Garden-in-a-box at Jefferson school

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey Students hold up materials brought to Jefferson Elementary by the garden-in-a-box program, which included strawberries, basil and fencing for a raised garden. Pictured, left to right, Mariah Dreyer, Nolan Wohlers, Kaiser Conrad and Amelia Hinkle.

NEW ULM — Jefferson Elementary received new materials to expand its outdoor garden Wednesday.

Garden-in-a-box, a program of the Minnesota Horticultural Society (MHS), delivered dirt, raised-bed kits, plants and seeds to Jefferson Wednesday afternoon.

“When it comes to gardening, the most difficult thing is your startup costs,” Program Coordinator Sam Johnson said. “Once you have the soil and you have the kits, it really is not as expensive to go out and get your plants, and when people know what they are doing, it is easier to continue gardening from year to year.”

This is the second year Jefferson received goods from the program, adding a few more of the distinctive, round, mesh-supported polypropylene planters from the company Garden Circles.

The program delivers to communities all across the state. It partners with organizations to teach nutrition via gardening.

“We are looking for groups that work with children and/or people with low income,” Johnson said.

A number of tangental benefits are derived from the program, Johnson said. He touted gardening as an affordable outdoor activity that can teach biology as well.

Raised beds provide some advantages over traditional garden plots. They are more temporary, and landscapers can remove them with greater ease later than a tilled plot, if they do not work out.

Raised beds also can be used in places where normal plots would be impossible, such as a parking lot or on concrete.

“Currently we are piloting a partnership where we are giving these kits to community gardens that are trying to garden on plots that have contaminated soil,” Johnson said. “That way the plots are not just sitting unused because it is unsafe to eat the fruits or vegetables grown in them.”

Garden-in-a-Box is a grant-funded program started a decade ago to encourage kids to eat more vegetables. More information and applications are available at northerngardener.org.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.