Week 1 – Welcome back everyone. Hope you all enjoyed your summer.
For those without a school garden who would like to know how to get started please read: How to Start and Maintain a School Garden.
For those returning to an existing garden there is much to do. Preparing the beds for seed sowing is probably the hardest job physically we will have all year. Organizing a garden day with other parents, teachers, students or volunteers is something you might want to consider.
The following 10 School Garden Activities for September should be done (more or less) in order:
1) First and foremost discuss garden rules and tool safety. For those unfamiliar with garden rules these are the basics: a) No running in the garden; b) No walking in the beds; c) No running with tools; d) Do not carry or swing tools on your back; e) Do not bring hands tools over your shoulder; f) Walk with the tool by your side, blade down; g) Return all tools to their proper place immediately after use; h) Do not leave tools in the garden; i) Anyone not following these rules does not get to work in the garden.
2) Search for dried flower heads and seed pods in which to save seed (i.e. cosmos, sunflowers, marigolds, lettuce, cilantro, beans, etc).
3) Clear beds of everything other than perennials (i.e. herbs and strawberries).
4) Collect all organic refuse and compost it. For more information on composting see: Compost page at Wikipedia, the Compost Guide from compostguide.com, and the Guide to Home Composting from the Los Angeles Department of Public Works.
5) Add amendments (i.e. organic compost, aged manure) to existing soil, mix well and turn soil (top to bottom, bottom to top).
6) Review Vegetable Family Chart. At this time of year we will be planting cool-weather crops. As you will see there’s actually more to choose from now than there is in the spring.
7) Read seed packets for specific information regarding height and row spacing. (Taller plants go in the rear so as not to cast shadows on smaller plants.)
8) Plan and design garden space.
9) Lay out rows. (Ideally, rows should be perpendicular to the arc of the sun.)
10) Sow seeds and/or transplant seedlings.
End of summer also means end of the cycle. Plants have flowered, fruited and are putting out seeds to ensure their survival. Students returning at the start of the new term should be on the lookout for seed-bearing fruits and dried flower heads.
Grants, fundraisers and donations all come in handy to help our school gardens grow. While the success of donation drives and fundraisers depend to a large extent on people you know and interact with, like parents of students, local merchants and business houses, grants are more formal in nature. They are awarded by either public entities like local, state and federal governments or by private organizations and foundations.
The process of applying for grants is a little more complicated than seeking donations or holding fundraisers, but when you know what has to be done and do it diligently and thoroughly, you’ll have a much better chance of securing the funding that you need. If you’re thinking of applying for a school garden grant here are a few pointers to help you in the process:
• Apply only for those grants that fit your garden aims and needs.
• Read the rules thoroughly before you start filling in the application forms.
• Learn more about the agency that is funding the grant and find out about the previous grants they’ve awarded (or rejected).
• Fill in the application form as professionally as you can, following instructions to the letter. A school garden may be a small project, but you must approach the issue of seeking a grant with a certain amount of professionalism.
• State the facts without going overboard on details unless asked for.
• Make sure your application is free of errors, both factual and grammatical.
• If supporting documents like letters of recommendation are required, make sure you attach them to the application form.
• Send in your proposal well before the due date. Some grants have a send-by date as a deadline rather than a receive-by date. Read the application form properly to avoid being disqualified over such trivialities.
• If the grant is not forthcoming, don’t be disheartened; instead, try again at other sources.
School Garden Grant Opportunities
1) California School Garden Network (comprehensive list)
4) California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC Network)
This post was contributed by Heather Johnson, who writes on the subject of California teaching certificate. She invites your feedback at heatherjohnson2323 at gmail dot com.
This is brilliant!
Birds a problem in the garden? Make a bird “scarecrow” with feathers and a potato; hang it in the garden. RENEE BONNAFON / firstname.lastname@example.org
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L.A. Unified’s gardening program may be uprooted
The effort that has flourished among students could get cut amid the district’s budget woes.
By Jennifer Oldham, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
The seeds of a thousand lessons are sown in five acres of North Hollywood dirt, tended by a man named Mud.
Here in this little-known oasis, Mud Baron and urban teenagers with a heretofore unknown penchant for rare flowers toil under a blazing sun to raise lemon verbena, tomatoes, lettuce and other greenery that hundreds of Los Angeles schools will use to jump-start their gardens this fall. They also cultivate exotic plants, including exuberantly colored dahlias the size of dinner plates, to sell at farmers markets.
Jesse Sanders, 18, a recent graduate who supervises his peers and sports a Mohawk, lip and ear piercings and black clothes, recounts how learning to make colorful floral arrangements from plants he raised himself kept him from getting kicked out of school.
“When I first saw a flower, I just saw a flower. Now I see so much more,” Jesse said, plunging his gloveless hands into the dirt. “I don’t think I would have graduated without this class senior year.”
Mud and the school’s veteran agriculture instructor, Rose Krueger, took an interest in Jesse and enrolled him in floral arranging and agriculture classes.
For several years, Mud volunteered his services before administrators used a $1.7-million state grant to hire him and several other gardening experts last fall to help teachers revive gardens at schools from South L.A. to Sylmar.
“I’ve learned what city kids can do if given a chance to grow in the garden,” said Mud, 38, the son of a Mercedes-Benz dealer who has semiretired as a cabinetmaker. “I’m much happier than I was building kitchens.”
Mud doesn’t hold a teaching certificate, but his expansive knowledge of plants prompted his students to nickname him “Discovery Channel.” A fast talker who quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Lennon in the same conversation, Mud devotes so much time to school gardens that the yard at the 1920s bungalow he shares with his wife and 8-year-old son languishes.
But district money is running out. Mud distributes Razzmatazz dahlias like cigars at events around town in hopes of garnering donations to fund the program — and his job — past June 2009. It’s a tough proposition: Administrators face a $460-million budget gap and the prospect of increasing class sizes and reducing programs.
District officials are not optimistic.
“I don’t see us at this moment picking up that program,” said Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. “I will, if he talks to me, try to help him get some philanthropy dollars, or other dollars to continue the program.”
But Mud and his crew aren’t deterred. With their colorful bouquets in hand, they try to teach administrators and politicians the value of outdoor education.
In the last few weeks, the teenagers have raised $830 hawking sunflowers, roses, herb bowls and other freshly cut plants at the downtown farmers market — and at an impromptu market at district headquarters.
Farmers market manager Susan Hutchinson said the students provide “definite competition” with the other flower sellers outside City Hall.
The students, who have not yet decided what to do with the proceeds, probably will stay through September — working weekends and afternoons after school starts — to help fill the North Hollywood garden’s greenhouse with seedlings for about 526 schools. Funds solicited from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s summer jobs program to pay the students are running out.
While they’re downtown, Mud and his apprentices are also cultivating relationships with Los Angeles City Council members, department heads and their staffs — who often gladly accept unsold greenery. The crew recently chatted up council staff from Encino, Van Nuys and South L.A., and commissioners from the Department of Public Works.
The hands-on business lessons for the teenagers, who already work at the garden during their own time on weekends to raise additional crops, are new for a district that until last year largely relied on motivated teachers and parents to donate money and time to help its gardens thrive.
The plots often died when benefactors left, said Tonya Mandl, a teacher advisor who administers the grant funds.
“There is no Los Angeles Unified gardening program — we’re it,” she said.
Even though state educators called for a garden in every school in the mid-1990s, little public funding has been available to create organized programs. In districts throughout California — most notably at Berkeley Unified, with its Edible Schoolyard founded in part by local chef Alice Waters — teachers have found that gardens help raise test scores by linking math, science and history lessons with hands-on learning.
With his trusty plastic cart with buckets bursting with amaranths, gladioluses, roses and his signature dahlias by his side, Mud has also charted some wins for the district’s gardening program. He persuaded a recalcitrant Board of Education to pass a measure last fall encouraging schools to plant gardens to entice kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. The motion also urged administrators to save gardens from being paved over for parking.
“Mud came to me and said he was concerned because with all the school construction programs and adding on additional buildings the gardens might be jeopardized,” said board member Julie Korenstein.
She added that preserving gardens is now board policy but acknowledged that board members can enforce it only if someone lets them know a garden is threatened.
Earlier this month, Mud and his crew began a new project: a farmers market served up in the cafeteria at district headquarters, where he hopes to persuade administrators to include money to retain existing gardens and build new ones in a $7-billion school construction bond scheduled for the November ballot.
“The market is a demonstration of what we can do to an audience that is very, very removed but potentially receptive,” Mud wrote in an e-mail soliciting donations from gardening teachers. “You’ve got to stand up and have your green beans counted.”
He and his crew also plan to sell produce and flowers at a downtown street festival today. All of these events prompted Jesse Sanders to borrow Martha Stewart magazines to study how to create expensive bouquets.
Showing off his newfound knowledge of gardening terminology, Jesse ducked under a 6-foot-high amaranth recently as he demonstrated how to cut the red quill-like flower “under the terminal bud” so it would produce more blooms.
Mud, who says his hobby is “giving away flowers,” is often asked to cater events with his dahlias and other flowers. At a recent luncheon hosted by state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) in South El Monte, for example, he said his 15 bursting buckets were “stormed upon at the exit by all these Latino and Chinese grandmas. It was a free-for-all.”
Mud says he still has a lot of ground to cover in his quest to provide aid to more than 1,000 teachers who tend school gardens and to persuade administrators not to pave them.
“It’s a huge district,” he said. “People don’t even know I exist.”
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Kids’ summer garden project
Produce being gathered for school soup day
Posted By JEREMY ASHLEY, INTELLIGENCER.CA
A small group of west hill youngsters have found a way to enjoy the summer weather while making their school and community a better place.
Several times a week, a few of the neighbourhood’s kids wander down to the vegetable garden in front of Prince Charles Public School on Ritchie Street.
Sometimes they pull weeds, other times the group works to harvest any bounty and hand it over to teachers for storage. To date, the crew has gathered tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce.
“It’s something we just do without thinking — our school is about teaching us not to be couch potatoes, to get out and get active,” said Kacie-Anne Murray while taking a break from pulling weeds Monday.
“We come here all the time … it’s actually our summertime hangout,” added the Grade 5 student. “So maybe those kids who are sitting around should get up and get active — it’s working for us and we always have a lot of fun.”
Prince Charles Grade 1 teacher Nancy Anderson said it was encouraging to see children take such a proactive role in keeping the garden going despite being in the midst of summer vacation.
“It’s really wonderful to see them here all the time,” she said while surveying the work completed this week.
The garden, she said, was started in the springtime by the Prince Charles Gardening Club after a number of vegetable plants were donated to the school by either parents, teachers or “just people in the community.”
Anderson said the plan is to use the harvest gathered over the summer and fall months to make a batch of soup large enough to feed the entire school body.
“It’s going to be a great event, a school soup luncheon,” she said.
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Edible School Gardens
by Bess Mucke, slowfood.com
Slow Food convivia from Sicily to Veneto have developed more than 130 school vegetable plots across Italy in recent years, involving more than 5000 young students and their families and 1,500 teachers in growing produce and taste education programs.
Home to thirty-three of these gardens, Piedmont has been the region quickest to take up the project. In the city of San Mauro Torinese, just outside Turin, more than 600 children from four primary schools and one pre-school are tending seven gardens together with volunteers – primarily the students’ grandparents.
At the Slow Food Italy Congress in mid 2006, the school garden project was given the name Orto in Condotta and a goal was set to establish a national network of 100 gardens in which local Slow Food members work together with teachers, parents, grandparents, students and local authorities in a Learning Community.
The Italian school garden project is based on a three-year cycle, which deals with food and environmental education through activities in the classroom and the garden: sensorial education in the first year; environmental and food production education in the second; and food culture and regions in the final year.
Outside of Italy, Slow Food convivia are initiating school garden projects and other educational activities with students around the world. In Slow Food USA’s Garden-to-Table program – ranging from after-school cooking classes to farm tours and schoolyard gardens – convivia are supporting hands-on projects that create a direct connection between children and their food source, emphasizing the pleasures of taste and the table.
American chef, educator and Slow Food international vice-president Alice Waters has been a key promoter of school gardens since the mid 1990’s when she founded the Edible Schoolyard project in California. Waters was responsible for introducing a new food education approach to schools, based on practical activity in school gardens alongside sensory and culinary education using the resulting produce.