Unromantic Truth: Gardens are hard work

By Tricia Elisara, KidsInGardens.com

Often, the clear-eyed observation that “gardens are hard work” is an argument given for NOT starting a garden.  I believe, however, that this truth is one of the most compelling reasons to (ahem) dig in if you hope to teach character education.

In the spring of 2010, Julian Elementary won a National Schools of Character award from the Character Education Partnership.  As such, a team of staff, teachers, and one parent (moi) attended their national conference last year to accept the award.  Funding had been made available to produce a 10-minute film highlighting how character education is taught at the winning schools.  We hired First and Main Media, and they produced a gem of a video, which is now featured on the CEP’s website.

After attending the conference last year, I noticed that the idea of school gardens as vehicles for character education was absent from the three-day series of workshops.  As such, I returned to the conference this year with colleagues to lead a session entitled “Gardens that Grow Character.”

The intersection of gardens and character education is a theme I plan to explore periodically on this blog, and I thought I’d lay down some history, starting with this film. If you’re in a hurry, the garden makes an appearance at minute 6:20.

Master Gardener Volunteer Training Program 2012

Please read thoroughly. Applications are now available online only through Yvonne Savio. You must be on one of her email lists to receive application link.

MASTER GARDENER VOLUNTEER TRAINING PROGRAM

13 Saturdays, March 3 – May 26, 2012, 9am-4pm

January 6: Last Day to Get Onto Elist to Receive Application Link
January 15: Last Day to Submit Completed Online Application

WHO CAN APPLY
• Any resident of Los Angeles County with an email address and computer access. Most communication will be by email and websites.
• Anyone who wants to help teach low-income and limited-resource people how to grow more nutritious vegetables and fruits.
• We especially invite residents of inner-city neighborhoods and bilingual gardeners.

HOW TO APPLY
• You must be on either or both of our resource elists – 1) Community Gardening and Food Security, 2) School Gardening.
• If you’re not on either elist, email ydsavio@ucdavis.edu by January 6, 2012 and indicate which elist you want to be on (you can be on both).
• If you’re already on either or both elists, email ydsavio@ucdavis.edu by January 6, 2012 to receive the online application link.
• Complete and submit the online application by January 15, 2012. No application will be considered before then.

WHAT WE’LL DO
• Accept 50 applicants. Main criteria for acceptance: 1) prior community service, 2) know gardening basics, 3) passion for helping low-income
gardeners, 4) given presentations, 5) work well with people of diverse backgrounds, and 6) initiative in starting and carrying through projects.
• On February 1, 2012, we will email you whether or not you have been accepted into the program. Don’t contact us earlier.
• If you have been accepted, we will email you a Live Scan form and list of Live Scan locations in L.A. County for required fingerprinting and criminal background check by the U.S. Department of Justice. This must be done for us specifically, only at these locations, regardless if you’ve done it for another agency. Note differences in prices, hours, and whether an appointment is required.
• If you have been accepted, we will email you instructions on joining our MGs-only Yahoogroup. You can use either your existing email address or your new Yahoo email address to receive all of our MG emails and materials. You will receive LOTS of emails!
• On February 15, 2012, we will post onto the MG-only Yahoogroup your first assignments due on March 3, the first day of class.
• Teach you how to garden successfully. Topics and garden activities will cover basic plant science, propagation, fertilization, irrigation, soil, compost,
vegetable and herb and fruit gardening, flowering plants and trees, Integrated Pest Management (diseases, weeds, insects, small animals), tools, how to start community and school gardens, and outreach techniques.
• Provide you with Volunteer and Continuing Education opportunities all over Los Angeles County.

WHAT YOU’LL DO IF ACCEPTED INTO THE MASTER GARDENER VOLUNTEER TRAINING PROGRAM
• By February 14, 2012, mail the Live Scan form completed by the Live Scan operator to: Valerie Borel, U.C. Cooperative Extension, 4800 E. Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90022.
• By February 14, 2012, pay course fee online with credit card, or mail check for $200 made payable to “UC REGENTS” to: Valerie Borel at above address. Low-income residents pay only what they can afford—see application for details.
• By February 14, 2012, join our MGs-only Yahoogroup and make sure you’re receiving postings.
• By March 2, 2012, become familiar with our Common Ground public website and our MGs-only Yahoogroup website.
• Attend 13 classes on Saturdays, March 3 through May 26, 2012, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, at our office. Some meetings will be at other garden sites;
we encourage carpooling with classmates. After the first class on March 3, only one class may be missed – and only with prior notice.
• Give gardening workshops at community gardens, school gardens, seniors’ gardens, housing development & other low-income gardens.
• Answer gardening questions at gardens and fairs, on the phone at our office, or by email from your computer.
• Help with program activities and workshops at the UCCE office in East Los Angeles.
• Post all your Volunteer and Continuing Education hours on our online Statewide MG Volunteer Management System (we provide instructions).
• Starting in June, attend monthly MG Continuing Education meetings on the second Saturday of every month at different garden locations.

WHAT YOU’LL GET
• University of California California Master Gardener Handbook; and discounts on other UC publications.
• Certificate of Completion of Class Instruction—after completing the 13-week training program and passing the take-home, open-book examination.
• Monthly Continuing Education meetings with speakers and activities on in-depth gardening topics.
• Frequent emails of Volunteer and Continuing Education opportunities and other program information.
• Annual recertification as an active MG after you post online at least 50 Volunteer hours AND 15 Continuing Education hours by May 31, 2013. (Future years’ annual requirements are 25 Volunteer and 15 Continuing Education hours.)
• Joy and satisfaction that you’re helping other gardeners grow more nutritious vegetables and fruits, you’re making new friends, and we’re all working together to beautify our neighborhoods and “Green LA”!

For More Information – Email Valerie Borel at vtborel@ucdavis.edu by January 12, 2012

Upcoming School Garden Grant Deadlines

Upcoming school garden grant deadlines are listed below. Don’t delay, apply now.

1) Burpee Home Gardens® is now accepting applications for the 2012 “I Can Grow” Youth Garden Award

The award will sponsor and support youth and community gardens across the US in 2012. What the Youth Garden Award includes: Up to 500 vegetable and herb plants*, $2,500 for program supplies, On-site assistance for initial garden layout and installation, Installation day event publicity coordination, Five gallons of Daniels® Plant Food (a sustainable fertilizer), Flip® video camera to document garden progress,  *Quantity of plants is dependent upon size of garden and need.
Deadline is December 23, 2011.

2) The Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) provides grants to schools, as well as community-based environmental and educational organizations. No grants are made to individuals or businesses.

Grants from the Captain Planet Foundation are intended to:
* serve as a catalyst to getting environmental activities in schools
and communities.
* inspire youth to participate in community service through
environmental stewardship activities.
Deadline is January 15, 2012

3) Whole Kids Foundation will grant 1000 schools $2000 each to build or expand their school garden.
Deadline is December 31, 2011

4) Herb Society of America – Grant for Educators
Each year, the Grant Committee anticipates funding one or two grants for a total of $5,000. The grant recognizes innovative projects that enhance herbal education in school systems, in communities, or in any public forum (electronic or person-to-person). It requires learning goals and a mechanism to measure the educational outcomes.
Deadline is December 31, 2011

5) California Fertilizer Foundation (CFF)
Provide funding to California public and private elementary, middle and high schools to increase the understanding and awareness of agriculture in California’s youth through school gardens. During the 2011-2012 school year, CFF will award 24 grants of $1,200 each to schools in California. At the end of the year, CFF will invite those schools to reapply for a “progress grant” of $1,500 and a free agricultural field trip.
Deadline is January 15, 2012

 

Meet the Beneficials: Natural Enemies of Garden Pests

Ladybug

The University of California Integrated Pest Management Program has produced a very informative poster for identifying good bugs that prey on bad bugs. We call these call good bugs, beneficial insects.

Meet the Beneficials: Natural Enemies of Garden Pests illustrates the various natural predators and parasites that feed on common garden pests.

One example is the lady beetle shown above. They are known to feed on aphids and whiteflies.

So before reaching for harmful pesticides consider biological controls such as  beneficial insects to do the job instead.

 

Soil Testing

removing asphalt

Removing Asphalt

Soil testing is sometimes necessary when putting in a new school garden especially if asphalt has been removed. Even an existing  garden can be tested to make sure the soil contains all the proper nutrients and is free from contaminants.

Los Angeles County Master Gardener, Herb Machleder, offers this recommendation from Peaceful Valley Organic Garden and Farm Supply, located in Grass Valley, Northern California:

1) “Complete Soil Analysis with free booklet” #SVS200 $49.98

This is a very complete analysis of major, minor, and trace nutrients and minerals and all the usual soil characteristics; pH, cation exchange, etc. The booklet is very helpful for interpretation, and also indicates any amendments that would be appropriate and how to order them, on the same web site. The kit includes full instructions and a small addressed package to return the sample for analysis. For a small extra fee, they offer a phone call service with their staff soil expert, to discuss the analysis, if questions remain. I’ve used the service for several of the school garden orchards, when we really weren’t sure of what kind of soil we were dealing with. By using the recommended amendments we very pleased with the fertility results. The phone call service was stated as $10 per minute, but no additional bill was sent for up to 30minutes. They seemed very eager that the results be interpreted properly, and any amendments needed were appropriate.

2) A more limited soil test is called: “NPK Analysis” # SVS100 $29.98 . It also comes with complete instructions and a sample-taking kit. The price is all inclusive.

The print catalog is full of great information on beneficial insects, green manure crops, etc. The website is www.groworganic. com

 

4 Tips for Starting a School Garden with Students

If you’re an elementary school teacher and searching for a way to get your students more engaged with the outdoors and less glued to computer monitors and TV screens, you should consider starting a school garden. Since Michelle Obama started the White House garden as part of her healthy eating and living initiative, many teachers across the country have taken to a project of this sort, thanks to its simplicity and interactivity advantages. Though it may seem mind-boggling to begin with, the reality is that a school garden is actually rather simple to start. All that is needed is a small outdoor space with at least six hours of sunlight, a nearby water source, and the seeds and/or transplants to get started.

Tip #1: Start Small Grow Bigger
It is much easier to expand a small garden then to manage a large garden for those who are inexperienced. One or two raised beds are plenty for an average size class. Choose plant varieties that are easy to manage and quick to mature like radishes and lettuce. Even if you can only invest an hour a week in the garden with your students you will still be able to see spectacular results. After all, a small garden teeming with produce is lot better than a large garden too big to manage.

Tip #2: Don’t try to control everything
One of the best parts of having a school garden is having your class take the reigns with this project. Engage students in the planning process and allow them to choose what plants they want to grow. Have them make signs so they can establish “ownership” and feel proud of their accomplishments. Try giving out individual silk flowers to students who see early successes. The silk flowers will last a long time and are perfect mementos to help keep the students motivated early on.

Tip #3: Do more than just planting
Not everyone has a green thumb, so perhaps some of your less gardening-apt students can help out with other highly important features of the garden. You can have some students paint patio furniture that blends with the colors of the flowers growing in the garden. Patio furniture in bright, summery colors will look great, and the final pieces will give the students more reason to congregate in the garden even just for reading purposes.

Tip #4: Rinse and Repeat
If you’ve raised edible vegetables having a harvest party is a great way for the students to celebrate their success and eat a fresh, healthy meal in the process. Making a big salad that can be enjoyed by all is a great way to go. Then, if the project worked out well for you, think about growing other types of edible gardens like a pizza garden with tomatoes, peppers and onions, or a three-sisters garden with corn, beans, and squash. Once your students experience the joy of tasting the fruits of their labor they’ll definitely want to repeat the project in the next semester or next year.

Burpee Home Gardens® is now accepting applications for the 2012 “I Can Grow” Youth Garden Award.

Burpee Home Gardens® is now accepting applications for the 2012 “I Can Grow” Youth Garden Award. In its third year, the “I Can Grow” program continues to support urban school and community gardens in cities across the United States. To date, the “I Can Grow” program has provided more than 8,000 vegetable and herb plants to help create 16 gardens nationwide.

The 2012 “I Can Grow” Youth Garden Award will be presented to established or start-up school and community gardens that demonstrate well-developed and staffed plans for a youth-centered educational program, with an emphasis on nutrition and food production, environmental awareness, social responsibility and scholastic integration.

Click link above for complete article and link below for application.

Garden grant application available online; due Dec. 23, 2011