BELMAR, NJ — Although spring is months away, members of Belmar Elementary School’s Environmental Club now have new garden beds awaiting them when it is time to dig in.

Thanks to a generous donation from Jaeger Lumber of Belmar, school staff members, parents, students and community members recently replaced the aging wood of the garden’s seven raised beds, situated on the 12th Avenue side of the Main Street school.

Since the garden was created seven years ago with a Monmouth County grant, it has served as an outdoor classroom for the 20 to 30 fourth- through eighth-graders who are club members.

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“(The club’s) mission is to create environmental stewards and promote health eating choices through the joy of gardening,” said BES teacher and club adviser Jeanne Arpert.

What club members quickly learn is that gardening is a year-round endeavor.

“The winter months are for researching plants, soil and placing seed orders. In the spring, plants are started under grow lights in the classrooms,” Arpert said. “We have recently added hydroponic gardening.”

Soon after the season’s last frost, it’s time to get to work outside with the planting of seeds and starters — from strawberries, beans and carrots to garlic, potatoes and Jersey tomatoes, as well as an assortment of herbs.

Making the task of watering a bit easier, the garden is equipped with an irrigation system, funded through a grant from Lowes Toolbox for Education program. And the students also are assisted by volunteers in the Rutgers University Master Gardener program.

Before long, all those months of preparation and hard work finally pay off — with a bountiful harvest that is shared with students, staff and the entire community.

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