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How PCWS Built an Award-Winning Biodynamic Garden in 10 Months

The school community gathers in the garden.

Image of Edible DC Award

Thanks to the hard work of our faculty, children, and families, the PCWS Strawberry Moon Garden is this year’s winner of the Judge’s Choice Best School Garden Award from Edible DC. Carol St. John, afternoon program teacher and biodynamic gardener, has led this project from the start and is much of the reason for its success. Congratulations are also in order to fellow veggie-loving schools, Capital City Public Charter School (People’s Choice Award) and Janney Elementary (runner-up).

Parents and children construct a compost bin on a sunny fall day.

The Strawberry Moon Garden, which includes the large garden on southeast side of our play area as well as several smaller beds on the north side, is truly a labor of love, both for our children and for the earth. Led by Carol St. John, parent volunteers broke ground in November 2016, and children helped by adding mulched leaves and red worms from our friends at White Rose Farm. Thanks to Home Depot’s donation of materials, we were able to build a large compost bin, which now provides a rich nutrient source for the garden. Parents donated materials for rain barrels, which help us reduce water waste.

Following a healthy dose of compost, the garden slept for the winter, while cover crops of buckwheat, crimson clover, and hairy vetch provided nitrogen-fixing to improve the soil for spring planting.

View of garden during winter, with some greens growing.

In the spring, the cover crops were turned into the soil and planting began, while we continued to nurture the soil. Our crops are fertilized with compost, manure, and herb-based biodynamic preparations. Students do the bulk of the work on the garden during their outdoor playtime, dedicated garden periods, and our afterschool program. All are involved, from our three-year-olds to our fifth graders. Planting, watering, weeding, and mulching all provide excellent opportunities for purposeful work and learning.

Students nurture the soil with biodynamic preparations.

Throughout the summer program and fall, students and teachers have harvested vegetables to eat as healthy snacks as well as to sell to our community. We’ve enjoyed kale, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and butternut squash, among other treats. The third grade plays a special role in the garden, as their curriculum includes farming. They harvest their crops weekly and sell them at pick-up on Thursdays—getting plenty of math practice in the process—with plans to use the proceeds for their weeklong farm trip this spring. Funds from summer sales were used to purchase seeds and other garden necessities. Not only is our garden good for the earth, but it is financially sustainable as well!

Third grade students sell vegetables and flowers at school dismissal.

All this love and care has resulted in healthy soil where our vegetables grow sweet and delicious, and healthy learning opportunities for students, who truly know where their food comes from and how it grows. While the garden is now at rest for the winter, we are looking forward to another year of spring planting, summer and fall harvesting, and good eating all year round!

Interested in learning more about biodynamic gardening? Save the date for a workshop at PCWS, “Biodynamic Gardening: What makes those vegetables so sweet?” on March 17th, 9am to 1pm. See for more details and to RSVP.

#Gardening #LearningbyDoing

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