Ox Ridge School is the first elementary school in Darien to build an edible school garden, with the other four elementary schools expected to have gardens by the summer of 2013.

Last weekend, volunteers led by PTO Green Team co-chairmen Sarah Sealy and Kristin Collier and Ox Ridge parent/garden enthusiast Petter Ostberg, worked together to build and install raised wooden planting beds and fill them with soil. Where there used to be a lone tree on a flat grassy area, there is now a neatly carved-out garden space surrounded by a fence to keep nature's critters at bay.

The garden design has been thoughtfully planned out. Vegetables, flowers and berries will be planted in the wooden beds. There is a large gathering space in the middle of the garden for a class to convene. An irrigation system will be installed to help tend to the plants. A separate compost area will be created further enhancing the educational value of the garden. The Ox Ridge garden was intentionally placed in a visible spot on the front left end of the school so that all could see and enjoy it.

A few questions about food sources, whole food vs. processed food and how to plant and maintain a garden will be considered as the Ox Ridge garden is integrated into the existing curriculum. All students will have an opportunity to learn about healthy eating and concepts like sustainability, composting and seed-to-table systems. They will gain hands-on experience in gardening. Just being outside in the fresh air weeding and maintaining the garden will bring physical benefits to the students and connect them with their natural environment.

Darien schools thanks the community for its support for this garden project. The funding for all five school gardens has been donated by Ring's End Lumber, The Darien Foundation for Technology and Community, East Coast Irrigation, Darien/Westport Green Village Initiative, Whole Foods Market, Gardener's Center, Tripodi Landscaping, TM Faucher, Orchard Tree Care and Brookside Nursery.

These local businesses have helped the garden project by donating materials and professional services, or giving price breaks to make this project affordable.

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"This idea of having school gardens has been percolating in town for some time, and earlier this year several groups came together in a collaborative manner to make this great idea a reality for all elementary school children in Darien," Ox Ridge Principal John Rechi said.