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Annual Windowsill Garden Project to kick off

Due to the increasing interest of educators in Harlan County for horticulture and gardening skills, the 21th annual 4-H Windowsill Garden Project is being conducted this spring in each elementary and middle school in Harlan County Public, Harlan Independent, Harlan County Christian, Sunshine School, Verda Head Start, several day cares and Cumberland Hope Center.

Conducted in grades K4 through sixth grade, as a club project, special interest, and school enrichment activity, this project will be the largest conducted this year. We will also provide the 4-H Windowsill Garden Project as part of our annual Earth Day celebration on April 20 at Harlan Walmart. We will also give away Red Bud and Dogwood seedlings at noon April 20 at Harlan Walmart.

Our goal this year is to reach 4,000 students and adults who will plant tomato seeds in peat pellet cups and care for the plants for five weeks. During this time students will keep growth charts and record procedures for watering, and (if used) fertilizing. Evaluation experiences will provide students feedback on their project.

All students will be awarded 4-H Project Ribbons for their efforts. Ribbons will be given to the students before they take their plants home. The project is designed to conform to the five steps in gardening with a focus on careers and providing food for the family.

The five steps are planting, growing, caring, harvesting and consuming. The students will be allowed to take the plants home and set them out in their gardens, flower beds, or bucket gardens at the end of the five week period. Students will be presented lessons by the 4-H agent and assistants on “How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes” before they take their plants home.

The students will have a written record of their plants’ growth and some classes will use this lesson in their writing assignments. Students expressed last year how they had tomatoes all summer to eat and many had tomatoes to can and prepare in other dishes.

Through the years, many students have approached me in grocery stores, schools, and in other public places to say, “You are the 4-H guy who let us plant the tomatoes.” Seventy-five percent of the students expressed in a follow up survey that they had helped save money on their family’s grocery bills.

Most students remember from year to year the important things a plant must have to survive: Seed, soil, water, carbon dioxide and sunlight. Students also remember the importance of a greenhouse for plants. Many have also related that they helped their parents or grandparents work in the family garden.

Some students entered their tomatoes in the Harlan County Fair and have expressed their desire to do so again next spring. These students received money for their prize-winning Fair entries. Students may also sell their products at the Harlan County Farmer’s Market.

This project has become our largest annual event due to its success and popularity. Any organization or group interested in conducting the 4-H Windowsill Garden Project may contact the Harlan County Extension Office at 606-573-4464 or 606-273-0835.

Raymond Cox is the county extension agent for 4-H/youth development. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.