February 2009
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Noah Vick (center) was Alabama’s state winner of the 2008 Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program. Noah is a student at Robert E. Lee Intermediate School in Satsuma. He is picture here with (from left) Commissioner Ron Sparks; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ted Vick; and Ellis Ingram, Bonnie Plants cabbage program director.


KIDS CAN: Little gardeners get big results!

The best kinds of lessons are those that make learning fun and exciting. This year, more than 1.5 million third graders across the United States have gotten hands-on, enjoyable lessons about plants, patience and perseverance as they compete to grow the biggest cabbage in their state.

Thanks to Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program, students from participating classrooms across the country will receive a free Bonnie O.S. Cross, or “oversized,” cabbage plant they can cultivate, nurture and watch grow bigger than a basketball and often over 40 pounds.

At the end of the season, teachers from each class will select the student who has grown the “best” cabbage, based on size and appearance. A picture of the cabbage and the student entry is submitted to Bonnie Plants by mail or online. That student’s name will then be included in a statewide drawing to receive a $1,000 scholarship towards education. The winner of each statewide drawing is selected by the Commission of Agriculture, state by state, via random drawing.

The program was started in 2000 in Alabama and, this year, Bonnie Plants gave 1.5 million students the opportunity to experience the joy of gardening through planting and nurturing their very own cabbage plants. One child winner, per state, from 45 participating states, is awarded a savings bond for education.

This year, Alabama had 633 schools who received cabbage plants, this was 2,229 third grade classes that had 47,015 students. There were 70 third grade class winners who entered the state contest, from which  Noah Vick was selected as the winner by random drawing by Commissioner Spark‘s office.

“It’s good for the students to get out there and grow their own plants,” said Melody Witt, principal of Alto Elementary School in Alto, Texas. “It helps them learn about nature, soil composition and the parts of plants, but it also shows them where things come from. So many young people take for granted the fact we can walk into the store and buy whatever we want. It’s a good history lesson for them to learn it wasn’t always like that, even in this country.”

“The cabbage program is our way of sharing our love of gardening with children,” said Bonnie Plants General Manager Dennis Thomas. “Because we believe so deeply in the joy and peace gardening can bring to the soul, we want to afford the opportunity to children to experience this same joy and sense of accomplishment, as well as encourage them to continue gardening throughout their lives.”

Growing a giant cabbage may seem like a big undertaking for little kids – but it’s easier than you may think. To get started, all kids need are:

• Sunshine: Cabbages need at least six hours of full sunlight, more if possible.

• Space: Bonnie O.S. cabbages need at least three feet on each side to spread out. If you don’t have that much space, use a large planter.

• Soil: Work some compost into the soil – cabbages love nutrient-rich soil.

• Food: Start your cabbage off right with an all-purpose vegetable fertilizer, then fertilize it every 10 days to keep it growing strong.

• Water: Your cabbage will need at least one inch of rainfall each week. If it doesn’t rain, use a watering can or a garden hose with a sprinkler to gently water your plant.

• TLC: Keep weeds out of the cabbage patch – they compete for the food and water your cabbage needs. Be on the lookout for brown or white moths – these come from worms that love to munch on cabbage. If you see any, get rid of them right away.

• Time: In just 10 to 12 weeks, you should have a huge head of cabbage you can be proud of.

Green thumbs can pay off big time– providing participating children with pride for a job well done, a humongous cabbage and, for the lucky state winner, the beginning of an educational fund for college.

For more information on the 2008 winners and the 2009 Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program, visit Bonnieplants.com.