Category Archives: Instructional Activities

The Power of Observation

On the ReadWriteThink.org website there is an excellent lesson plan by Devon Hammer of Grand Island, Nebraska entitled,

How Does My Garden Grow? Writing in Science Field Journals

The following is an overview:
Science field journals have been in use for many, many years. In fact, Lewis and Clark were asked to keep a field journal by President Thomas Jefferson. Their journals included detailed observations of the land, plants, and animals they saw. This lesson plan invites students to observe and explore their environment in much the same way. Students work together to plant a garden and study its growth using the inquiry process of questioning and exploring. As they research and study, students record their observations in a field journal, to be shared with others—just like Lewis and Clark!

Click title above for complete lesson plan.

Artichokes

Good news ‘choke fans, artichoke season is upon us. These edible buds are grown as perennials in our mild winter garden zone which means for those of us with year-round school gardens the time to enjoy them is now.

artihoke01
Artichokes should be picked while the buds are still tight. The edible parts consist primarily of the fleshy lower portion of the bracts as well as the base, which is known as the “heart.” The immature florets in the center of the bud are inedible in older larger flowers and are usually removed.

See this video on how to clean artichokes for boiling and be sure to visit the California Artichoke Advisory Board (CAAB) for artichoke and artichoke dip recipes.

One note of caution, artichokes, being a member of the thistle family, have outer leaves that can develop into sharp points, gloves are recommend for harvesting.

artichoke_flower

Lastly, consider allowing one or two buds to open, flower, and go to seed. The purple florets are a treat for the eyes and the feeling of running your fingers over them is a wondrous joy to the sense of touch.

Spring Planting

In order to get our spring vegetables harvested before the end of the school term we are currently sowing the following from seed directly into the ground: bush beans, pole beans, zucchini, and lettuce. We are also transplanting seedlings of corn and cherry tomatoes, which we started in our greenhouse. Cherries mature quicker than the larger beefsteaks.

For those with year round gardens wait until the weather warms up a little more before planting cucumbers, melons, and winter squash.

If you’re not sure what to plant or when check out this planting guide from DigitalSeed.com

If you haven’t gotten seeds yet visit our friends at Botanical Interests and while you’re there check out their fundraising for school gardens.

beans

Winter Flowers

Its late February here in our California school gardens. Some of the veggies we planted in September are now going to seed (broccoli, bok choy, cilantro) while others are still producing (fava beans, peas).  Either way by observing the flowering of our plants we are reminded that all our annual plants go through a similar life cycle; they start from seed, grow, flower, set seeds, and die. Its starts with seeds and ends with seeds, beautiful flowers are merely a bonus.

Kohlrabi – Info and Recipes

kohlrabi

Kohlrabi was harvested recently and like other uncommon vegetables the question most asked was, what do we do with it? First, a little information; Kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family. Its name is derived from the German Kohl (cabbage) and Rube or Rabi (turnip) because the swollen stem looks like a turnip.

The taste and texture of kohlrabi is similar to broccoli stems or cabbage hearts but milder and sweeter. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Small kohlrabi do not need to be skinned, but the larger ones definitely do.

Of kohlrabi’s two varieties the purple globe is sweeter and tastier than the apple-green.

Nutritionally, kohlarabi is very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Thiamin, Folate, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. See complete Kohlrabi Nutritional Values from nutritiondata.com.

The following are some recipes I found featuring kohlrabi:

1) Pickled Kohlrabi

2) Kohlrabi-Mushroom Soup

3) Freezing Kohlrabi

4) German-Style Stuffed Kohlrabi

5) Roasted Kohlrabi and Butternut Squash

6) Spicy Kohlrabi

7) Avocado and Kohlrabi Salad

8) Creamy Kohlrabi Salad

9) Braised Kohlrabi

10) Mashed Kohlrabi

Winter Harvest

After a three week winter break school gardens with watering angels (or on automatic timers) saw a spurt of growth that caused many to utter “WOW” upon their return.

Peas on the Vine

Peas on the Vine

Pea vines were 7 ft tall and full of ripe pea pods. Bok choy that wasn’t picked before the break had bolted and flowered with stalks as high as 4 ft. Spinach, arugula, swiss chard, cilantro, lettuce and radishes all needed to be trimmed, thinned, or pulled. Bags of salad greens were assembled for all with implicit  instructions to take their bounty home, wash it thoroughly, make a salad and say to siblings and parents, “look what I grew.”

Next week we’re planning to start seeds indoors and in our greenhouse. We intend to get a head start on spring planting by starting seeds of zucchini, corn and tomatoes as well as more cool weather crops such as broccoli, kohlrabi, and lettuce.  Days to Maturity for warm-weather plants dictate that we get them in the ground no later than the middle of March for harvest before school’s end.

Check this Southern California Garden Calendar for vegetables that can be planted in January.

If outside of California check with your local Cooperative Extension or Master Gardener program.

For those who haven’t gotten their seeds yet see:

Botanical Interests

Pinetree Garden Seeds

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

The Child’s Food Garden

Thank you to Michael Levenston at CityFarmer.info for uncovering this gem, a digitized school book from School Garden Series, published in 1918. The uniforms may have changed, but much of the instruction is still valid.

The Child’s Food Garden, With a Few Suggestions for Flower Culture by Van Evrie Kilpatrick, 1918, Principal of the Carlisle School, New York City and assigned to supervision of School and Home Gardens. President of the School Garden Association of America. 65 pages. Includes many photos and illustrations

Preface:
Every boy and every girl who has a garden at home, or who is given a plot in a school garden, ought to learn to do the work successfully. Yet, as the author has found, children, especially those who live in cities and towns, know little or nothing about producing anything from the soil, and since the teacher cannot always be present to direct the work, there is a danger that discouraging mistakes will be made.

The importance of encouraging our children in outdoor work with living plants is now recognized. It benefits the health, broadens the education, and gives a valuable training in industry and thrift. The great garden movement is sweeping over all America, and our present problem is to direct it and make it most profitable to the children in our schools and homes.

Link to Flip Book of the book here.

Link to PDF of the book here.