Growing a New Generation of Gardeners
Kids Grow Green: Cashing in Cabbage
Kids across America are growing and some are earning a lot of "green" participating in the National Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. This year, more than 1.5 million third graders in 45 states have gotten hands-on gardening experience growing colossal cabbages with high hopes to win "best in state" and receive a $1,000 scholarship toward education from Bonnie Plants.
Each year Bonnie Plants delivers free O.S. Cross, or "oversized," cabbage plants to third grade classrooms, nationwide, whose teachers have signed up for the program, online at www.bonnieplants.com. If nurtured and cared for, cabbages can grow bigger than a basketball and tip the scales at nearly 40 pounds!
First launched in 1995, the program awards a $1,000 scholarship to one student in each participating state. At the end of the season, teachers from each class will select the student who has grown the "best" cabbage, based on size and appearance. A picture of the cabbage and the student entry is submitted to Bonnie Plants by mail or online. That student’s name is then entered in a statewide drawing. The winners of each state’s drawing are randomly selected by the Commission of Agriculture, state by state.
"The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program is our way of engaging children in the joy of gardening," said Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants. "Gardening provides children with a safe place to experience nature, discover the cycles of life and develop an understanding of our environment. It also exposes children, first hand, to the benefits of growing your own nutritious food and it’s a great source of physical activity. The cabbage program, over the past 15 years, has proven to be an enriching hands-on experience kids and teachers across America have embraced. Seeing students excited about learning and the art of gardening is what we strive for."
Getting It Growing:
Growing a colossal cabbage may seem like a giant undertaking for little kids, but it’s easier than you think. All you need is:
Sunshine: Cabbages need at least six hours of full sunlight, more if possible.
Space: Bonnie O.S. cabbages need at least three feet on each side to spread out. If you don’t have that much space, use a large container.
Soil: Work some compost into the soil – cabbages love nutrient-rich soil.
Food: Start your cabbage off right with an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer, then fertilize it every 10 days to keep it growing strong.
Water: Your cabbage needs at least one inch of rainfall each week. If it doesn’t rain, use a watering can or a garden hose to gently water your plant.
TLC: Keep weeds out of the cabbage patch – they compete for the food and water your cabbage needs. Be on the lookout for brown or white moths – these come from worms that love to munch on cabbage. If you see any, get rid of them right away. Cold weather can damage your cabbage. If the weather gets below 32° F, cover your cabbage with a bucket.
Time: In just 10 to 12 weeks, you should have a huge head of cabbage you can be proud of.
Green thumbs and perseverance can pay off, providing participating children with a great sense of pride and accomplishment, a humongous cabbage and, for the lucky state winner, the beginning of an educational fund for college. To see the 2010 winners and learn more about the 2011 contest, visit www.bonnieplants.com.
"The Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program is a wonderful way to engage children’s interest in agriculture, while teaching them not only the basics of biology, but the importance of our food and fiber systems. This innovative program exposes children to agriculture and demonstrates through hand-on experience, where their food comes from. We’re grateful to the people at Bonnie Plants for continuing to provide this program, nationwide, and successfully connect our youth to agriculture."
Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture, Ron Sparks
"It’s good for the students to get out there and grow their own plants. It helps them learn about nature, soil composition and the parts of plants, but it also shows them where things come from. So many young people take for granted the fact we can walk into the store and buy whatever we want. It’s a good history lesson for them to learn it wasn’t always like that, even in this country."
Melody Witt, Alto Elementary Principal, Texas
"The Third Grade Cabbage Program provides valuable lessons to students about agriculture and the way it touches everyone’s life every day. I commend Bonnie Plants for this program."
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner, Richie Farmer
"This kind of activity is great because it teaches our students about the natural growth process. This year, we’re going to encourage even more teachers to participate."
Lenora Richardson, Science & Social Studies Supervisor, Cabell County Schools, WV
"It’s really important that our youth understand where our food comes from. I’m glad Bonnie Plants expanded its cabbage-growing program to include Kansas schools, so our students can learn about growing food while competing for scholarship money."
Kansas Secretary of Agriculture, Adrian Polansky