Blount County girl grows humongous cabbage
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
Her teacher at Greenback Public School, Nancy Clinton, gave Maggie Stiles a small cabbage plant to take home and nurture over the last several weeks.
So the 9-year-old first killed the weeds in her container garden, gave the plant some Miracle-Gro and water — and waited.
Weeks went by.
It grew. And grew. And grew.
The pictures say it all. Stiles posed for a photo with her humongous cabbage and now will wait to see if her nurturing pays off. She is in the running for a $1,000 scholarship as part of the Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program. A winner from each state will be entered in the national contest that will award a $1,000 savings bond toward education.
This Blount County resident admits to never having grown the green leafy vegetable before. She has raised tomatoes, carrots and peppers with her dad, Jim Stiles. But when her teacher asked students to participate in the Bonnie program, she thought why not?
It wasn’t that difficult, Maggie explained. If it didn’t rain, she watered. If a weed grew, she pulled it. And that soil must have been fertile after fertilizing.
This season, more than 1.5 million third-graders in 48 states dug in and got hands-on gardening experience growing colossal cabbages. Each year, Bonnie Plants trucks the oversized cabbage plants to third grade classrooms for free. The giant cabbages can tip the scales at 40 pounds.
“We didn’t weigh or measure,” said Karen Stiles, Maggie’s mom. She she Maggie told her they were to take a picture for the contest. After the photos were taken, the cabbage was pulled out of the ground so some juicy tomatoes could develop there. Maggie likes tomatoes better then cabbage anyway, she said.
Why cabbages in the first place? Cabbages were the first plant sold by Bonnie in 1918. The cabbages used for the third grade program are over-sized, which makes the process exciting for the students.
Karen said they really didn’t grow the cabbage for the prize. It was a good lesson for her daughter on following through on a project and being in charge. Mom admits it was surprising how large this vegetable became in a couple of months.
Bonnie Plants did provide the participating classrooms with some advice on growing. Cabbages apparently love sunlight — at least six hours per day — and they thrive if they receive at least an inch of rainfall per week. The big, leafy vegetable also needs room to grow, at least three feet on each side, Bonnie recommends. Harvest time is only 10 to 12 weeks. Brown or white moths are the enemy because they love to munch on the leaves.
Other third-graders at Greenback School also took home the cabbage plants, but Maggie said she doesn’t think that many others participated in the experiment. “Not many others wanted to do it,” she said, “but I thought it was a fun experience.”
Karen said Maggie loves to get involved in projects and see where they will lead. Now the 9-year-old with the green thumb is in the running for a major award.
The whole experience might be the inspiration to move forward on other ideas. “You really never know where it will lead,” Karen said.