During the 2014-2015 school year, Cooper Elementary in Bella Vista, Arkansas, was fortunate enough to participate in the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program. The school was also lucky enough to have a garden/nutrition instructor (me!) on hand, through Arkansas Garden Corps, an AmeriCorps project. Among other things, I helped teach the kids about the different nutrients they could add to the soil to help them grow what we hoped would be a record-setting cabbage. Together, the students — including my daughter Itali — and members of the community gathered to grow 12 cabbages in the Bella Vista Community Garden.
To start, the group placed top soil and mushroom compost throughout the entire 4-foot by 30-foot bed. We carefully chose the placement of each cabbage, then mixed in 1/4 cup of organic feather meal in each location to help boost the soil’s nitrogen content. We also added three handfuls of worm castings per plant, to provide more trace minerals, nutrients, and microbial life, and to enhance growth. We then mixed into the soil one cup of paramagnetic rock (volcano dust) per plant, which increases water retention, microbial life, resistance to environmental stresses, and helps the plant better utilize the nutrients in the soil.
On top of all the added nutrients, we had plenty of rainfall (the preferred way to water vegetable plants) during the spring growing season. The sides of our garden bed are 3 feet tall, so excess water was able to drain well enough that the roots did not rot.
Thanks to the nutrients, water, sun, and love — the kids even sang songs to their plants! — we grew cabbage plants that were 3 to 4 feet wide and weighed about 50 to 60 pounds each. The cabbage heads themselves weighed between 18 and 21 pounds! What’s more, the cabbages grew worm-free, and there were no issues with other pests, either. We took the biggest and best, and submitted it to the 3rd Grade Cabbage Program. The rest of the cabbages were shared among all of the gardeners who had helped with the harvesting, including a sweet local Girl Scouts troop that has since adopted the garden as their Bronze Award Project.
The students were not only mesmerized by the growth of the cabbages, but they had fun plucking leaves and even making costumes. Some pretended to be superheroes wearing cabbage capes. Others strutted around as peacocks, while still others created masks using the huge outer leaves. Folks from all over town came to get their pictures taken with what they thought were the biggest cabbages ever grown, and we had farmers coming to us and asking for our secrets. Our answer? Bonnie Plants, proper nutrients, plenty of water and sun, and love. Lots and lots of love.
Article by andi-K Heart.