Category Archives: School Garden News

Bird Song – Free eBook

I have released my first eBook, Bird Song (BG Digital Publishing, 2013). As a special promotion for the holidays the book will be available as a free download for 5 days at the Amazon Kindle Store from December 11, 2013 – December 15, 2013.

Bird Song is a heartwarming story for all ages. Two birds, one with a broken wing, the other blind, must fly together on their migratory journey south. They encounter various adventures along the way and learn first-hand the power of song.

The promotion is a special gift for parents and children who enjoy quality reading time together.

After 12/15, the Bird Song eBook will be available for only $3.99.

To download your copy of Bird Song please visit,

Bird Song Cover Image

Central Nutrition Center Breaks Ground on New Hoop House


Local farmers, students, teachers and district staff all came together on October 19th to construct the district’s newest Hoop House. As a part of the district’s “Farm-to-School” initiative, produce grown in the new garden will be harvested for school cafeterias. The goal of this event was to educate students and the community on the benefits of good nutrition as well as creating a prolonged growing season with the construction of a hoop house.


The event was organized by the Shelby County School Department of Nutrition Services in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information or volunteer opportunities contact the Central Nutrition Center at (901) 416-5550.


Keeping a School Garden Journal

A School Garden journal is an invaluable tool, not only for the success of your garden but also for the myriad of experiments that can be done in tandem.

This is my entry for 10/5/13:

Bed 1 (B1) – Fava Beans germinated (broke through the soil), 1-2 days old. Germination took 10 days.

B2 – Lettuce germinated, about 3 days old. Germination took 7 days.

B3 – Beets and Swiss Chard both germinated. Germination took 7 days.

B4 – Aphids and eggs found beneath swiss chard leaves planted last year. Washed them off with a jet of water. See photo.

B5 – Something ate many of our Brassica seedlings (broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, bok choy). Not snails or slugs, no nub left over, no slimy trail. Will replant with floating row cover.

B6 – Peas, Carrots, Celeriac, Cilantro, Parsley sowed seeds 9/28, nothing yet.

Harvesting: last of the pole beans, swiss chard, kale, eggplant, Mexican sour gherkins, oregano, thyme, & chives.

Saved dried pods of pole green beans. Seeds were planted 5/15. Seed-to-seed was 19 weeks. Next year I want to get my sweet peas in earlier. If I want to plant them the third week in September (lets say, September 23rd), and I want to save seeds from the pole beans again, when should I plant the beans? This is one reason why we keep a journal. Can you think of some others?

Maybe this will help –
1. How Does My Garden Grow? Writing in Science Field Journals

2. School Garden Curricula

aphids and eggs

The yellow elliptical dots are the eggs. The black dots at top are the aphids

Guest Gardening Segment on the Marie Osmond Show

Dear School Garden Weekly Members:
Yours truly is going to be on TV sharing simple gardening projects for children and parents. I’m doing a guest segment on The Marie Osmond Show, Monday, 7/22, at 12 Noon, on the Hallmark Channel.

I’ll post a computer link to the episode once it airs.

Thanks, tell your friends.

George Pessin
LA County Master Gardener

National School Garden Network Brings School Garden Professionals Together

Santa Cruz, CA – At last year’s National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, school garden professionals convened to create a national network for supporting regional school garden programs. Through sharing resources and engaging in dialogue, the newly formed National School Garden Network (NSGN) strives to eliminate redundancy and help facilitate regional-based school garden programs. The Network is calling organizations and individuals that support multiple school garden programs at a regional, school district, or state level to join the online forum.

“There is no one way to create and sustain school gardens”, states Life Lab Outreach Director John Fisher, founding member of the NSGN. “The recipe for a successful school garden program varies from region to region, but organizations often have similar needs such as acquiring funding, creating policy, training teachers, and creating valid assessment tools. Our Network’s goal is to create an ongoing dialogue to share best practices.”

School garden support organizations can visit and join the  online forum or browse webinar topics related to school garden program development. Additionally,
national and regional conferences are listed to encourage school garden support professionals to meet face-to-face.

“Managing school garden programs is a challenge, but I believe creating a support community for its professionals is the key to sustainment,” says Sam Ullery, school garden specialist at the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. “My experience supporting more than 90 school gardens in the District of Columbia is successful, in part, because I’ve had a network to rely on. I look forward to participating in this new forum where I can expand my network and share what I’ve learned with others.”

The National School Garden Network is comprised of the following Advisory Committee organizations from across the nation:

  • Life Lab – Santa Cruz, CA (John Fisher)
  • UC Davis School Gardening Program – Davis, CA (Jeri Ohmart)
  • DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education School Garden Program – Washington, DC (Sam Ullery)
  • Community Groundworks – Madison, Wisconsin (Nathan Larson)
  • New Jersey Farm to School (Beth Feehan)
  • Whitson’s Culinary Group – New York (Bill Whitcomb)
  • Edible Schoolyard Project – Berkeley, CA (Emilie Gioia)
  • National Farm to School Network (Mary Stein)

Visit to learn more.

AVID Gardeners at Mark Twain Middle School Create Masterpiece

Jane Andino, Teacher/Volunteer and UCLA Education Graduate Student had an idea. She envisioned an educational curriculum that would involve students acting as catalysts for a widespread movement: one in which each school and community would create and nurture a communal garden.

Her idea was realized at Mark Twain Middle School in Venice, CA with considerable help from a talented group of volunteers, a dedicated teacher, Jill Usui, and the hard work and creativity of a special group of 7th and 8th grade students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class.

Over the course of this past school year, the students researched the history and daily maintenance of their well-known school garden and then created a resource packet, a brochure and the above video to inspire other communities to build and maintain their own school garden. For more information about The Process and The Schedule of this unique pilot program please visit Jane’s website at

One lesson they learned immediately is that the creation of a school garden cannot be done alone. Many hands are needed. Fortunately for Jane and her students, Mark Twain Middle School already had some very formidable volunteers in the way of Master Gardeners and Community Volunteers who call themselves the Gardenistas.

From L to R: Master Gardener Idalia Ramirez, Community Volunteer Michael Stenger, Master Gardener Marianne Brown, Master Gardener Patty Kestin, and Master Gardener Renee Meshul.

From L to R: Master Gardener Idalia Ramirez, Community Volunteer Michael Stenger, Master Gardener Marianne Brown, Master Gardener Patty Kestin, and Master Gardener Renee Meshul.

The Gardenistas were responsible for not only assisting Jane and her students in their project but also crafting the Mark Twain MS School Garden into the jewel it is today.

Well done Mark Twain Middle School, your namesake would be proud!

Back-to-School School Garden Shopping List


Great article from University of Florida Master Gardener Program.

It’s time for kids to go back to school, which also means it’s time for teachers to start thinking about their school gardens. You can help a local teacher and school garden by purchasing a few things on their school garden shopping list.

School & Office Supplies
Pens or permanent markers: for labeling plant markers, spray bottles, seed packets, etc.
Graph paper: for laying out fall or spring garden plans
Ruler: for straight boxes and rows on the garden plan
Notebooks: the small pocket-sized ones are great for taking notes while in the garden or bringing to the nursery, home center, etc.
Blunt-tip scissors: plenty of stuff to cut, so get a decent pair
Popsicle sticks: great as labels for transplants, seed flats, or in-garden bed plantings

Hobby/utility knife: cutting string, fabric, bags, plastic mulch, etc.
Linseed oil: for preserving and maintaining your garden tools

Plastic baggies/paper lunch bags: use these to hold packets of seeds, soil to be tested, and for distributing the harvest to friends, neighbors and food banks
Plastic containers with lids: store seeds, soil amendments, bulbs, tools, etc.
Cooking knives: for removing or chopping up plant matter bound for the compost pile
Towels: for wet cleanups
Colander: for washing your freshly harvested veggies prior to bringing them inside

Child-sized rubber boots: keep several sets for the classroom
Aprons or big shirts: to cover the kids school clothes when in the garden
Large hats: keep small faces and bodies covered in shade

Insect repellant: check with parents before applying to a child
Sunscreen: protect from sunburns, but, again, check with parents before applying
Hand sanitizer: goes without saying, with what kids get their hands into

Boxes: for new planting areas or for your worm bin
Newspapers: for that worm bin

Nursery (check to see if they’ll donate)
Seedlings: these are often better for schools, since kids can see them growing immediately
Seeds: these are cheap and kids love seeing their plants pop out of the ground
Worm bin: fun project for classrooms
Mulch: always a needed supply for the school garden
Potting soil: another always in need supply for the school garden
Pots: several different sizes are always good for teachers
Compost bin: these are great projects for classrooms, and the best ones for classrooms are the ones that can be turned and are off the ground

Although most of the supplies needed to start gardening or composting will be purchased by the individual schools, supplemental funding for the program comes from a variety of other sources. Help is always needed, so check with your local schools to see what they may need.