4th grade students dig up potatoes

On a chilly November day, the 4th graders visited the gardens to harvest potatoes and help prepare the garden for the coming winter.

A week before Thanksgiving, seemed like a fitting time to learn about the potato.  This plant was first farmed in Peru by the Incas and was brought to Europe by the Spanish.

It later made its way back across the Atlantic to North America, but not in time to be eaten at the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth.  We learned about the parts of the potato plant and that while it can be grown from a seed, most potatoes grow from other potatoes underground.

We dumped out the sacks of potatoes that had been planted in the spring by last year’s 4th graders and found that they had spread underground!

There were so many of them!  We dug the potatoes out from the dirt and saw all shapes and sizes – from the size of marbles, up to a few inches.

We also talked about our responsibility to the environment, and how important our immediate surroundings are.  We collected the painted stones that students made last year for the  “Only One You” exhibit and put them in a safe place for the cold, snowy months ahead.  Look for them outside again in the Garden Classroom next spring!

4th Graders plant potatoes and nasturtiums

The 4th Graders explored the Garden Classroom and planted potatoes and nasturtium seeds this spring.

They planted nasturtium seeds in our herb boxes as well as in two of our our clear-sided planter boxes. They all knew that herbs are used for beauty in the garden, to attract pollinators, to flavor food, and for medicine.

The leaves, flowers, and seeds of the nasturtium are all edible. The seeds can be pickled and eaten like capers! Nasturtium have more lutein than any other edible plant, which is good for your eyes. They also contain vitamin C and were used to help with chest congestion. We talked about how the seed’s hard shell protects it from predators and moisture.

Scraping at the seed coat with sandpaper and soaking it overnight allows the water in to soften the shell, so it can germinate more quickly.

They also planted potatoes in some fabric sacks right above the garden classroom. While potatoes do form seeds in the berries that grow from the greens, we usually grow potatoes by planting actual potatoes! Roots and shoots will grow from the eyes and new potatoes will grow off of the roots.

You never want to eat a green potato, because that means it’s been exposed to sunlight. When exposed to sunlight they create a toxin called solanine. The green color is actually just chorophyll, which is not dangerous, but it gives us a clue that they must have been exposed to sunlight.

We also had fun smelling all of the herbs in the herb boxes. Check out the lemon thyme and chocolate mint!

Thank you to Jeanne Caldwell for helping with the garden visit!

4th Graders find potatoes

This year’s 4th graders got to harvest the potatoes planted by last year’s 4th graders. They learned about how a “potato seed” is actually just a potato. When planted, shoots grow up so the leaves can help make food for the plant, and new potatoes grow along the roots underground. We dumped out the potato sacks and they searched through the big pile of dirt to pull out all of the potatoes they could find. We didn’t find all that many and most of them were small. Hopefully, some of the classes can do some research to help us figure out why the potatoes didn’t grow well and let us know what we need to do differently to have a better crop next year!

We used the soil from the potato sacks to plant some seeds that were saved from the vegetable garden. Each class planted seeds for dill, garlic chives, marigolds, and beans. They also brought back one of the potatoes to observe as it starts to sprout.

We’re looking forward to watching everything grow in their classrooms over the next few weeks!