• 73°

Growing green thumbs: China Grove Elementary starts garden

A closer look

Ethan Tran, a third-grader at China Grove Elementary School, leans over to peer at seedlings growing in the school’s new garden. Rebecca Rider/Salisbury Post

By Rebecca Rider


CHINA GROVE — It’s been a long time since China Grove Elementary School has had a garden. In fact, media center coordinator Beverly Litke isn’t sure if the school has ever had one — not really.

But the school had the beds for it. Just a few rectangular raised beds made out of simple wood boards. They were built seven or eight years ago for third-grade classes studying plant life.

Every year or so, a teacher will try to plant flowers or seeds in the hard, red clay, but the green-thumb experiments have always fizzled out.

“They’ve never done anything special,” Litke said.

But this year, Litke and the third-graders aim to change that. With trowels, watering cans and a horde of would-be gardeners armed with enthusiasm, if not knowledge, they hope to nurture something green and growing.

The idea is one Litke credits to a conversation with local farmer Josh Safrit.

“And he just happened to casually say, ‘Do you have a garden project?’” she recalled.

Litke told him about the empty beds, and Safrit told her about a grant.

The entire third grade helped put together the application for a grant from the Farm Bureau, with students writing letters asking for help getting the garden off the ground.

China Grove Elementary was awarded $200, which the school used to purchase soil, seeds and worms. Most of the money was spent on soil, Litke said, on the advice of local farmers who visited the school.

“The two farmers who came out here said, ‘Ain’t noting gonna grow in here,’” Litke said, laughing.

Now, the soil is rich and black, and starter squash plants hang over the edge of the beds. One bed has been devoted to growing corn from seed. The young plants came from the parents of third-grade teacher Gretchen Brown.

Each class takes a turn in the garden. For the students, it’s a living lesson.

“We’re learning how plants work,” student Margo said.

Traditionally, the third-graders spend the last part of the year learning the plant life cycle — from seed to bloom. Now, they get to see it happen right before their eyes.

Students, some of whom have never worked in a garden before, are eager to talk about the project, easily rattling off the names of the plants growing there: peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, corn. They’re even eager to talk about the worms, which some of the students have started naming for fun.

“My favorite part of working in the garden is when we get to actually plant in the garden because that’s just fun to me,” student Taylor said.

And then there’s the magic of watching seeds sprout, grow and turn into something with leaves. Then it produces food. Some students have found that, while they’re waiting for that eventual day, they’re learning something else along the way.

“It would kind of teach us patience so we’re not always eager and stuff,” student Hailie said.

School’s almost out, but Litke said she plans to continue tending the garden through the summer. She’s thinking about enlisting the help of students in summer school. If not, the care — and the crop — will go to the school’s custodial staff.

But she, and others at the school, hope the garden will last far longer than the summer season.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 


High School

High school football: Hornets overpower South to secure playoff spot


Jeffrey MacDonald won’t be released despite deteriorating health


Amazon warehouse workers reject union in Alabama


Ex-NFL player’s brain to be probed for trauma-related harm after Rock Hill shootings


Duke University to require COVID vaccinations for fall term


Cooper OKs bill offering K-12 students summer school option

High School

High school football: Record night for Pinckney as East cruises; Carson wins thriller in OT


D-Day survivor, WWII torch bearer Ray Lambert dies at 100


Prince Philip was always defined by role as husband of British queen


One dead, several injured after head-on collision in China Grove


Man, woman charged for selling drugs to undercover deputies


Blotter: Rowan County man charged with indecent liberties with children


Spencer town board gets look at Park Plaza progress


‘Applicant market’: Unemployment rate improving as businesses hire more workers


National, local business leaders praise Salisbury’s initiative to support Black-owned operations


Tillis has prostate cancer surgery


Adverse reactions surface from Johnson & Johnson vaccine


Expert: Lack of oxygen killed George Floyd, not drugs


Quotes of the week


Biden seeks crackdown on homemade firearms


Victim of former NFL player’s rampage wrote of faith, life’s fragility


Wrongly imprisoned man gets $750,000

High School

West falls to Statesville, finishes second in NPC


Middle, high school students head back to classes full time