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Charlotte Amalie
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Problematic Rains Good News for Garden

May 10, 2009 — Though the recent rains have presented obstacles to many, the continuing deluge has been a boon to the emerging garden at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School.
Student Tiffany Quetel's tiny tomato plant, which she calls "Baby," has become an adolescent in the three weeks since she carefully placed the seedling in her own rubber tire planter. In fact, all the plants have flourished with the manna from heaven, which has temporarily substituted for the garden's yet-to-be-developed irrigation system.
On Thursday a group of enthusiastic adults huddled under umbrellas surveyed the students' handiwork. Cabbages, basil, eggplants and tomatoes poked their green heads out of their tire enclosures.
The 25 planters, five rows of five, had at first seemed dwarfed by their tire enclosures. Not so now. The youngsters named and labeled the individual plants three weeks ago under the guidance of agronomist Richard Pluke, teacher Wendy Diaz and Chloe Byer of Grow VI. Two professionals from the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service — Carlos Robles and Albion George — make up the garden project. Volunteer June Archibald is on hand for this session, along with teacher Sherilette Smith.
When the group meets, ideas abound. Pointing to a retaining wall fronting the garden, Diaz says the wall is too bare.
"I'm going to see if art teacher Ola-Niyi can get his students to paint a mural on that," she said.
Then the discussion turns to what kind of paint and how it can't have lead. That discussion, in turn, leads to talk about the cyclone fence at the back of the lot, which faces Tropical Shipping property.
"There's loads of dust that comes from that," Diaz says.
"We need to plant something along the fence, like Passion Fruit," suggested Pluke.
Plans are made to contact the company about the dust hazard.
The youngsters weren't out this afternoon because of the rain. But, Diaz said, they have been monitoring their plants' growth. The students have already taken pride in their individual plants.
"You have to visit your plant," they were told early on. "It's like a pet you have to take care of," Pluke told them.
After George told Jamal Rivera about a 13-pound cabbage he had grown, Rivera declared that his cabbage would be "King, the biggest and best." That was three weeks ago, and now it's growing mightily, as if having heard its name.
The garden is far more than a botanical adventure: Its tendrils reach out to social issues, as well. George spoke about a similar garden he worked on last year at Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School.
"We had a garden for boys only," he said. "The boys stood off at first, but then they became interested in the growth; they grew very involved in the project. It became theirs. If they misbehaved at school, they weren't allowed to go to the garden. They were devastated, by that, and their behavior improved."
Emphasizing his point, George, said, "We've got to get our kids back."
Thursday's discussions yielded new ideas about protecting the garden and adding an orchard. Pluke pointed out the pigeon peas he had planted to the east of the garden, which will serve as a windbreak.
"They're strong plants," he said.
Avocado, lime, mango and sugar apple plants, brought from UVI, sit alongside the tires, ready to go in the ground. Ideas continue to spill out — Robles had suggested a flower garden, perhaps with zinnias and sunflowers.
"They could learn flower arranging and sell them to earn money for the garden," he said at the previous meeting.
The group will meet Tuesday. High on the list of things to do is the immediate need for an irrigation system.
Editor's note: The Source is monitoring the progress of the garden with a running account of what's needed, as well as the problems and the successes in the students' and volunteers' efforts.
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