were refurbished with hardy perennials that will require minimum maintenance and will thrive year after year.
The school patios are approximately 2ft x 15ft, surrounded by cement, and vary in sun exposure. These spots are now filled with Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Black-Eyed Susan, Perennial Sunflower, Yarrow, and Fanny’s Aster. Minimal weeding was done and the young plants were set in place. A thick layer of cardboard was added to smother out weeds and a heavy layer of mulch topped it off. As with many things in life, timing is everything. Just after the mulch was added, Mother Nature provided a bountiful 2 days of rain. All the plants in the patios thrived, grew, and bloomed with only the water that nature provided. As the heat of May arrived and pansies in the raised beds succumbed, “pass-along” marigold seeds quickly germinated, grew, and bloomed proficiently until November.
As fall arrived, an anonymous donor at the Asheboro Farmer’s Market gifted 10 vegetable plants for raised bed #1 and raised bed #2 welcomed pansies again. And so, the cycle is complete. Now as we live thru this first pandemic winter, the perennial garden plants are resting. Their roots are growing and awaiting spring. With perennial plants, it is often said, “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the 3rd year they leap.” How appropriate that these hardy bloomers will LEAP. The Lindley Park School motto is “Leopards LEAP” (Learn, Encourage, Achieve, Persevere). That is a lesson that all of us could take note of during these pandemic days. There is always something to learn. There is always something we can do to encourage ourselves and others. There is always something good that we can achieve. Now is the time to persevere. It is going to be a beautiful spring and summer at Lindley Park School in 2021…and for years to come.