Friday, December 8, 2017

Garden Related Activities when Kids are out of School

If your kids like to garden they might like some of the following activities that they can do at home.

1) Kids might like to plant some cool season veggies in pots or in the ground. Remember that everything takes longer to grow now that it's not so warm outside. For that reason, I plant seedlings as well as seeds so I'll have vegetables to eat sooner.  I recommend asking the kids what they'd like to plant-usually it'll be their favorite vegetables. Check the back of the seed packets to see how long until germination. That might also be a factor in what you choose to plant!
2) You or they might want to plant some bulbs. At Marquez we're planting some red tulips behind yellow pansies. They'll look good together.  I also like planting paper whites-they are easy to grow and smell great!
3) Kids can research what they'd like to plant in a spring garden and then order seed catalogs.
4) If they want to start seeds indoors using grow lights like we have at Marquez, check out the grow light gardens from Gardeners Supply.
5) Plant some wildflower seeds. California poppy seeds can be found at most nurseries. (Kids learn about poppies in our study of plants used by indigenous peoples). Theodore Payne has a large variety and you can check on-line and have seeds sent to you. 

Wind chimes:
1) Wind chimes can be made out of various materials. Some Marquez students are going to make some out of terracota pots for our sensory garden. I'm going to make some out of xylophone pieces. There are lots of good ideas on Pinterest.

Garden gifts for others:
1) Kids can paint a terracota pot with acrylic paint and then plant seeds or seedlings in it as a gift.  They could give someone a small herb garden or salad garden. They can also do this with paperwhite bulbs.

Other garden related activities:
1) Kids can help make raised beds. has some raised beds that are easy to put together. 2) Make a worm bin or purchase one and start composting with worms. The worms do best at temps from mid 50 to mid-70s so consider keeping the bin in the garage. Worm bins can be made out of large Rubbermaid containers. Just put holes in the top so the worms can breathe and some in bottom for drainage. Put another bin underneath to catch moisture. Directions for worm composting:

1) Kids might like to read books about gardening either factual or fiction. Kids Can Compost is an introductory book about composting, Planting a Rainbow, Compost Stew, Growing Vegetable Soup are also good books for young gardeners.
2) Garden project books: Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots has fun projects as does The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids.

Friday, December 1, 2017

What Marquez 4th graders Do and Learn in the Native American Garden?

The Native American Garden is an example of linking gardening to the curriculum as a way to make lasting memories for the students. In this case, we provide links to social studies and science and to our local flora of the Santa Monica mountain area.

The garden was installed in the 2014-15 school year based on a design by Ryan Drnek of Sodder Studios after approval by LAUSD personnel. Initial funding for the garden was from a grant from the Pacific Palisades Garden Club. Subsequent funding has come from Gibson International Realty.

We discuss how many of the plants in the garden can be found in the local mountains, just five minutes from school. Some of the students hike there and recognize the plants. Others use some of the plants at home, for example, white sage.

We discuss how native plants don't need much water, i.e. that they are drought tolerant and adapted to our climate. In the local mountains the plants self-seed and don't get extra water.

Many of the plants in the front garden are California native plants that were and are used by local indigenous peoples, the Chumash and Tongva, for food, medicine and other purposes.   The plants include deer grass, Cleveland sage, California poppy, black sage, purple sage, sticky monkey flower, island alum root, milkweed, white sage, hummingbird sage, sagebrush and yarrow.

In the fall, the students learn about California poppies, the state flower, as they plant the seeds in the garden. Later they can harvest and save the seeds.  We also discuss the role of mulch at this time and if necessary, add more mulch. Mulch keeps the soil underneath moist and reduces the need for watering. It also prevents weeds from growing.

In the winter, the students learn about other plants in the garden either as they plant them or as we observe them. Deer grass is an easy one to learn as it's the biggest plant in the garden. Students learn that the Chumash make baskets from this. They learn that there are several varieties of sages and that they smell good.

In the spring the California poppies, the state flower, explode with color!

California poppies in bloom

A smudge stick used for ceremonies is made from white sage

Students research and prepare reports on the different plants. During this process they learn how they are used by local pollinators as well as by indigenous peoples. During the spring annual garden celebration they tour the garden to the guests. The guests are given copies of the student's reports.

Identifying markers label the plants so community members can learn about them as well. This next year we will be purchasing identifying labels, similar to those in botanical gardens, that have QR codes that will link to explanations written by the children.

The attachments below show some pages from an iBook written by students in Ms. Chaides' class in spring of 2017. A printed copy was given to the attendees at the celebration.

In addition, reports from Ms. Chaides' and Ms. Palos' students from the garden dedication in spring of 2015 can be found on  Palisades Cares.

Ms. Conn's Class Plants in the Jefferson Garden

Yesterday Ms. Conn's 5th graders planted in the Jefferson Garden. They learned that Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd president, was also a horticulturist. His favorite vegetable was peas! The students planted heirloom seeds of Champion of England peas and Brown Dutch lettuce that we purchased from and that were harvested at Monticello.  The peas originated in England in 1843.  Brown Dutch lettuce was the most frequently planted lettuce variety by Thomas Jefferson in his garden at Monticello.  Thanks to Michele Wahlig for gardening with the children.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Planting in the Tops and Bottoms Garden

Today Ms. Fein's students planted in the Tops and Bottoms garden. We talked about what parts of the plants we eat at the beginning of school and this reinforces that discussion!

The students planted seeds and seedlings. We showed them the proper way to take a seedling out of the container which is squeezing it and pulling on the soil and not the stem.

They planted beet seeds, carrot seeds and lettuce seeds.  They planted cosmic purple carrot seeds that were donated by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds as were the Chioggia beet seeds. In addition they planted Capitane lettuce seeds donated by Turtle Tree and lettuce merveille des quatre saisons also from Baker Creek.

They planted seedlings of carrots, lettuce, kale and broccoli.

I suggested that they see if the seeds that they planted outside grew as fast as the seeds that they planted inside earlier in the year.

Thanks to Mrs. Fein and Ms. Ashley for helping.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ms. Bihari's Students Make Salsa

Ms. Bihari's 3rd grade students made yummy salsa! This cooking lesson is based upon the salsa garden that the children planted in the spring of 2nd grade. The gardens contains tomatoes, onion, peppers and cilantro.

The harvest from the garden was supplemented by tomatoes and onions donated by Frecker Farms, a vendor at the Palisades Farmers Market. Thanks to Marquez mom, Molly Sigworth for getting us the produce!

The children cut the tomatoes, onion and garlic and tore the cilantro in little pieces. They also measured olive oil and lime juice.  We used more tomatoes than the recipe called for, but that was fine with all of us!

The kids are good chefs!

Thanks to the parents who helped: Bernadette Westerberg, Shelli Schmalle, Alexys Buckner, Shah Bahador, Angie and Margarita Reyes.

Salsa Recipe

8 tomatoes
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch of cilantro
3 T. olive oil
3 T. lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
2 jalapeno peppers (we didn't add these but you might want to at home-just wash hands immediately after cutting)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Growing seedlings indoors and transplanting them

Here are some valuable tips for growing seedlings indoors and getting them ready to transplant. Note that if your seedlings are leggy, they aren't getting enough light and you need to put the light source closer to them.

The number of leaves, instead of how tall, determines when the plants are ready to start going outside. Basically, the seedlings will need 3-4 sets of true leaves before they are ready to be hardened off prior to planting. The first set of leaves are the cotyledons. They are a source of energy for the plant but not "true leaves".

The process of hardening off takes about a week. You gradually leave the seedlings outside longer and longer-first in shade and then in sun.

Read the following articles for details.


These cool season seedlings grown under a grow light aren't ready yet to transplant.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gardening for Wildlife and Opportunities for Citizen Science

Gardening for Wildlife

Several areas at Marquez attract butterflies and birds including the Native American Garden, the butterfly garden, some plants planted by LAUSD in the re-landscaping and some areas on the upper yard.  The landscaped area by the auditorium seems to have the most birds and the fewest squirrels. A resource for involving your students in this topic is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology  Bird Sleuth has some ideas for citizen science projects. Another resource is the National Wildlife Federation.   
The Habitat Network,, helps people to map their outdoor spaces and see how inviting they are for wildlife. This could be done at school or home.

Activities to make a school more welcoming can include bird feeders, water, more plants for food and shelter. What are you interested in doing? What birds do you see near you?

We are adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains and should have more birds visiting our campus.

Resources for native plants include Theodore Payne, Audubon,  and Las Pilitas Nursery Some natives that we have at school include poppies, monkey flower, deer grass, yarrow, oak tree, white sage, black sage, purple sage, hummingbird sage. We'll be planting ceanothus, redbud and more in the coming months.