Students at Desert Sands Community School plant potatoes with the assistance of Communities in Bloom volunteers.

Students at Desert Sands Community School plant potatoes with the assistance of Communities in Bloom volunteers.

May is a busy month for Communities in Bloom volunteers

From planting potatoes at the school to planting barrels around downtown Ashcroft, the CiB members are keeping busy.

The beginning of May is one of the busiest times of the year for Ashcroft Communities in Bloom (CiB) members. While the floral section of the CiB program is but one small piece, it is the one that is the most time-consuming.

With 2017 being the 150th anniversary of Canada’s birthday, red and white will be a common theme everywhere. On May 10 CiB members, with help from other community volunteers, planted over 1,200 geraniums in the downtown core. The flower barrels along the streets, planters at the historic fire hall, and beds at the Journal office, the Heritage Park, and around the cenotaph at the Legion were all filled with flowers. What a beautiful show we will have when they are all in bloom!

The “partner barrels” saw Communities in Bloom members pairing up with Ashcroft’s mayor and councillors, CAO Michele Allan, and fire chief Josh White.

These barrels are located in front of the village office on Bancroft Street, and will also sport red and white colours, with a variety of plants chosen and planted by each partner pairing.

CiB members with Village of Ashcroft partners during the barrel challenge planting at the Village Office. Photo by Barbara Roden

For the past several years, CiB members have been sharing their expertise with the students at the local school, where the students are learning how to plant, grow, and care for both flowers and vegetables. The Kindergarten and Grade 1 students have a lot of fun learning about potatoes and sunflowers.

We plant the potatoes and sunflowers in raised beds in front of the school. The sunflower plants are in small pots, and the children are shown how to remove them from the pot and plant them in the soil. It is so fun to watch these little ones learning and trying something new. As gardeners, we also can’t believe that some of these little ones have never had their hands in the dirt. “I will get my hands dirty!” they say. But in the end they all got into the swing of things and had a great learning experience.

Seed potatoes are shown to the children, and it is explained that each “eye” will become a sprout and grow into a plant, with the new potatoes growing at the bottom. We do not plant the potatoes in the ground the conventional way; rather, the children lay the seed potatoes on the soil in the raised bed. They then cover the potatoes with a layer of straw approximately 16 inches deep. The potato plants grow up through the straw, with the potatoes forming beneath it. In September, when the students return to school, the potatoes are ready to harvest. They remove the straw to find the potatoes laying on the soil underneath. One of the Grade 1 students said “It’s just like finding Easter eggs!”

The teachers have the students count the potatoes, weigh them, and then have a day where they are cooked in a variety of ways for the students to eat. Not only are the students learning where their food is coming from, they also learn how it grows.

Thank you to teachers Charlee Marlow and Megan Marlow, as well as Terry Schalles from Cactus Country Farm, who donated corn straw to cover the potatoes.

Communities in Bloom volunteers at work in the Heritage Park. Photo by David Gory