Pallet Gardening with Tomatoes
Kari Roberts, Union County High School, Indiana
2014 Region IV Ideas Unlimited Award Winner
The resources from which agriculture teachers draw their inspiration to take their programs to the next level is truly amazing. For Kari Roberts, agriculture teacher at Union County High School in Liberty, Indiana, an unused stack of pallets inspired her to transform her horticulture class into an essential part of the entire high school.
Roberts' students use leftover pallets from the program's agriculture shop to create pallet gardens. They cover the pallets on the bottom and sides with landscape fabric, fill the pallets with soil, and plant tomato plants in the pallets.
"My students really enjoy making the pallet gardens. They are in charge of watering, feeding, harvesting, and weeding the gardens. It is a great hands-on activity for them to try before going home to make their own pallet gardens with their families," said Roberts.
What began as a simple, hands-on activity has quickly evolved into a new school initiative. The pallet gardens now supply the Union County High School cafeteria with fresh tomatoes that are used on the salad bar. Students attending the high school now have locally-grown tomatoes to add to their lunchtime selection.
"Before starting this project, we discussed the ideas with our cafeteria manager and she thought it was a wonderful way to get fresh produce on our salad bar at lunch," added Roberts.
Pallet gardening is currently a popular trend in horticulture, allowing people with limited space to have gardens at home, supplying their families with fresh produce each day. Roberts hopes that her new approach to gardening will encourage members of her community to develop their own pallet gardens.
"We have spread the word through email and social media to members of our community. We definitely look forward to seeing many successful vegetable, herb, and flower pallet gardens around our community this summer," said Roberts.
As the project develops, Roberts hopes to not only supply the school's cafeteria with a fresh supply of tomatoes, but to also donate tomatoes to the school's food pantry. She plans to use the tomatoes in the program's upcoming food preservation and canning class as well.
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