Martin Gomez, left, and Leo Gomez plant seeds at Mark Twain Elementary School in this file photo. The community garden is a partnership between Mosaic Life Care and the St. Joseph School District.

If kids want to grow up strong, perhaps they can plant the seeds themselves.

That’s one of the lessons students across the city will learn this summer as part of a community garden partnership between the St. Joseph School District and Mosaic Life Care.

Mark Twain Elementary held a planting celebration Wednesday to sow the first seeds of the season at the school’s garden.

Teachers guided their classes as they buried seeds in rows of freshly tilled soil, while other students brought plants that had already begun to grow indoors before being uprooted and moved to their new home.

Suzanne Tiemann, principal at Mark Twain, explained how the idea of starting the plants indoors will bring new lessons to the annual gardening project.

“They started growing about two or three weeks ago, and it’s really been a fun experiment for them because they’ve been able to see how (the plants) lean toward the sun and how they grow and develop,” Tiemann said.

The program began five years ago, and new schools have been added each year.

Students, staff and community members will tend the gardens all summer, harvesting food that has become ripe and replacing it with others that thrive later in the season. Groups at Hillyard Technical Center built large wooden boxes where elementary students can plant fresh herbs. Outside the garden, fruit trees have been planted to provide apples and pears years down the road.

“It’s going to be a summer-long project,” Tiemann said. “We give away a lot of our fruits and vegetables in the fall at Open House, so they will tell more families about it and they will get even more of the community into our garden.”

Although each school’s garden is surrounded by a fence, the barrier is meant to keep out animals, not people. Signs at each garden invite the public to gather vegetables, with the request that they take only what they need.

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Clinton Thomas can be reached at clinton.thomas@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPThomas.

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