Not your typical farm at Bailey Middle School
In a year of stellar Bright Green Future Grants projects, the “farm” at Bailey Middle School stands out as one-of-a-kind. But first, a little backstory.
Over the last two years, Bright Green Future Grants have funded several successful gardening projects at Bailey. Not content to stop there, Mike Berryman, Bailey PTA Garden Committee Chair and parent volunteer, led the charge to leverage the success of these Bright Green Future Grants projects to receive additional funds from Seeds for Change to build a greenhouse. With greenhouse construction completed, students could take their gardening efforts to the next level and this year’s Bright Green Future Grant ensured that they would. 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at Bailey are now growing native trees, cultivated to withstand extreme Texas weather.
Here’s how it’s done. In his research on professional tree production, Berryman learned that Airpots help trees to establish very quickly and require minimal water. Airpots also permit “farmers” to easily prune tree roots in the air, without a lot of digging and replanting. Frequent root pruning signals the tree to continuously generate roots, resulting in a fibrous mass with no circling. This dense root system allows trees to absorb more water and nutrients per rain event.
Berryman worked with Bailey students to build the pots and germinate the seeds. Once the seeds were planted, adult volunteers assembled the timed the auto watering system in the greenhouse. As the trees grew, students transferred the seedlings from the Airpots to larger pots. Once they reached a certain height, the trees were transferred from the greenhouse to be outside and watered by an auto irrigation system. Over the hot summer months when the students are away, adult volunteers are tending to the trees.
When the students return to school in the fall, the trees will be sold at a Texas Arbor Day event to provide funds for additional school garden activities, as well as projects led by Bailey teachers with an interest in sustainability.
“I am certain that the documentation of the Bright Green Future Grant Project helped us win a $10,000 grant that we invested in the greenhouse,” said Mike Berryman. “The greenhouse has given the kids a place to work, and a centerpiece for a twice yearly plant sale – the first one brought in $2,500! Our farm is on the way to being self-sufficient.”
Students and volunteers also plan to educate the public about tree growing and care, including when to plant, the proper depth and dimension for the hole, how to fertilize the soil, and how much watering is needed.
So, while it may not be Old McDonald’s Farm, the students and volunteers at Bailey Middle School are doing their part to grow a bright green future!