Truman Public School gets busy growing

Michael Taylor, a Master Gardener through the University of Minnesota’s Extension program, points out a plant to Tyson James, 7. Taylor recently helped Truman Public School start a garden-in-a-box program, with the garden located behind the school.

There are 25 boxes behind Truman Public Schools full of herbs, vegetables and flowers. The school began a garden-in-a-box program at the end of the school year with the help of Michael Taylor.

Taylor, a Truman resident who also drives bus for the school, is a Master Gardener through the University of Minnesota Extension program. He has been a Master Gardener for four years. While there are about 4,000 across the state, there are just three in Martin County.

Along with the garden-in-a-box program, Taylor raises monarch butterflies that he brings to the Martin County Fair. Taylor also has taught some gardening classes through Fairmont Community Education and Recreation.

The garden-in-a-box program came to be after Taylor approached Truman school administrators in March.

“He pitched us the idea and we said yes right away,” said Superintendent Lisa Shellum.

She said there was an old swing set behind the school that needed to be taken down anyway for safety reasons, so volunteers came in and took it down. It made the perfect space for the boxes to go because it was already sectioned off.

Taylor applied for a grant and filled out all of the paperwork required before it was approved. All of the seeds, plants and materials needed were funded by the Minnesota State Horticultural Society and by the Children’s Garden in Residence program, which is sponsored by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

“We have to maintain this for three years. Every year they’ll give us new plants but we’ll keep the boxes,” Taylor explained.

Taylor said they decided on students in grades 3-6 to plant the gardens, which came out to about 57 kids who participated.

“The school kids came out by grade and picked the box that they wanted and then they planted in it,” Taylor said.

They started planting at the end of May while the students were still in school. Taylor pointed out that it was pretty late in the year to begin planting, but noted that almost everything has been coming up fine.

Plants in the gardens include: cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, broccoli, radishes, zucchini, basil, parsley, cilantro and geraniums.

Shellum said that when the students come back to school in the fall, they will harvest with Taylor. In the meantime, the daycare kids at the school will help water the plants and pick weeds during the summer.

“The kids can either take [vegetables or herbs] home, or during the school year the school can use it in the cafeteria too,” Taylor said.

“Whoever wants some or will use it is welcome to it,” said Shellum, noting that she likes the community aspect of the garden.

When asked why Taylor wanted to get the program started, his response was fairly simple.

“I like working with kids and I like gardening. It’s a good way to get kids involved,” he said.