Going to ground

Fourth grade students from Penny McDermott’s classroom at Sam Case Elementary School in Newport were busy planting at the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and School Garden on Tuesday, May 28. This project is headed up by Lincoln County Master Gardeners, who helped the students raise the plants from seed. (Photo by Steve Card)

A group of enthusiastic fourth graders, with guidance from a number of Lincoln County Master Gardeners, moved more than 850 plants this week to their summer home — the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and School Garden.

It was the next phase of the growing process for students in Penny McDermott’s classroom at Sam Case Elementary School in Newport. The students, also with help from master gardeners, had planted a wide variety of seeds in pots on April 11, which were then placed in a greenhouse at the school. Since then, the seedlings have been under the watchful eyes of the young people and master gardeners alike.

Tuesday, May 28, was planting day, and everything was transported to the garden next to Newport’s historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Master gardener Michael Christy is the primary coordinator and mentor for this garden project, and he is assisted by Doug Hoffman, another master gardener.

“It’s probably the largest and the best showing of what we did in the greenhouse this year with the kids,” said Christy. “We had a much better start than we’ve had in the past. We went to larger pots, which gave them a better chance for growing — like squashes and zucchinis are just awesome right now.” He added that they had a lot of help from the apprentices who completed the master gardener training program earlier this year.

The plants did so well in the greenhouse this spring that some, in particular the radishes, are actually ready to harvest now. “That happens,” Christy said. “Ideally, you’d spread your planting over three, four, five weeks maybe because they all have different germination times. We’re doing them all at one time. Radishes are usually first out of the gate. They’re ready to eat. Some things take a little longer.”

New to the garden this year is a special pollinator section. “It’s dedicated to pollinators in general,” said Christy. “There’s a bee hotel over there … but it’s not just for bees. It’s for butterflies and the whole works.” The lighthouse garden is also a certified wildlife habitat.

This was the final time that these particular students were involved with the plants they started from seed, but next fall, McDermott’s new class of fourth graders will harvest the plants that were placed in the garden beds this week.

In the meantime, the master gardeners will keep a close watch on the garden’s progress. They will tend the plants on a daily basis, and as produce becomes ready, it will be harvested and taken to the local food pantry. During next fall’s big harvest, all of the produce gathered by the students will be donated to the food pantry.

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