My faculty is a vegetable patch. A garden patch of plants with an array of personalities and skills with different needs, styles, strengths, offerings, and flavors that always need tending. My faculty, my vegetable patch, always needs tending. It’s hard work – you reap what you sow. I’ve gardened in my past life as a teacher in rural Vermont – preparing, planting, tending, and harvesting. It’s hard work. You reap what you sow is a truism for gardening and “principaling”.
Preparing garden beds in the Spring was always a challenge. I remember breaking out the roto-tiller and turning over the soil. If you started too early, the soil was too wet and muddy. The tiller would inevitably get stuck in the wettest corner of the garden. Gathering pick-up loads of manure to mix in the soil was always essential. Once the soil was prepared and beds for planting were made, it was time to plant and watch the personalities take shape!
As with any faculty I’ve got a slew of personalities and faculty with wide ranging experiences, background, styles and needs. They mimic the classic vegetables in my Vermont gardens.
Tomatoes off the vine were always a huge treat. But, they were a little trickier to grow. They easily suffered early damage from frost if not protected. They needed careful tending in the early days. Late frosts in early June could damage tomato plants so one needed to cover them up at night with buckets. Some faculty need a bit of protection early in their years but, with the right conditions, can produce succulent tomatoes by mid-July.
Green beans and snow peas needed poles and wire mesh fencing to grab onto. Early scaffolding to support their journey was key! Give them a bit of manure in those early days, along with the scaffolding, and they are ready to go, the first veggies out of the block and sweet eating within weeks. They were hearty and productive but the scaffolding is essential. Early scaffolding to support learning and growing is essential in schools!
Zucchini is an impressive, but overwhelming, vegetable. It grew everywhere. It’s shoots crawled around a garden floor with the zest and speed of a weed! It was hearty and prolific. It was free spirited, high energy, and enthusiastic. If you threw a zucchini in a compost pile, more zucchini would sprout! In rural Vermont we resorted to a Zucchini festival as a satirical way to figure out what we should do with so many unplanned vegetables! But, just as every garden needs zucchini, every faculty needs spirited souls!
Strawberries were of interest to me. We planted them our first year in Vermont but with clear instructions to pick the first year flowers and dream of fresh strawberry shortcake in the second year. Picking the flowers and not allowing the plant to go to fruit allowed the strawberries to build a strong root system. If you want success in year two and beyond, building foundational roots is essential.
Asparagus were even more interesting. Asparagus beds take several years to become heartily productive. While you can harvest a few spears in the first few years, asparagus plants must be carefully tended for several years. With such care, they will be productive for decades! The maturity of asparagus has a role in every garden! Unfortunately, I never experienced success growing asparagus but I do feel as though I have been personally productive for several decades!
Watermelons needed lots of sunlight and warmth. They take about 4 months to grow and needed dry soil. They took patience. As well, you had to be careful about harvesting in order to time the sweetness of the fruit correctly. Patience with adults, giving the right amount of time and space for growth is an essential consideration.
Our gardens needed tending. They needed the weeds removed in order to ensure the weeds didn’t overly compete with the vegetables. Weeds can absorb energy and nutrients from the soil or strangle the roots of desired plants. Weeding is particularly important in the early days of tending a garden, when vegetable plants are establishing themselves. Having said that, excessive energy with the weeding may produce an appearance of neat and tidy rows, but the reality is that one can spend too much energy on the weeds. The influence of weeds on hearty vegetable plants may be minimal.
Appraising the growth and maturation of my garden patch was ongoing. Morning “walk thrus” worked well. Time spent on individual sections, digging into the soil, turning over the soil, providing the balance of manure, water, perhaps some food, removing beetles or other infesting bugs, and sometimes spraying with organic pesticides were ongoing tasks. Such actions signaled a level of care. Caring for plants, being present for them, and tending to them regularly was essential. It is similar with my faculty patch.
I’m not sure if I had an official garden appraisal system – except in the success of our products. Putting the right kind of energy into the garden was the key. It wasn’t about logging hours in the garden, it was about doing the “right work” in the garden. Striking the balance of weeding, watering, building fences, dusting with powder, and harvesting at the right moment. Without ongoing attention plants wilt, lose energy, or they can be over taken by weeds or even snipped away eaten by those pesky deer. The battle can be lost to outside forces if the tending is unmanaged, unplanned, or exceedingly random. Commitment, intelligent and planned action, and a vision for what one wants from a garden is critical for a bountiful harvest.