Sunday, December 9, 2012

Early December in the Garden

The second graders are continuing to learn and to work hard in the garden.   The last two weeks they learned about composting, continued to hunt for grubs, weeded and planted some seeds in seed trays. Some of the seeds which they planted earlier in the ground and in seed trays have germinated.

We used "Kids Can Compost" by Wenchia Parker as a resource. I have two copies if anyone wants to borrow them. The book is also available online at  The kids learned that compost contains greens and browns and that it's food for the soil. Compost needs: greens, browns, air, heat and water.  Greens are fruits, vegetables, bread, rice, pasta, coffee grounds and tea leaves. Browns are leaves, newspaper, paper towels, wood chips, grass clippings and cardboard pieces. We have a small compost container in the garden and will continue to have the kids compost by tearing the greens and browns in small pieces.

We are almost ready to plant in two more beds that have been "degrubbed" by the kids. The grubs would eat the roots of the plants, thus we need to remove them. They are being fed to Sara Houghton's chickens.

Tips for those who took home some seeds: cover the container with plastic to keep the seeds warmer and keep them moist. When the seeds germinate, i.e. you can see the green stems and leaves appear, take off the plastic.

This is what they did, in their own words: Jake: We dug up the dirt to find grubs; Alexandra: My friends and I made compost; Elula: We broke things into small pieces. We planted round carrots. Angie: We dug up dirt to find grubs and we pulled out roots. Others: We planted lettuce. We planted arugula.

We are keeping the garden open at recess as much as possible. We post a sign-in sheet at the gate. On Wednesday, 55 kids came to the garden between the two recesses! We are open for kids of any grades and have had several first, third and fourth graders visit.

Plans for the garden include: transplanting seedlings into the ground; working on the butterfly garden in the center circle. (We have planted butterfly bushes and milkweed.  The first graders will plant wildflower seeds there soon); red trumpet vines along the fence bordering Marquez Avenue; planting of all the remaining beds with cool season vegetables and herbs; creating a birdbath; composting in a worm bin; and shortening the wooden supports for the bed covers. We plan to expand to other grades after the winter break.

Note to parents: it's not too late to plant lettuce and radish seeds at home with your young gardeners. You can plant in the ground, in containers or in small pots by your kitchen window.

Some good books to read with the kids: Kids Can Compost; Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots; Rah, Rah, Radish.

Sara and I welcome volunteer parents to help with the kids, to help water over vacation, and do some manual chores e.g. shortening of bed supports.

The kids are very enthusiastic workers!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Second Grade Classes are Introduced to the Garden

Today children from all of the four second grade classes visited the garden. We discussed what edible meant, their favorite vegetables and what vegetables we'd be planting and the concept of cool season vegetables.

The activities included:

  • writing in their garden journals, 
  • planting lettuce and radish seeds in recycled nursery 6-packs, 
  • amending the soil with compost and digging it in, 
  • planting seeds and seedlings in the amended bed, and
  • eating a sample of one of the vegetables in their classroom. 
The cool season vegetables that we'll be planting, which are some garden vocabulary words, include:
  • kale
  • broccoli
  • lettuce
  • sugar snap peas
  • beets
  • radishes
  • spinach
  • carrots
Other garden vocabulary includes:
  • compost
  • amending  
  • soil
  • trowel
  • hand rake
  • tools
  • seed starter mix
Some sentences from the children about what they did:
  • We planted lettuce seeds and radish seeds.
  • We put the compost into the soil to amend it and we used the trowel and hand rake to do it.
  • Over there we were amending the soil.
  • Over there we were planting seeds.
  • We were spinning old dirt and adding new dirt.
  • We planted carrots. We planted tiny carrot seeds.
  • We dug.
  • We flipped the dirt over. 
  • We mixed the soil. We had fun.
  • We were finding grubs.
Most of the time we had four adults helping in the garden-myself, Sara (the parent garden co-ordinator), Dagmar (another Master Gardener) and either a teacher/aide/parent from the participating class. Some teachers sent the whole class and some sent half with an aide or parent volunteer. We look forward to having more parent volunteers.

Each class took one or more 6-pack back to their class. A suggested follow-up is for the class to keep the seeds moist and to monitor their growth with a chart, i.e. when do they start seeing the plant and when do the first leaves appear.

It's great to finally have the children in the garden. Future activities include starting composting, planting more vegetables, starting an herb garden, starting a butterfly garden, planting some trumpet vines, etc. This garden, as all others, is a work in progress.

Note: two beds were planted by a local Boy Scout as part of an Eagle Project. They contain broccoli and squash. Most of the beds are covered by wire "cages" to deter squirrels.