Rain Gardening in the South

I’ve been noticing school rain gardens being mentioned more frequently in news alerts and thought some of you would find this book invaluable.

Written by NCSU horticulturalists Helen Kraus and Anne Spafford, Rain Gardening in the South helps gardeners wisely use our most precious resource—water. Rain gardens maximize rainwater, enhance the landscape, and promote good environmental stewardship.

Runoff contributes significantly to polluting our waterways. The rain garden, which functions as a miniature reservoir and filtration system, offers an effective, visually pleasing solution that dramatically reduces toxic runoff, resulting in cleaner rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The authors define the rain garden as “a garden slightly sunken below grade designed to capture rainfall, store that water to nurture the garden plants, and cleanse runoff, thus removing pollution.”

Ironically, rain gardens are more drought-tolerant than conventional gardens. Because of their plant selection and ability to store water, rain gardens flourish during dry spells, as well as rainy seasons, making them particularly conducive to the South.

“Water-wise gardeners are conscious of both the need to limit their water use and the need to minimize runoff, thereby dramatically reducing water pollution,” write Kraus and Spafford. “Not only are rain gardens extremely effective in addressing water and pollution issues, they are gorgeous.”

Rain Gardening in the South addresses the specific environmental circumstances of southern gardens, such as climate issues, plant selection, and soil types. It details step-by-step instruction on constructing a garden, from the design stage to post-planting maintenance, including plant lists and troubleshooting tips.

Though the specific plant lists are targeted to southern climates, the concepts, diagrams and design templates are universal.  And it is a very easy-to-use guide, full of accessible information about water harvesting, improving water quality, soil types…good hands-on science curriculum.

Publisher’s discount: $16 + $4 shipping at enopublishers.org

Rain Gardening in the South

School Gardens in the News

1) Newark, NJ
Growing minds: Planting the seeds for healthy living in youngsters

Students at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark are tending to seeds and seedlings they planted this spring, a small group of them continuing their watering and staking duties even now — during their summer break — to ensure good harvests later this summer and into the fall.

2) Parsippany, NJ
Storms test Randolph school’s rain garden

Michelle Land’s middle school students probably did not envision their newly dug rain garden being immediately put to the test, but this wet June has proved the project a success.

3) Cumberland, MD
Rain Garden Planting at Mountain Ridge High School

Approximately 80 students from Mountain Ridge High School Environmental Science and Biology classes along with volunteers from the Georges Creek Watershed Association participated in a rain garden planting at Mountain Ridge High School this spring.

4) Wausau, WI
Summer Program Teaches Kids to Enjoy Vegetables

For many children, eating their fruits and vegetables can be a challenge, but the Wausau school district has found a way to get their students excited about them. Their summer program ‘The Magic Bean’ has third through fifth grade students learn about healthy nutrition, while growing the food themselves.

5) Columbiana, AL
From Fertile Minds come fresh foods

Market-goers snatched up fresh-from-the-earth carrots from the Fertile Minds stand at Pepper Place Market June 27.

“We sold out of the carrots, tomatoes and okra before we knew it,” said Jake Woodham, a student at Indian Springs School.

6) Coos Bay, OR
Slug by slug, weed by weed

Part of Katie’s job this summer is to collect data on the garden’s growth in a journal. Each week after watering and weeding, she grabs her notebook and tape and “measures the plants and stuff.” She carefully records the height in both inches and centimeters in her journal – a school requirement of the summer gardener.

7) West Linn, OR
Sunset community helps garden grow

Volunteer support for the program has experienced a growth spurt this year, with as many as 45 families taking on weeklong shifts in the garden, just west of the school. From mid-June to the start of school this fall, they’ll pull weeds, double-check the irrigation system and tidy up the beds.

School and Garden Related Newsletters

I subscribe to a number of school and garden related newsletters/email lists that some of you may want to subscribe to. They are:

1) Botanical Interests Seed Company Newsletter

2) California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom E-Newsletter

3) California School Garden Network (Sowing and Growing Newsletter)

4) California Regional Environmental Education Community  (CREEC Network) Newsletters are available on website

5) GardenABCs.com Monthly Ezine

6) Kids Garden News (Kidsgardening.com)

7) Kitchen Gardeners International Newsletter

8) Life Lab Science Program

9) School Gardening–LA County Residents e-mail list.
E-mail Yvonne Savio (ydsavio@ucdavis.edu) and ask to be added to School Gardening–LA County Residents email list.

10) School Gardening–Non-LA County Residents e-mail list.
E-mail Yvonne Savio (ydsavio@ucdavis.edu) and ask to be added to the School Gardening–Non-LA County Residents e-mail list.

11) Southern California Regional Newsletter
National Gardening Association (also by Yvonne Savio)
See Regional Reports Zone Map to get newsletter for your area.

The Seedfolks of Room 324

Over the course of two weeks students wrote, filmed, and directed this short film after reading Paul Fleischman’s novel Seedfolks. These stories are the students’ stories created on location in Mr. Hughes’ English class at Virgil Middle School in Los Angeles, California.

Put this book on your summer reading list, you’ll thank me in the fall.

Seedfolks at Amazon.com

Amazon.com Review
Sometimes, even in the middle of ugliness and neglect, a little bit of beauty will bloom. Award-winning writer Paul Fleischman dazzles us with this truth in Seedfolks–a slim novel that bursts with hope. Wasting not a single word, Fleischman unfolds a story of a blighted neighborhood transformed when a young girl plants a few lima beans in an abandoned lot. Slowly, one by one, neighbors are touched and stirred to action as they see tendrils poke through the dirt. Hispanics, Haitians, Koreans, young, and old begin to turn the littered lot into a garden for the whole community. A gift for hearts of all ages, this gentle, timeless story will delight anyone in need of a sprig of inspiration.

Green Bean Harvest

Green beans (aka string beans or snap beans) are one of our earliest spring harvests.  Seed to table is usually about 60 days.

snap_beans

We are currently harvesting both bush beans and pole beans.  The difference between the two being: bush beans mature all at once while pole beans mature over a longer period of time. Additionally, bush bean plants are usually no more than 18” tall, while pole beans grow as a vine and can reach heights of 10-12 feet (hence the name, the pole is used for support, all pole beans should be grown on a trellis.)

green_bean_trellis

For those with year round gardens think about doing at least two or three  plantings, stagger the sowing, and you’ll have fresh green beans all summer.

To collect green beans seeds for next year allow some of your green beans to
stay on the vine till they appear dry and brittle . Collect the seeds and then store in a cool dry place.

dried-bean

One of my favorite ways of preparing green beans is the roasting method. See Roasted Green Beans recipe from kidscooking.about.com

For more green bean recipes please see the following:
1) GreenBeansNMore.com

2) 4 Fresh Recipes for Green Beans from Eating Well.com

3) 4080 ways to cook green beans from Cooks.com

Pre-K Garden’s Bounty

By Elvia J. Montanez, Director or the Pre-K program,
Holy Name of Mary School, San Dimas, CA

We’re just a single pre-k class in a pre-k through eighth grade school, but the children and parents have helped create a beautiful and bountiful garden.  It is actually the space of dirt found in a “U-shape” between parking spaces in our parish parking lot.  This space is right outside our classroom door, which is convenient.  A former class parent helped remove dried bushes from the area in the summer months before the school year started, and a work weekend (which ended up being rainy, but we trudged on) with a few families prepared the soil.

pre-k3

It’s not a large space at all, but our tiny garden has produced enough food and enjoyment to help feed various snack times for our four and five year old students, salads and vegetable trays were made on various occasions for the school and the parish staff, veggies went home (one gallon bag of lettuce per family/20 families and various other veggies at different times), families often picked lettuce or herbs to use at home, and at various times throughout the school year we sent carrots and lettuce (about 5 gallon zip bags each time) to our local homeless shelters during our school’s monthly collection of lunches (the Double Bag Lunch program) for the homeless in our area.  The children learned how to dry dill and hand made spice packets to take home their dried herbs.

This year we have grown dill, cilantro, lettuce, spinach, and carrots in the fall and winter.  We are currently caring for our spring and summer garden of squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers which were grown from seed.  Early on we planted wildflowers (also from seeds) because one of our students had hoped pre-k would be a place where she could pick flowers (and she did…almost daily).

pre-k1

The children learned about farming and gardening from a “hand to mouth” experience.  At the beginning of the school year we took a field trip to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s pumpkin patch and farm store.  There the children harvested pumpkins, shopped the farm store to pick out fruits and vegetables for the week, and watched day laborers plant a field of strawberries.  The week after, the children planted their winter garden from seed.  They cared for it and eventually harvested the bounty for snacks which they prepared and washed themselves.  In the early stages of the garden we were blessed with a finding of ladybug larva on a nearby tree.  The larva was collected, observed and eventually the lady bugs were released into the garden.  Over the winter months they seemed to multiply, giving the children a lesson on sustaining healthy plants without aphids and great joy in catching and releasing them.

Recently, the children learned how to collect seeds from their plants which will be used for next year’s garden.

Probably one of the most memorable moments in gardening was watching a young student who wouldn’t touch fruits or vegetables at the start of the school year, end up being one of the students who takes the most enjoyment from gardening and harvesting its fruits and vegetables.  She still won’t eat them, but doesn’t complain when placed in front of her at snack time and loves preparing the snacks for others to eat.

Our garden has been used in math centers, science centers, and even art centers (we took the brown, wilted leaves of the lettuce and painted with them).  We have several families who have started their own gardens at home as a result of the impact the school garden has had on their children.  It has been an awesome experience!

pre-k2

School Gardens in the News

1) Riverside, CA
Banning children learn how does a garden grow

Third- and fourth-grade students at Hemmerling Elementary School in Banning are tending to a vegetable garden on campus, where they’re growing zucchini, tomatoes, radishes, cilantro and string beans.
“It’s just fun that you get to grow your own plants,” said Nick Barnes, 10.

2) Ontario, Canada
Butterfly project takes wing

After growing from their eggs and munching leaves to grow strong, 20 black and yellow caterpillars each spun a chrysalis and emerged, much to the delight of many Monsignor O’Donoghue pupils, as painted lady butterflies.

3) Sioux City, IA
Students turning park into butterfly garden

Back in October, East Middle School students joined a club called “We Can Change the World Challenge”.  The students met twice a week after school planning to make-over a green space in Sioux City.

4) Wenatchee, WA
School garden brings nourishment to cafeteria and classroom

Anaka Mines held up a clump of grass attached to a maze of long, white roots, and Liberty Bell High School eighth-graders recognized it immediately as a rhizome. An hour later, first- and second-graders from Methow Valley Elementary School needed a little coaxing. “It rhymes with,” Lexi Koch offered, chuckling as she struggled to come up a word, “pie-zomes.”

5) Eugene, OR
How do their gardens grow? With agriculture experts, enthusiastic students and volunteers all in a row

The term “school grounds” used to mean swings, slides and teeter totters. These days, at about 30 schools in the Eugene-Springfield area, it also means lettuce, peas, squash, tomatoes — even garlic.

6) Santa Cruz, CA
Life Lab Science Program Celebrates 30 Years with Garden Festival

For 30 years, Life Lab Science Program has been helping educators and students bring learning to life in the garden. Based in Santa Cruz, Life Lab has been a leader in the garden-based learning movement locally and across the nation.

7) Cardiff, CA
Students sell produce to local restaurant

Children at Cardiff Elementary School have spent the last several months growing produce that will be used this weekend in salads at a nearby restaurant. On Friday morning, a group of roughly 40 students excitedly walked a couple of baskets and buckets full of lettuce, carrots, parsley and edible flowers to the nearby Rimel’s Rotisserie restaurant and got a cool $200 for their work.