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Merrillville High School students tend to community garden

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Merrillville High School students plant community garden

Abigail Elenz, left, and Donnyell Day transplant snow peas into a larger planter at Merrillville High School community garden.

MERRILLVILLE — Merrillville High School classes were over for the day, but ninth grader Donnyell Day stayed on.

Day and two other students were taking part Tuesday in tending to plantings of potatoes, onions and other vegetables in fenced-in garden beds located east of the high school.

“I like creating something out of nothing,” Day said of her volunteer, after-school work.

It was all part of the Community Garden’s grand opening event.

The community garden, which is open to students and staff of Merrillville High School, was actually initiated two years ago, Patti Tubbs-Clark said.

Tubbs-Clark serves as culinary director for family and consumer science classes.

A sign at the front of the garden says: “Please feel free to pull a few weeds or grab a few items from the garden, but remember this is for the community, so leave some for the next person.”

The garden space will be maintained by Girl Scout Troop No. 30351, as part of Abigail Elenz's Gold Star Award project; MHS Culinary Arts; and special education teacher Beth O’Halek’s class.

Merrillville High School students plant community garden

As students wait to board busses for home, Chloe Smith waters vegetables in the Merrillville High School community garden.

“It (the community garden) went well, and last year we put away 20 quarts of tomatoes,” Tubbs-Clark said.

Tubbs-Clark said the impetus for the garden is the whole farm-to-table movement and providing more eco-friendly food.

“I see it staying,” Tubbs-Clark said of the movement.

She said the shift to the farm-to-table movement at the high school began two years ago, prior to COVID, with her students doing plantings, visiting farms and seeing up close farm animals including chickens.

“We also went to farmers markets,” Tubbs-Clark said.

Potatoes, which are easy to grow, were part of the initial planting at the high school, as was the setting up of strawberry walls.

Merrillville High School students plant community garden

Donnyell Day, left, Abigail Elenz and Chole Smith look over the many vegetables that will have to eventually transplant into the Merrillville High School community garden.

Most of the plants for this year’s garden were started by students in her classes in February, including tomatoes, peppers and herbs.

“Some of the seeds took and some didn’t,” Tubbs-Clark said.

Many of the plantings not used in the garden are available to students and staff on tables and shelves set up next to the garden, Tubbs-Clark said.

“We encourage students and teachers to bring their own pots and make a mini garden which they can take home,” she said.

Baby chickens, newly hatched after 21 days of incubation inside the high school, were also brought out to the garden for their first taste of the outside, Tubbs-Clark said.

Merrillville High School students plant community garden

Students are raising chickens at Merrillville High School community garden.

Chloe Smith, a ninth grader and a member of the school’s Culinary Club, stayed after school to help fellow ninth grader Abigail Elenz.

“I just wanted to collaborate with her,” Smith said.

Smith said her family used to have a garden at her house, and she learned a lot from her dad, so she has a good base.

“My dad helped me understand gardening,” Smith said.

Elenz said the garden is being maintained by her and Troop 30351, with the end being her earning the Gold Star Award, the most prestigious award in Girl Scouting.

“I like planting a garden and seeing it grow,” Elenz said.

Those who would like to donate any items for the garden beds or garden can contact Troop 30351 leader Melinda Henderson at 219-779-1504.

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