Thursday, February 27, 2014

What to plant now in the garden

Here are some recommendations for vegetables to plant and also a summary of what we are planting in the Marquez School garden in late February and early March.

Recommended Vegetables to Plant via the National Garden Association

The National Garden Association recommends to plant the following in March in Southern California: beets, caraway, celery, carrots, chard, chervil, chives, collards, cilantro, dill, endive, fennel, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, mustards, green onions, bulb onion sets, flat-leafed parsley, peas, white potatoes, radishes, shallots, spinach, and turnips. Indoors, start eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. You can plant seed potatoes (from nurseries or garden websites) in your garden or cut the eyes off of organic potatoes and plant them in the garden.  
What's Growing and Being Planted at Marquez
The kids are harvesting arugula, sugar snap peas, carrots, chives, mint, and strawberry guavas. They will start harvesting beets and lettuce next week. We have done a second planting of broccoli in newly protected beds.
They are planting tomato seeds in seed trays. The kale and spinach seeds that Ms. Gardner's class have planted in the ground are sprouting. Some second grade classes and fifth grade classes will be transplanting kale and sugar snap pea seedlings into beds next week. In addition, we are still planting lettuce seeds in the ground.  We will start zucchini seeds soon in seedling trays.
The Current Favorite Crop at Marquez
The fruit from our strawberry guava tree is a big favorite this year! Last year we had no fruit but right now we're enjoying the second crop of strawberry guavas for this school year! Stop by the garden soon for a taste!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Garden Workday

On 2/22 we had a very productive edible garden workday. Thanks to the Kissane family, the Gair family, the Haggenmiller family, the Bennett family, Beverly Jacobs, Kurt B., Julia ? and Dora Yarid for helping. We squirrel proofed three more beds including a 5th grade one, Mrs. Fein's and Ms. Connor's. We also added removable panels to Ms. Connor's and Mr. Jacobs' beds so it's easier to plant in them.

Ms. Reeve's class in the garden

On 2/21, Ms. Reeve's class visited the garden and learned about plants used by Chumash and Tongva Native Americans, planted seeds, composted and looked at the worms and ate broccoli. They learned that these two tribes lived in our area of California and used local plants for medicine, ceremonies and food. They were introduced to white sage, black sage, hummingbird sage, cleveland sage and monkey flower. White sage is dried, briefly lit with a flame and extinguished and then passed around people's bodies in a ceremony. Black sage leaves are made into sun tea and applied to painful areas. Cleveland sage is dried and used as potpourri. (Potpourri is a new word to many.)  The leaves and flowers of hummingbird sage can be used to make tea.  The leaves of monkey flowers can be ground into a paste and put on wounds. Hummingbird sage and monkey flower are popular with hummingbirds because of their tubular shape.  We will be planting some of these plants at school soon.
The leaves and flowers of hummingbird sage are used to make tea.

Monkey flower was used to heal wounds.  

Dried leaves of white sage are burned as smudge at ceremonies to create spiritual balance.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Gardening with Ms. Palo's class

Comments written by one of the students:
"When I compost I take all of the dead weeds, veggies, fungus, twigs and leaves throw that into my dark brown compost bin. I think composting can really help our land and environment stay clean and safe. That's why think composting can totally help our community, environment and whole WORLD stay nice and clean."

In class we discussed what goes into the compost bin, what decomposing means and the names of some of the decomposers. They then looked at the worm bin to identify the decomposers. The red wriggler worms were most plentiful.

In the butterfly garden they spotted a green caterpillar seen below on a nasturtium flower. They also planted tomato and lettuce seeds in a seedling tray. Finally, they snacked on broccoli with ranch dressing.

A green caterpillar is on a nasturtium in the butterfly garden.

The kids are investigating red wriggler worms from the worm bin.

Growing your own potatoes

Here's something you can plant at home with your children that we're doing at school.

Planting Potatoes
1. Either buy a seed potato at a local nursery or use an organic one that is showing eyes.
2. Cut the potato into pieces with one or two eyes each. Dry the pieces for 24 hours.
3. Plant potato in loose soil with a trowel full of compost. Eye should be up.
4. Put 6" deep mound of mulch (leaves) and soil over potato and water.
5. Keep area wet. Feed with fertilizer weekly until flowers on vine begin to open. Put more mulch around stem each time potato has grown 6".
6. Harvest just after flowers bloom. Harvest just a few potatoes at a time. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In the garden with Ms. Bihari's class

On 2/18, Ms. Bihari's class learned how the native Chumash and Tongva Indians of our area used some local (native) plants.  We discussed where these tribes lived and that Topanga Canyon was a border area-the Chumash lived north and the Tongva lived south.These Native Americans used local plants for food and medicine, and in ceremonies.  The students smelled the various plants and compared the smells and the sizes of leaves of the plants. We'll be planting some of these plants at school this spring. We discussed that many of the plants are drought-tolerant and not in need of much water.
  • Black sage can be used against pain. A sun tea of the leaves can be rubbed on a painful area, e.g. a foot;
  • White sage is burned as a smudge, incense, during ceremonies. It is picked, dried and wrapped with a string or vine and then briefly lit and blown out. People inhale the smoke which is supposed to create spiritual balance;
  • Cleveland sage made into tea. We used it to make potpourri because it smells good. Potpourri is a new vocabulary word. The leaves and flowers are dried. Hummingbirds and butterflies like its purple flowers.
  • Hummingbird sage is used to make tea. The pink flowers are liked by hummingbirds.
  • Monkey flower is used to heal minor wounds. Leaves are ground in a mortar and pestle and the paste is applied on wounds. Hummingbirds love the nectar in monkey flowers.
At the conclusion of the lesson the children ate broccoli with or without ranch dressing. They all appear to love this vegetable!  This class seems to enjoy gardening a lot. Some children came to the garden before garden "class" started to work in the garden and others stayed after the bell rang to help!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Some Plants used by the Chumash Indian

Today Ms. Farrell's class learned about some plants used by the Chumash and Tongva Indians who lived in our part of California. They smelled and touched black sage, white sage and cleveland sage which I had brought to school. Black sage was made into a tea and then rubbed on an area, e.g. a foot, to fight pain. White sage was dried, then wrapped in a small bundle, lit and then extinguished. It was used as a type of incense during a ceremony. Cleveland sage was dried and used as potpourri.  (We also learned the meaning of incense and potpourri today). I explained that these plants are not edible. They are native plants to our part of California and are drought-tolerant, meaning that they don't need as much water as the vegetables that we are growing.

Some children planted seeds while others studied the worms in the worm bin.

The kids enjoyed their snack of broccoli and ranch dressing.

Ms. Gardner's class composts and plants

Today the garden lesson on composting reinforced what the children are studying in science-the role of decomposers. We covered the browns which add carbon-leaves, paper, small branches and greens which add nitrogen to the compost-kitchen veggie and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags. We have a compost bin and a worm bin in the garden. The kids are most interested in the red wriggler worms in the worm bin. We'll add the worm castings to the garden soil.

We discussed that we garden organically and do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

After the lesson the kids planted spinach, kale, broccoli and pansy seeds. They also fertilized the soil with organic fertilizer.

Today's tasting featured broccoli with ranch dressing.

Planting kale

A close up view of some red wrigglers from the worm bin

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

More 2nd grade arugula salad

On 2/10/14 Ms. Yoshida's class and Ms. Fein's class harvested arugula from the garden and made arugula salad. In the lesson we discussed the meaning of harvest and ingredients. We also discussed the fractions of 1/4 and 1/2. The ingredients for the salad included arugula leaves, arugula flowers, nasturtium flowers (yes, they are edible) and for Ms. Fein's class, peas.   After the children harvested (picked) the arugula, they washed it and tore it into small pieces. Other children measured the ingredients for the dressing. Some children added the stems of the arugula and the pods from the peas to the compost bin. The children and the volunteers enjoyed the snack! We saved the plastic forks and will wash them for the next eating experience-an example to the kids of reusing! Thanks to Ms. Ashley, Myra, Shelli and Carolyn who volunteered today!

The recipe and photos follow. We did not add the cheese to our salad on 2/10 but it's a tasty addition!

Arugula with Parmesan Cheese (from Ina Garten)

1/2 pound fresh arugula (3 large bunches) or less
Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 -pound Parmesan

If the arugula has roots attached, cut them off. Fill the sink with cold water and toss the arugula
for a few minutes to clean. Spin-dry the leaves and place them in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Shave the parmesan with a vegetable peeler. Pour dressing on arugula, toss and serve. You can add the parmesan to the salad with the dressing or serve on the side.

Washing the arugula

Adding arugula stems to the compost bin

Harvesting arugula from the class bed

Picking off arugula leaves

Making the salad dressing

Tearing the arugula into small pieces

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

5th graders plant heirloom seeds

Today some 5th graders planted heirloom seeds that were popular in Thomas Jefferson's time.
They planted Painted Lady Sweet Peas and Prince Albert Peas. The sweet peas were brought to England from Sicily in 1699. Jefferson planted them in his garden at Monticello in 1811. Prince Albert peas were the most popular variety of English peas in the mid-19th century. This type is said to be identical to Early Frame, Jefferson's favorite pea, which he used when he had pea contests with his neighbors.

Both of the plants are cool season plants.  We obtained the seeds from the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello. We reinforced the meaning of heirloom plants and also the name of Jefferson's residence in Virginia.

We planted the English peas in the middle of the bed and surrounded them by the sweet peas, hoping that the squirrels don't find the peas!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Making an Arugula Salad

Today Ms. Connor's class and Mr. Jacobs' class made arugula salad. We discussed the meaning of the words ingredients and salad dressing as well as the concepts of 1/4 and 1/2.  Some of the children harvested arugula from our garden. Each child had a part in preparing the salad. Some groups added arugula flowers and nasturtium flowers (which are edible) to their salads. Those children who didn't like cheese ate just arugula with the dressing.  Afterwards some children fed the arugula stems to the worms in the worm bin.

The recipe that follows is the one which the kids made today. It can be varied as follows:goat cheese can be substituted for parmesan cheese, and roasted beets and walnuts could also be added.

Arugula is very easy to grow. It self seeds in the Marquez Garden and in my own garden. Another benefit is that squirrels don't seem to like it! I hope some of you try the salad and let your child help you cook!

Arugula with Parmesan Cheese (from Ina Garten)

1/2 pound fresh arugula (3 large bunches) or less
Lemon Vinaigrette

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 -pound Parmesan

If the arugula has roots attached, cut them off. Fill the sink with cold water and toss the arugula
for a few minutes to clean. Spin-dry the leaves and place them in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Shave the parmesan with a vegetable peeler. Pour dressing on arugula, toss and serve. You can add the parmesan to the salad with the dressing or serve on the side.

This is a great way to teach your kids about fractions! Enjoy!

Checking out the red wriggler worms

Cutting the cheese with the vegetable peeler.

The salad with an orange nasturtium flower as garnish

Peeling the cheese

Preparing the dressing
Adding greens to the worm bin

What to plant outside in February

The information listed below is from the National Gardening Association's regional report for this month. We are continuing to some of the seeds listed below in the Marquez School garden.  

Veggies to plant include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, chives, kale, leeks, lettuces, mustards, green and bulb onions, parsley (the flat-leaved is more flavorful than the curly-leaved), peas, radishes, and spinach.

Flowers to start outdoors include ageratums, alyssum, bachelor's button (cornflower), calendulas, candytuft, celosia (cockscomb), columbines, coreopsis, English daisy (bellis), delphiniums, dianthus, forget-me-nots, four-o-clocks, hollyhocks, larkspur, lunaria (honesty, money-plant, silver-dollar-plant), pansies, California and Shirley poppies, salvias, snapdragons, stocks, sweet peas, sweet William, and native wildflowers. Indoors, sow more of all of these.

Herbs to start include chamomile, caraway, chervil, coriander (cilantro), dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, oregano, sage, tarragon, and thyme.