Idea for school garden grows

St. Peter installing pavers, new plantings in formerly unusable space

From left, Kevin Boyle, Craig Schrimpf, Kyle Rimel and Kevin Yarnell, all of Schrimpf Landscaping, begin work on a paver stone patio Thursday afternoon at St. Peter School.

From left, Kevin Boyle, Craig Schrimpf, Kyle Rimel and Kevin Yarnell, all of Schrimpf Landscaping, begin work on a paver stone patio Thursday afternoon at St. Peter School. Photo by Kelley McCall.

This spring, floral fragrance and color will burst forth from the enhanced garden at St. Peter Interparish School.

Hopefully, students will be smelling herbs, pulling weeds and attending classes in the 2,400-square-feet outdoor setting, too.

And first-grade teacher Betsy Lauf, garden coordinator, hopes to see fruit from the garden served in the cafeteria and other produce used for art projects, too.

For now, students must watch from windows as the space is converted from an open plot of Missouri natives to a usable space with pavers and new plantings.

“It’s exciting stuff,” Lauf said.

St. Peter Interparish School was among 10 Missouri schools and community organizations to receive more than $800 of new gardening supplies — including seeds, fruit trees and tools — from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Stark Bros. Nursery and Morgan County Seeds through the 10,000 Garden Challenge School and Community Contest.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture announced the recipients at the Missouri State Fair. Winners of the contest were determined by online voting at www.AgriMissouri.com.

The purpose of the challenge was to connect Missourians with agriculture, local foods, the outdoors and healthy eating, said department director Jon Hagler.

Other state recipients include community gardens, a senior center, preschools and other elementary schools.

The 10,000 Garden Challenge began in the spring with the intention to register 10,000 Missouri gardens to promote agriculture, gardening, health and nutrition. After every 1,000 gardens are registered at the Agri-Missouri website, a drawing is held for a $500 gift certificate from Tractor Supply Company.

The website also provides classroom activities and lesson plans for teachers, gardening tips and advice, and a registry of Missouri’s public gardens. More than 5,000 Missourians have registered so far.

The gift certificates from a Missouri nursery and a Missouri garden company also have allowed St. Peter to enhance the garden area.

“It was too big of a space to maintain, and there was no place for the kids to sit,” Lauf said.

Once “wasted space” hardscape covered in asphalt but not usable for parking, the area received attention three years ago from a few teachers who brought in dirt and planted Missouri natives with the help of a Missouri Department of Conservation grant, Lauf said.

“I think about that ugly, old parking lot ... the transformation is pretty big,” Lauf said.

Engraved pavers will offer an ongoing fundraiser for the garden project. Lauf would like to add umbrella-covered picnic tables to the space to encourage students and classes to meet in the garden for special projects or to eat lunch.

“When it’s done, it will be cool,” Lauf said. “Maybe we’ll even have a garden club.”

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