Tuesday, December 10, 2013

We Can All Be Eating Well

I'm off on a tangent.   Having seen the documentary, A Place at the Table, I'm having lots of troubled thoughts about the state of nutrition in the USA, especially the terrible eating habits of so many children.
Many of our people live in rural or suburban areas.
Many enjoy the presence of pets.
The pets get fed.
Many have some space that could be dedicated to a small or even a large vegetable garden. This is even possible in urban areas.
I believe we need to reintroduce the concept of home gardening, of raising pets for food (chickens for eggs and eventually for meat, rabbits for meat... )
This has become "trendy" for wealthy suburban families. This used to be normal for almost everyone when we were an agricultural society.
Is it not time to help us become a bit more self-sufficient by learning how to plant some vegetables, some fruit trees or bushes, to raise small livestock, to harvest what we have sown and what we raise?

I think about the small "vegetable garden in every school" project we started in Stamford,CT in 2010. This is a small step toward educating our children about the methods of raising vegetables, how food is grown, what it takes from seed to harvest, and how to cook with the vegetables we grow. These baby steps lead to awareness, self-sufficiency, and a great deal of pride in the accomplishment of producing a tangible food with one's own hands and work.

I think about organizations like Heifer,Int'l which provide a goat or a cow or a dozen chickens, etc to a family in a Third World country in order to improve their lives. This is what we need in the USA. We need to grab the older folks who had Victory gardens during WWII and have them teach their grandchildren before they pass on. We need to resurrect our attachment to the earth, to the microbes, the insects, the birds and bees that make our growth cycles possible. We need to protect these same species from the pesticides and herbicides that are killing them and destroying our soil and invading our food and bodies. We need to touch the earth and let it feed us again in small spaces. The mega-agricultural factories have divorced us from our food source and impoverished our health and our land.
How uplifting to produce some home-grown vegetables, how satisfying to eat what we produce without harmful chemicals, how healthy a lifestyle we could be promoting.

How do we get this message out? Let's get growing!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Winter is for the birds...

I love the gentle quiet that winter provides. It's time to take a look back at what worked well, what needs tweaking, what we can hope to do next spring. And a time to be grateful for the space winter opens up in our minds and hearts.
So, the birds....
Our school garden club made some simple pine-cone feeders with peanut butter and bird seed.
pine cones, string or yarn, peanut butter, tongue depressors, bird seed, newspaper, patience
                                              Spread newspaper on table (We forgot this.).

 Tie string to pinecones.                                          
        Smear peanut-butter on cones.
Dredge cones in bird seed.
Hang cones from tree.
                                                 Watch the birds discover the feast.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Time to Evaluate the Garden

Summer is fast closing down but the garden is still producing and with some careful planning, it will continue to do so into late November.... and maybe longer.
What to do:
Remove all dead plant matter and add to the compost pile/bin.
Remove any diseased plant matter and put in trash.
Loosen up exposed soil and get it ready for the seeds you can now sow.
Prepare a section for lettuces, another for beets, for chards, for choys, for beans, for peas.
Keep in mind that some herbs, like parsley and cilantro,will be very happy to get started now. And perennial herbs can be divided and shared with friends.
Read the planting instructions on the seed packets.
Follow the directions. 
Keep the tender seedlings watered. Water the soil surface, don't pour from on high.
Cover with a "row cover" if temperatures drop.
Try a few seeds in planters
Move some tender herbs into planters that can eventually be brought inside
Keep having fun.
green bean seedlings planted about 3 weeks ago at school garden

mixed lettuce seeds sprinkled in planter about 10 days ago

snow peas started at edge of compost bin to climb up wire

lettuce gone to seed, time to shake the seeds to re-sow or replace with fresh seed

planter with basil, rosemary, lavender and one renegade nasturtium

Monday, June 17, 2013

One pretty garden

One pretty garden...

Here's a peek at Davenport Ridge ES vegetable garden in Stamford,CT. Under the care of an outstandingly creative and hard-working art teacher, the vegetables are flourishing and the children who get to visit and harvest are having a unique learning experience.
Notice the colorful birdhouses. The yellow one now has tenants! Notice also the height of the beds, the bright orange potato grow bags, the generous spacing between beds, the overall neatness of the plan and the design. Vertical supports add interest but also help with growing of vegetables that might suffer from fungus if left laying on the soil: tomato ladders, trellis for peas. Marigolds outline the tomato bed to thwart certain insects. The sturdy fence keeps out the deer.
There is a collection of 24 small stools to enable the children to visit, sit, observe, draw, write...enjoy. Water source is in the garden and the garden is exposed to sunlight all day long - no obstructions.
The summer schedule has been posted on the school's website for families to volunteer a visit. They get to water and bring home some of the harvest. The single visit is about 30 minutes long. That's it for one family - one 30 minute visit. 8 families, sign up 30  minutes  one time during the summer. In this way the garden is tended all summer and will still be flourishing and producing when the students return in late August,  ready for the fall succession planting.
Thanks to all teachers who bring this element of life and learning to their students. A garden is a gift to everyone who gets to step into it. It feeds the soul, the mind, and the body. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lettuce Challenge 2013

Lettuce Challenge Chair looking over the entries
Kudos to The Stamford Garden Club for sponsoring their 3rd Annual Lettuce Challenge for the Stamford schools in conjunction with the G.I.V.E. project. Entries have been judged and are on view in the lobby of the Stamford Government Center during lobby hours until Friday. There will be a recognition ceremony on Wednesday at 4pm. It is open to the public. See photos below for a preview. Each year the quality of the entries improves. We are making progress.

Top two entries judged "best in show" 
Giant lettuce that overwintered at Dolan MS garden

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Planting the Spring Garden Beds- middle school garden club

Three of 8 beds with grids - peas, lettuces, chards, beets, radishes, spinach, bok choy, cabbage, leeks, cilantro and carrots have been NEATLY planted. Kits for each bed included: students' own spring garden layout,  pre-cut yarns, thumbtacks, chalk, a ruler, and tongue depressors to label the sections with the names of the seeds planted. Students worked in pairs: measuring,  positioning the yarn, and planting the seeds they wanted as per packet directions. How many seeds are needed for a 3' row if the seeds need to be placed at 4" intervals. H-m-m-m! Math in the garden? 
Beds were partially planted. Middle bed includes a large buttercrunch lettuce and some kale that wintered over. Front bed includes a plug of buttercrunch lettuce being grown outdoors for an annual Lettuce Challenge.
Notice the milk jugs from the winter sowing project. Seedlings are still growing and will be removed once they are sturdy enough to be transplanted into the prepared beds. 

And on June 11th - here's what we have to harvest so far. Looking good!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why School Gardens Matter

It's great to find an article that sums up, and then some, what has been going on in our project since 2009. We knew why we wanted to establish vegetable gardens on site in all of the schools in Stamford, CT. We knew it meant lots of extra work for our teachers. But we knew the students would grow in many ways - the ways only a garden can make one grow.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Grasping at Straw

Here's a link to an exciting article for the beginner gardener or for the seasoned-but-tired gardener.
A way to have a neat, complete vegetable garden, contained, simple, easy, inexpensive, attractive and productive.
What have I left out? H-m-m-m - best to read it yourself.  Oh, yes, good for schools or for home gardens.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Garden Bed Grid

I love neat gardens. 
I've never had one. 
Here's my latest attempt to make it happen this year.
This is a simple project to enable students to "see" the garden grid for square-foot gardening before they touch the soil. To be done in pairs or trios.
Materials: sturdy rectangular boxes like the ones for clementines, some yarn, scissors, rulers or measuring tape, thumbtacks or tape, and graph paper, (see option*).

Process: Mark off the inches around the rim of the box.
Cut  the yarn to just over the desired length and staple or tape in place at determined intervals. 2 colors make it easier to see.
Talk about the number of spaces they will use for each type of seed to be planted.
Consider the spacing per seed, the height of the plant, the compatibility of each plant with its neighbors. The students can draw or write the names of the plants they plan to grow in each section. They can consider a block of about 6 sections - 2' x 3' - for example, for their peas.
They can repeat outside with their raised beds. Step 1 - mark off the feet on the raised bed frame. Using long lengths of yarn and thumbtacks begin to make the grid outside. Then the planting can begin, neatly. *Option: teacher demonstrates with the little wooden box. Students graph their garden on paper and then transfer that plan to the garden bed. 
Have fun!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to Winter Sow

Winter sowing is a great activity for children and for any gardeners who are craving to get started on their garden even when the weather says, "Hold on!". Read directions completely before starting.

Gather necessary tools and ingredients:empty plastic gallon 
container, duct tape,  awl, scissors, 
markers, seeds, 1 quart potting soil, water.
Cut through the plastic container but...
...leave the "hinge-handle" attached.

Poke drainage  holes into the base with awl.

Fill base with 1 quart wet potting soil.

Select a few seeds. Read directions on packet.

Space according to directions.

Notice spacing, press seeds gently into prepared, wet soil.
Add a bit more water if necessary.

Place a seed ID label into soil.

Tape cut area securely with duct tape.

Place your mini-greenhouse in the garden. Let nature take over. Moisture will be evident inside the jug. You may peek  inside after a few weeks to see if anything is sprouting. When the temperature inside the "greenhouse" is high enough, the seeds will germinate. If the container seems dry, you may add a little bit  of water from the top.  The seedlings will be ready to transplant into the garden at the appropriate time. They will be "hardy" from the start.  Patience!