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 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating

From the New York Times,
The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating

We got 3 of these growing in our school gardens (4 if we knew how to dry plums.)

School Garden News – California

Local schools, local food
Advocacy group pushing Chico school district to serve more-healthful food in cafeterias

By Christine G.K. LaPado,

Debra Abbott works as an after-school gardening teacher at McManus, Parkview, Rosedale and Citrus elementary schools. Her job is funded by a special grant for low-performing and high-poverty schools. She recently helped some of her students pick lettuce, chard, spinach and carrots from their school garden, showed them how to wash the vegetables, and then helped them prepare fresh lemon vinaigrette to put on the salad she guided them to create.

“All of the kids loved it,” said Abbott of the, garden-to-classroom food. “They said they’d rather eat that than the ‘little fruit pellets’ they [were given at school] for a snack and didn’t eat. These kids want this [fresh] food.”

Abbott describes a “huge disconnect” between what she is teaching children in her gardening program and “the processed food in the cafeteria” that they are eating for breakfast, lunch and snacks. She cited the packaged, sugary cereals and high-fat breakfast entrees such as “sausage on a stick” and “sausage on a biscuit,” and “pizza every day of the week,” as prime examples of school foods that should be reduced or eliminated.

“They could serve Cheerios, Special K or Rice Krispies instead of all those sweet cereals,” said Abbott, “but they’re probably being subsidized by the sweet-cereal industry.”

Abbott is a member of a new organization called Advocates for Healthy School Communities. The group held its second “Change School Lunch” meeting on Jan. 8 at the OPT (Overweight Prevention and Treatment) for Fit Kids office on Mangrove Avenue. The group, which thus far totals nine members, is made up largely of parents, local food educators and school garden teachers—including Maria Venturino, co-owner of the Red Tavern restaurant and parent of two Chico schoolchildren.

Other members include sustainability activist and KZFR programmer Laurie Niles; Kristen Del Real, substitute teacher and school garden coordinator at Hooker Oak Elementary School and mother of two children who attend the school; and Jeremy Miller, president of Chico Food Network, a nonprofit that is working to “foster a local food system that contributes to the long-term viability of farms in our region” and “provide education regarding local food systems,” among other aims.

They are attempting to get the Chico Unified School District to improve the quality of cafeteria food, as well as make progressive, healthful changes to the district’s current wellness policy, which is in the final-draft stage.

Click link above for complete article.

School Garden News – Florida

School Garden Yields Crop of Lessons
by Tiffany Lankes,

SARASOTA – The little plot at Southside Elementary has a selection of vegetables and herbs to rival any farmers market.

Everything from dill, sage and chives to eggplant, bok choy and cabbage overruns the 15-by-10-foot space outside Catherine Lankenau’s classroom. Nineteen first-graders spend part of each school day taking care of it.

They started the organic garden with the help of parent Krista Benz, who donated the soil, mulch and plants — close to 100 — to get them started. On Thursday Rob Kluson from the Sarasota County Extension dropped by to give them tips and talk about earthworms.

“You guys are really good gardeners,” Kluson told them.

Organic gardening may be tough, but these tips from Southside first-graders (and extension agent Rob Kluson) may help get even a novice gardener started.

• Use earthworms to keep the soil naturally fertile. Throw some coffee grounds in as well, since earthworms like to eat them.

• Include other plants that attract helpful bugs, like ladybugs and spiders, that will eat harmful pests. Also include plants like butterfly bushes. Butterflies will help pollinate the plants.

• Visit a community garden and learn from people who are already doing it. “You’ve just got to experiment,” Kluson said. “You learn by trying.”

School Garden News – California

Garden Grows Math, Science
By ERICA SHEN, The Press-Enterprise

Thanks to Garrett Frasier, a math and science garden at Clayton A. Record Jr. Elementary School in San Jacinto is one step closer to completion.

For his Eagle Scout project, the 16-year-old from San Jacinto solicited donations and rallied volunteers to lay concrete in the garden.

The 1,500-square-foot garden has planters in shapes such as triangles, rectangles and circles. It will be used to teach students horticulture and math.

Garrett Frasier, 16, of San Jacinto
(Photo by Erica Shen / The Press-Enterprise)
Garrett Frasier, 16, of San Jacinto, designed a garden at Clayton A. Record Jr. Elementary School as part of his Eagle Scout project. The 1,500-square-foot garden has planters in shapes such as triangles, rectangles and circles. It will be used to teach students horticulture and math.

Garrett, who belongs to Boy Scout Troop 908, started the project in September. After the planning stages, Garrett and his family and friends spent three Saturdays digging out dirt and pouring concrete.

Garrett said the project was a lesson in organizational and leadership skills.

“It taught me how to work with people and get something done,” he said.

Garrett’s friend, Kyle Holmes, who belongs to the same troop, worked on the garden for his Eagle Scout project earlier this year. He designed and constructed the wood frames for the garden and its geometric planters.

The school principal, Vince Record, said the garden has been a community effort. Besides the Boy Scouts, parents and volunteers from Home Depot also helped with the construction.

Record said the garden needs irrigation and a storage shed for hand tools. In the future, there may be some benches and a mural. Students will start planting in March.

School Garden News – Australia

Kitchen garden funding to go national
Reporter: Lucy Carter,

ELEANOR HALL: Convincing children to eat their greens can be an uphill battle and getting them to enjoy it almost impossible. But a program that’s about to be rolled out to almost 200 primary schools across Australia is promising to turn that around.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program has been running in Victoria since 2001.
Now the Federal Government has committed $12.8-million dollars to help the project to expand nationally.

Lucy Carter has more.
LUCY CARTER: It’s a program that teaches children literally from the ground up, trying to make the idea of organic food attractive and interesting to years three to six.

Celebrity chef, food writer and founder of the program, Stephanie Alexander explains.
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: The children have one full class a week in the garden and a double class in the kitchen.

From the very beginnings, they start to learn about where their food comes from. They start to enjoy all the magic of a garden and then once the crops are ready for picking, they take their harvest into the kitchen and in the kitchen they are shown fantastic ways of turning this largely vegetable crop into lovely food.

LUCY CARTER: Ms Alexander says the program encourages children to look at food in a number of different ways.

STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: They learn both actual cooking skills but they also learn the infinite potential of the stuff they’ve grown in the garden and then they sit around a table with their friends and with the volunteers who assist and learn all about the social joys of sharing food around a table which for many of them is a new experience.

LUCY CARTER: Sarah Warren is the Kitchen Garden program coordinator at Southmoor Primary School in Victoria, one of 27 schools in the state that currently has the program in place.

SARAH WARREN: It is not just a program that looks at cooking skills. It is a program that is really developing that whole knowledge of where food comes from and what it looks like if it is growing in the ground and not just picked up from the supermarket.

LUCY CARTER: She says teaching children about sharing food is one of the most rewarding aspects of the program.

SARAH WARREN: Especially when we first started, I mean the number of children that hadn’t set a table before and hadn’t really sat down on a daily basis and shared a meal with people that they are at home with, so I think that is a really important sort of social aspect of it.

It makes it more than just a cooking program. It makes it more of a, you know sharing what they have eaten and really enjoying and celebrating what they have actually grown.

LUCY CARTER: The program has been so successful in Victoria, it secured $12.8-million dollars in federal funding to help it expand it nationally.

Over the next four years, almost 200 schools will be able to apply for grants to set up their own kitchen garden.

Sharon Reeves is the principal of Alawa Primary School in Darwin. Her school already has a small farm in place, but will incorporate the kitchen garden program from next year, and act as a demonstration school for the Territory.

SHARON REEVES: I think it gives the purpose to the farm. I just think it is a wonderful opportunity for our students that I can’t see any equivalent for.

LUCY CARTER: She says the school has huge expectations for the project.

SHARON REEVES: Big visions of inviting like the dads one week and the mums another week and maybe grandmas or friends of the family, because we really want to encouraging that link too and build it in – working in partnership between the school and home, and therefore strengthening the links of school that way as well.

LUCY CARTER: The Federal Government is expected to announce this week which schools have received grants to start kitchen garden projects.

ELEANOR HALL: Lucy Carter reporting.

School Garden Grants

Contests encourage school and community gardens
By REBECCA PERRY / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Big, juicy, organically grown tomatoes; crisp green peppers; perfectly purple eggplant and enough freshly dug potatoes to share with local families in need are reasons enough to tend a plot in a community garden.

Still need convincing? Consider fresh air, exercise and conversation with neighbors. The reasons for community gardens can pile up in a hurry. The cost of gardening materials can add up, too, but there are resources available to help community-minded gardeners meet their goals.

Grants and award programs aimed specifically at school and community gardens are multiplying. They reward chosen recipients with plants, tools and more. The programs are listed in order of application deadline. Stay informed on additional funding opportunities at sites including or as new deadlines are posted and other grant information becomes available.

Bayer Advanced “Grow Together With Roses” School Garden Award
This award helps school and community organizations beautify their world with roses. It is intended for groups with the goals of nurturing peaceful relations and involving community members who will be gardening with children between the ages of 3 and 18.
10 rosebushes and education materials
Application deadline: Jan. 23, 2009

Lowe’s Toolbox for Education
Nonprofit public schools for grades K through 12 may apply for grants that cover a variety of education projects. Suggested projects include turning an outdoor space into an inviting reading garden with benches, walkways, shady trees and flowers or planting a vegetable garden where history, social studies, math and science all come together in an active way. $2,000 to $5,000 per school.
Application deadline: Feb. 13, 2009 (or sooner, once 1,500 applications are received)

Fiskars Project Orange Thumb
Getting needed tools in the hands of community gardeners is the idea behind this project. A range of groups – community centers, clubs, youth groups, etc. – are eligible to submit their community garden, neighborhood beautification or horticulture education project. Up to $1,500 in Fiskars Tools; up to $800 for garden materials such as plants, seeds and mulch.
Application deadline: Feb. 17, 2009

Mantis Awards

Past winners have included schools, churches, correctional facilities, community gardens and many other organizations. Charitable and educational not-for-profit groups trying to increase their community’s access to fresh, nutritious foods are welcome to apply. 25 programs will each receive a Mantis Tiller/Cultivator
Application deadline: March 1, 2009

Nature Hills Nursery Green America Awards
This award targets nonprofit community groups striving to turn local eyesores into oases by planting trees, bushes and shrubs. Project examples include reclaiming an abandoned lot by creating a fruit orchard to provide fruit to nearby residents or refurbishing the landscape in a community park. Grand prize $2,500 in plants; first place $1,500 in plants; second place $1,000 in plants.
Application deadline: April 1, 2009

Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program
This year more than 1 million third-graders will be planting and tending their own cabbage plants from Bonnie Plants, according to the company’s Web site. More third-grade teachers are invited to sign up for next year’s round. Free cabbage plants; $1,000 scholarship awarded to one student in each participating state.
Application deadline: Sept. 1, 2009

Healthy Sprouts Awards
Kids working together in a garden get much-needed exercise in addition to benefiting from healthful fresh veggies. Through these awards, the National Gardening Association supports youth garden programs focused on nutrition and hunger issues. School and youth programs for kids ages 3 to 18 may apply. $200 to $500 in Gardener’s Supply Co. gift certificates and 25 packets of seeds.
Application deadline: Oct. 15, 2009 (applications available Feb. 1, 2009)

Operation Green Plant
America the Beautiful Fund offers grants of free seeds to community groups. 100 to 1,000 packets of vegetable, flower and herb seeds (you pay $14.95 for shipping and handling for the first 100 packets, $5 for each additional set of 100). Applications accepted throughout the year.