Top of the World PTA wins a $10,000 grant to get a bigger garden harvest

Top of the World PTA received a financial windfall this week that figures to aid a goal of more bountiful harvests from the Laguna Beach school's garden.

The school's garden program was one of 20 community and school gardens nationwide to receive a $10,000 grant from Seeds of Change, a company that sells seeds for vegetables, flowers and herbs.


The money will go toward building a greenhouse to grow and harvest more food on the property at 21601 Treetop Lane, said Kelly Osborne, a parent who oversees the school's three gardening areas.

Teachers bring their students to the garden, where they not only learn the basics of tending the land, but also apply principles learned in math and science classes.


On Thursday, teacher June Hosokawa took her first-grade students to the garden.

Raised beds provide a home for vegetables such as lettuce and kale. A patch of strawberry plants displayed crimson fruit ready to eat.

The kids' assignment: removing lettuces nearing the end of their lives and massaging the soil to make it ready for the watermelon and cantaloupe plants that will take their places.

Jordyn Flynn, 7, pulled up a lettuce stalk, its soil-cloaked roots still intact.

"Shake the plant over the soil so you don't get any on the cabbage," Osborne said.

Jordyn and a friend then pulled leaves off the stalk and put them in a salad spinner bowl to wash off the dirt.

Some students removed baby snails from under cabbage leaves or the soil. In between tasks they popped cherry tomatoes or a few remaining snow peas in their mouths.

Hosokawa said the garden provides an ideal place to apply concepts learned in the classroom.

Students have studied plants' growth cycles and built a snail trap to keep the critters from chomping on leaves and stalks.

"It's so great because the kids are not just in the classroom," Hosokawa said.

Osborne spends at least two days a week in the garden and has a team of 50 parent volunteers who put in time pulling weeds and fertilizing soil. She said volunteers log 1,000 hours in the garden each year.

School and Laguna Beach Unified School District officials are analyzing the property and identifying potential sites for a greenhouse, TOW Principal Mike Conlon wrote in an email.

A greenhouse would provide the environment to yield a larger harvest of fruits and vegetables that could supply the Laguna Food Pantry, said Osborne, who would like students from all Laguna Beach schools to contribute to such an outreach.

"By having students actively engage in growing of the food, harvesting and donated to those in need, they aim to cultivate an attitude of kindness community-wide," according to a Seeds of Change news release.

Seeds received nearly 600 grant applications, the release said.

"It made us think outside the box of how we use the space to do something interesting for the city," Osborne said.

The pantry collects and distributes free groceries each weekday to people from area low-income households at its facility, 20652 Laguna Canyon Road.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce