Community garden blossoms from concrete courtyard at Lefler

Lefler Middle School’s courtyard area has blossomed from a nondescript patch of concrete to an organic community garden, filled with vegetables and herbs that are donated to the Food Bank of Lincoln every month.

Lefler English and publications teacher Michael Herres was the driving force behind the transformation, but it’s dedicated students from a Life Skills course that water, weed and harvest the produce.

“They’ve been an integral part of the maintenance of the garden,” Herres said.

The students have been policing a potential threat to the garden’s tomatoes, as well. They recently discovered hornworms, which feed off tomatoes. “You don’t want those to lay eggs in here and eat all our plants,” said one of the students, Ethan.

Hornworms are green moth caterpillars that can grow up to 5 inches in length before eventually turning into a moth. The discovery of hornworms has turned into a hands-on lesson about the life cycle. Right now the captured worms are at the larva and pupa stages.

“It’s been an impromptu science lesson for us,” said paraeducator Kristin Poulsen.

Last spring, Lefler students began the process of gradually transforming the courtyard, first by building the raised garden beds, then by hauling dirt and planting seeds.

So far the garden has supplied a variety of produce - peas, cabbage, turnips, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, eggplants, lettuce - as well as basil, dill, thyme and rosemary. The first Wednesday of each month, representatives from the food bank pick up the donated produce.

The next step, Herres said, is to send home a six-pack of seed packets with the students this spring so they can plant them at home and include their families in the process.

“Our philosophy isn’t so much to grow food,” he said, “it’s to grow gardeners.”

Published: October 11, 2017, Updated: October 11, 2017