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Young Gardeners Test Out Ways to Protect Crops from Critters

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The students at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) are finding out more about the challenges of nature by planting a garden. Last year, Gallaudet University first lady Vicki Hurwitz invited KDES first and second graders to help plant a garden at the Gallaudet president's house, known as House One. They chose to grow vegetables-corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and pumpkins. However, the students did not see much of the harvest because the squirrels, birds, raccoons, and caterpillars around House One feasted first. This year the first lady, along with University horticultural specialist Trudy Haselhuhn, decided to put in some safeguards to protect the crop that her garden helpers would plant.

On a brilliant sunny afternoon on May 9, the students gathered at House One where the first lady, Gallaudet president Alan Hurwitz, and Haselhuhn waited to welcome them. The students formed three groups and set out to plant three kinds of tomatoes, green peppers, squash, cucumbers, and starter plants for what they hope will become giant sunflowers. They learned from last year's experience that, like many things they do for school, working on a successful garden is a process of trial and error. As a result, this time around the plantings were placed in a variety of areas-in full sun, partial sun, and shade-to find out where they thrive best.

In the patch near the back of House One, the students had fun crawling through the wire cage tunnel newly set up to support the growing plants. In a new raised bed garden, the young gardeners planted marigolds with vegetable plants to discourage unwanted pests-a process known as companion planting. The students learned that marigolds are one of the many plants that have a natural substance in their roots, flowers, or leaves that helps to detract unwanted insects.

Following the completion of their tasks, the first lady and President Hurwitz invited the children to join them for juice boxes and a snack. The afternoon finished with a visit to the Koi fish pond on the grounds and a free-for-all game of Tag and Simon Says on the lawn in front of House One until the bus arrived to take the students back to school.