A Morrisville fourth grader has a green thumb and a giant cabbage to prove it.
Harini Nirmalkumar grew a 24.7 pound cabbage last year and won a $1,000 saving bond from Bonnie Plants, which sponsors “Kids Grow Green: Cashing in Cabbage,” an annual contest for school children.
“It was a lot of work,” Harini said.
“I came home every day and watched it grow,” she added. “It takes a lot of patience. I learned a farmer’s job is really hard.”
Harini’s cabbage was one of many in the state that made the cut. Her entry was selected last spring in a random drawing at the N.C. Department of Agriculture. More than 22,000 third graders across North Carolina participated in the contest. Across the country, more than a million students grew a cabbage.
Harini is a student at Sterling Montessori Academy and Charter School in Morrisville. Last fall she took home a special hybrid cabbage that’s designed to grow into a giant, often bigger than a basketball. Some have reached 40 pounds, the company said.
Bonnie Plants seeks to “inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people and continue to ‘grow’ our next generation of gardeners.”
Harini’s father, Palanisamy Nirmalkumar, said the experience was a great one for her.
“She learned how much work it takes to grow something,” he said. “And she’s more excited about eating vegetables now.”
“We knew it was a big cabbage,” he added. “We didn’t expect it to be the first-place cabbage.”
Disaster almost strikes
As Harini’s cabbage began growing, she learned rabbits love nibbling on the plant’s the succulent leaves.
“I didn’t think they would grow back,” she said.
But they did.
To protect the cabbage, her father put a net around the plant. And the cabbage quickly recovered.
Harini said she learned cabbages need at least six hours of full sunlight each day. She also learned how water and fertilizer make plants grow faster. It took about three months for the cabbage to reach its final size, she said.
Entering the contest
By the time Harini’s cabbage was ready to harvest, it had taken over an entire corner of her family’s garden, she said. It was about three feet across and they thought it was at least 20 pounds.
They picked the cabbage. They took pictures and submitted them to the contest and waited. The cabbages were judged on size and appearance. After the best in each state were selected, the entries were sent to the commissioner of agriculture and the winner was drawn.
“This is a wonderful way to engage children’s interest in agriculture, while teaching them not only the basics of gardening, but the importance of our food systems and growing our own”, said Bonnie Plants president Stan Cope. “This unique, innovative program exposes children to agriculture and demonstrates, through hands-on experience, where food comes from.”