Category Archives: Instructional Activities

Week 22 – Planting Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the easiest vegetables you can grow, but they prefer cool weather. Think about where they originated – mountains of Peru, and where they grow well – Ireland, Maine, and Idaho (all cool weather environments). You should try to get them into the ground at the right time. Here in Southern California, according to digitalseed.com the right time is now.
If you want to grow potatoes, you should plant seed potatoes. A seed potato is nothing more than a piece of a potato with an “eye”. Potatoes from the supermarket should not be used as seed potatoes as they are bred not to form eyes (keeps them fresh on the shelves longer). Visit your garden center or order from specialty seed catalogs for seed potatoes.
Potatoes grow best in soft loamy soil and in full sun. Add plenty of compost prior to planting , to create a rich, loose soil that retains water, yet is well draining. Soil should be slightly acidic to avoid potato scab. Plant “eyes” in hills, two to three eyes per hill, and cover with 3″ of garden soil. Space hills one foot apart. As the plants grow, mound additional soil around the plants every week or two. Do not let the tubers or potatoes be exposed to sunlight. You can cover the soil around the plants with compost or mulch.
Below is a picture of a potato flower. From this picture can you tell what family the potato is in.

Week 21 – Rain

Our gardens are loving the rain. When we consider there are droughts about the globe and even close to home we are thankful for the rain and all that it does for us.
Please review this student-friendly article what is drought from the National Drought Mitigation Center and spread the word.

Week 20 – Swiss Chard Recipes

Swiss chard is having an identity crisis. Not as popular as carrots or as tasty as tomatoes, this prolific relative of spinach is in need of a good publicist. Being a biennial it will take two years to complete its lifecycle and go to seed. To the school gardener and the home gardener this means greater reward for your labor. With minimal effort one can be picking Swiss chard 52 weeks a year in our mild winter climate. Just pick the outer leaves and leave the smaller inner ones intact.
This lovely rainbow variety does cause heads to turn and students clamor to take a few cuttings home simply because “it looks pretty”, however, the one question I get from everyone, including teachers is, what do you do with it? My simple answer is, its in the same family as spinach, any recipe calling for cooked spinach can be substituted with the green leaves of Swiss chard, the stems are another story and we’ll get to that in a second. Below you will find two recipes for Swiss chard, the first is for the leaves, the second, for the stems.

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Sausage
In boiling salted water cook ½ lb pasta for 10 minutes, drain in colander. In same pot sauté ½ cup onion and 2 cloves garlic in 2 TB olive oil. Add one chopped turkey sausage and cook till browned. Add two bunches chopped Swiss Chard (about 3-4 cups) and sauté till wilted, adding up to ½ cup of broth (chicken or vegetable) as needed, about 10-15 minutes. Add cooked pasta, salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Swiss Chard Stems Moroccan Style
Chop stems from two bunches of Swiss chard (approximately 2-3 cups) and sauté with one onion and two cloves of garlic in 2 TB olive oil. Add a little chicken broth, vegetable broth or water, about ¼ cup, and cook till softened, about 10-15 minutes. Pour off liquid then stir in 3-4 tablespoons of tahini (start with 3 then add more as needed), juice of one lemon, two tablespoons olive oil, pinch of garlic salt, pinch of cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Week 19 – Pop Quiz

When we eat broccoli do you know what part of the plant we are eating? I’ll give you a hint, it’s the same part of the plant as when we eat artichokes. Here’s another hint, when we don’t pick broccoli in a timely manner this is what it looks like-
We are currently harvesting broccoli, carrots, peas, spinach, swiss chard, lettuce and radishes. Identify what part of the plant we are eating for each vegetable. First entry with all correct answers wins a packet of seeds.

Happy New Year

I’m sure glad students will be returning next week. Peas are getting plump, broccoli heads are blossom tight, carrots are starting to push their shoulders from the ground and our lettuce patch needs thinning, not to mention all the weeding that needs to be done!

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Week 15 – Winter Harvest

Its thanksgiving all over again. Being that this the last week before winter break we are harvesting bagfuls of lettuce, arugula, spinach, swiss chard, mixed asian greens, cilantro, and a few early peas. Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, etc we’ll have to wait for till after the break.

Since some schools are accessible during the break and some are not, find out what the situation is at your school and have a clear plan for watering.

Now would also be a good time to think about what to plant in the spring. See my vegetable family chart and choose what warm-season veggies to plant. We’ll be starting much of our warm-season crops indoors so plan on purchasing some peat pots and container soil as well.

Have a happy and healthy holiday. See you all in a few weeks.

Week 14 -Mixed Green Salad

Red Leaf Lettuce

Our lettuce and mixed greens are loving this weather; not too hot, not too cold. The students have been harvesting the outer leaves of all our different varieties, as well as thinning out those grown too close together to add to the mix.

We have such an abundance its time to discuss salad dressings. How do we enjoy all this edible greenery? First of course, we wash it. If you have alot, fill a sink with water, dump your greens in and let them soak for a few minutes. Drain them in a colander and either dry them off on paper towel or spin dry in a lettuce spinner.

Next lets make our salad dressing. The simplest salad dressing is olive oil, lemon and salt which can be applied right into the salad . You want just enough to coat the leaves without any pooling in the bottom of the bowl.A more elaborate dressing would be an herbal vinaigrette. The recipe is as follows: In a bowl or small jar combine 1 teaspoon ketchup with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of soy sauce. While mixing with a fork or twirling the jar, slowly add 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil depending on your taste. Then chop finely any combination of the following herbs: basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley. Add to the dressing with a dash of salt and pepper, shake well and pour over salad. Enjoy!