Snowdon Elementary School’s Dirty Diggers Organic Gardening Club isn’t just a clever name.
During lunch recess on Tuesdays and Thursdays, students will go outside to the back of the building to where the garden beds are, throw on a pair of gloves and quickly get to work removing weeds from the soil.
The Dirty Diggers is in its second year and has over 100 members. The club is open to third- fourth- and fifth-graders who sign up at the beginning of the school year and each class meets on a different day in a weekly rotation.
According to Pat Mertens, a speech/language teacher and the club’s adviser, the Dirty Diggers began in November 2014 as a way to use the school’s four planting beds. The club’s first task was filling the gardening beds with organic soil. They laid out the groundwork for their gardens during the winter and then planted in the spring.
Mertens added that the Dirty Diggers’ name was a suggestion from the club’s classmates.
“The club put out a survey to the rest of the school to come up with a name,” Mertens said. “One of the top suggestions was Dirty Diggers. The club liked it so much, they kept it.”
During the club’s first meeting in September, members participated in a treasure hunt and counted all of the vegetable and herb plants that grew over the summer. Besides harvesting the vegetables they grew over summer break, students learned about preparing garden beds for the winter and composting.
After winter, the club met in March and began planting seeds in containers to get them ready to transplant into the garden beds.
Mertens noted the club gives members a chance to work in gardens at school, as some kids who live in apartments cannot have a garden at home.
“For many students, this is their first time planting,” Mertens said.
Third-grader Isabel Brown said she and her classmates have gotten more “excited about planting” since joining the club.
“It (the club) also gives us an idea of what we’re going to do for our own gardens,” Brown said.
While the club’s membership is high, Mertens said meetings can get pretty busy, and would welcome parents to volunteer and help the club during lunch time. Parents can also donate items like coffee grounds, which are a good source of nitrogen, and organic leaves for the compost bins.
“We also really need a storage bin to transport stuff from my classroom to the gardening beds,” she added.
Mertens said she grew up on a farm in Iowa and developed a passion for gardening at an early age.
“It’s great to see so many kids who are getting their hands dirty and enjoying gardening as much as I do,” Mertens said.