It was in the ’90s that butterfly gardens took off like a Monarch searching for her host plant, the elusive butterfly weed. Today butterfly gardens abound in the Lowcountry, and that’s as it should be — where there are butterflies there are bees, and we know how important both are to our environment.
The Environmental Club of Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary School is discovering the effects of pollution, litter eradication and beautification through the establishment of a butterfly garden for use as an outdoor classroom. Through the efforts of teacher and class leader Amy Tressler, a project description of the garden was sent to the Palmetto Pride anti-litter curriculum in Columbia to establish a grant.
Behind the school there is space for a garden, and what the Environmental Club needed next was someone to put it together. That someone was Karen Geiger of Creative Gardens who had heard of the club through her son Christopher, a club member, and who donated her staff and time to design and plant a flower garden with emphasis on the native plants that butterflies love.
On a beautiful day in May, the established garden was dedicated. Principal Jill McAden introduced the Environmental Club members and POA President Suzanne Johnson, Amy Tessler and Karen Geiger. McAden spoke of Geiger’s devotion to the project: “she did not just do it, but took the time to explain to the students the nature of each plant.”
The base of the garden is a load of Broad Creek sludge that was dumped, spread on the ground and dug in. More than 20 varieties of flowering plants were set in; the final step was the spreading of a thick layer of Greenkeeper bagged mulch. In the center of the garden were small clay pots that were painted by the club members and placed on their sides to serve as houses for toads.
Butterflies, bees, birds and toads will come, for this garden is bursting with bloom. Looking at it, one can’t help but think how lucky we are to live where such a flower garden will bloom for most of the year.
It’s worth noting that many plant varieties that are grown as annuals in a less temperate zone, are perennial here. The Monarch butterfly is doing her business on butterfly weeds in February as the once annual butterfly weed in colors of yellow and orange (Asclepias curassavica) has become perennial with flowers all year, or until caterpillars chew up flower and stem. Fortunately, this prolific self-seeder regroups in a matter of weeks, providing more flowers for more butterflies. The native butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa can be found flowering now in our wooded lots. Smart gardeners leave it be; the plant is endangered locally, and is difficult to transplant.
Perennials echinacea (coneflower) and rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) are available now in colors other than purple and yellow.”Tiki Torch” echinacea is the darkest orange coneflower to date and, has massive 4- to 5-inch diameter flowers. Other perennials in the environmental garden are salvia in colors of red and blue, Society garlic, daylilies, plumbago, coreopsis, blue ruellia and native grasses. The smaller plants, lantana, petunias, portulaca and zinnias are used along the borders. The taller canna plants and shrub roses provide a colorful background and protection from the wind that butterflies need.
Driving home from the dedication, I felt inspired to add more butterfly plants to my garden. Unfortunately I’ve not enough sun to plant a garden but make do by placing plants that attract butterflies in the few sunspots that exist. I keep stones in sunny places for butterflies to perch and bask in the sun. Basking raises their body temperature so they are able to remain active. Butterflies need water too; make a mud puddle for them to drink from, and remember to plant extra parsley and dill plants for the black swallowtail, whose caterpillar can eat either or both plants to the ground and in a few hours.
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Great idea, I wish them well.
We’d love people to create similar programs to the San Anselmo Seed Alliance (described below)
A sustainability project for everyone, the San Anselmo Seed Alliance (SALSA), will build and maintain a community seed garden and teach students how to grow their own food and preserve their own heirloom seeds.
The garden will be our classroom, from construction to harvest. Following the intention and methods of permaculture farming, we want to strengthen our neighborhood relations and disaster preparedness, as well as getting more kids involved in non-consumptive activities. We want to provide bi-lingual after school programs, field trips, and weekend activities.
The garden will include a rainwater catchment system and a small solar greenhouse, and be designed to maximize its harmony with the existing living systems on the site.
The project exists on two tracks: the build and maintenance of the garden, and the education programs that will be its foci. We intend to create ongoing relationships with willing participants in the citizen base, the San Anselmo School District and the Town Council, as well as participate in the court-prescribed community service program to reach more at-risk youth.
This is a pilot program for what we hope will be an infectious movement in both urban and suburban settings, so that it can be used as a template in other communities.
SALSA currently consists of a few master gardeners, a couple of seed preservation advocates, a couple of green energy and building specialists, a couple of permaculture advocates, a couple of community organizers, local businesspeople, and a number of other skilled individuals. We are looking for more skilled and newbie folks to work with us to realize this vision. We are all learning as we go.
SALSA will be a cost-neutral program, funded through grants and private donations.
This post was submitted by Nicole Maron.
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The School Grant Calendar is a listing of grants available to school gardens arranged by application deadline date. It is hosted and maintained by the San Diego Master Gardeners Association.
We had out first spring harvest this week: round 8-ball squash the size of tennis balls, dark green zucchinis with flowers still intact and tender green beans that also grew yellow and purple (anything colorful is always a big hit).
With only five weeks left in the school year it is too late to start anything new (though you probably could squeeze in a crop of radishes or lettuce). However for school gardens with year round access we’re just getting to the sweet spot. We’re planting heat lovers like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and peanuts. Peanuts? I never grew them before, I couldn’t resist.
Last week I’m at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market and I happened upon Hayward Organic Gardening’s stall of vegetable seedlings. They were selling peanuts in 4” containers for $3.00 (Note: 3 to a container, if you’re careful with transplanting, that’s only a buck a piece, and you do want to separate them). Peanuts need a lot of room to grow (I’ve seen recommendations for spacing at 18” apart in rows 3ft apart) and they need a lot of time to grow (Days to Maturity is 130-140).
If someone didn’t tell me these were peanuts I’d swear they were peas. Botanically speaking they are more pea than nut. Nuts grow on trees, peanuts grow in pods which then get submerged into the soil where they remain until harvest. A member of the Legume family, they are a close relative of black-eyed peas. Can’t wait to watch them develop.
For more about the peanut see:
1) Growing Peanuts in the Home Garden – Iowa State University
2) The Incredible Peanut – Southern Illinois University
3) Can’t talk about peanuts without mentioning George Washington Carver.
Read about his life and legacy (also from Iowa State University)
The future of the Auburn School District’s school-lunch program is a cropping of spindly sticks protruding from a bumpy plot of grass next to Auburn High School.
With a little luck and some spring sunshine, the sticks will sprout into fruit-bearing trees — the start of a garden designed to bear produce for the district’s school-lunch program.
The garden, roughly an acre, won’t feed an entire school district of more than 14,000 students, but child-nutrition-services director Eric Boutin hopes it can make a difference. As rising food costs and a childhood-obesity crisis pressure school-lunch programs to be both healthful and cost-efficient, Boutin says the garden can connect kids to the whole, healthful foods they need to be eating.
“We need to find a way to feed our kids better,” Boutin said.
His answer: School kitchens will use produce from the garden. Fresh vegetables could appear on the salad bar and dishes like roasted rosemary chicken will make use of fresh herbs.
It may be the only such garden in Washington; a spokesman for the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said no other district grows its own food for school lunches.
With children’s diets a mounting concern, the traditional lunch-menu rotation of chicken nuggets, pizza and tater tots isn’t acceptable anymore, Boutin said.
Boutin has made healthful eating a priority across the district, which serves nearly 11,000 meals a day.
So in April, students from an Auburn High horticulture class planted apple, plum and pear trees. Boutin has plans for an herb garden, vegetables, native plants and flowers.
Students have a direct hand in planting the garden. High-school horticulture students work on it regularly, and Washington Elementary has an after-school program and a planned summer program for kids to help out with the garden.
At Washington, students already choose vegetables from a fresh salad bar.
“They actually eat it,” said Sherry Bloomstrom, the school’s kitchen manager.
One day, when the garden produces vegetables, Boutin envisions they’ll have a place on the salad bar.
He says it’s a misconception that school-cafeteria cooks don’t know how to make nutritious meals. They can cook healthfully — they just aren’t given enough money to spend, he said.
The district has a food budget of $4 million a year; that leaves about $1 for each lunch. Preparing the most healthful meals using fresh, local ingredients would cost more than that, Boutin said.
Experts say school gardens help students learn firsthand about the kinds of foods they should be eating.
Gardens are a powerful context for learning, said Zenobia Barlow, executive director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a California-based institute that pioneered the Rethinking School Lunch program.
A school garden helps even the youngest children understand the cycles of nature, she said, and children are much more engaged when they take part in the learning.
School gardens, in some capacity, are popular. In California alone, there are thousands, Barlow said.
But, she said, Boutin’s plan to use produce from the school garden in school lunches is less common.
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Murphys School lets Children Play with Food
by Dana M. Nichols
School gardens are no longer primarily science experiments in which third-graders sprout radish seeds.
Hundreds of school gardens, including the beds of berry vines and onions planted in April at Michelson School in Murphys, also now may change the way students and their parents eat, combat childhood obesity and even give concerned parents leverage in efforts to improve cafeteria food…
The problem is nationwide. According to a Harvard Health Policy Review article published in Fall 2006, children’s intake of fresh fruit and vegetables has been falling for 30 years, and only 2 percent of school-age children now meet basic federal recommendations for a healthy diet. The article said part of the problem is that federal farm subsidies go primarily to grain crops, making those crops and the resulting products, such as bread, cheap when compared with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Schools and a variety of public and private agencies in California are fighting back by introducing gardening on a larger scale to many campuses.
For more on gardens, schools, and kids’ nutrition
California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom: http://www.cfaitc.org/
Foothill Collaborative for Sustainability: http://www.foothillsustainability.org/
Life Lab: http://www.lifelab.org/
The Chez Panisse Foundation: http://www.chezpanissefoundation.org/
The Edible Schoolyard: http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/
The California School Garden Network: http://www.csgn.org/
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Did you know the Los Cerritos School Garden is an official Monarch Butterfly Waystation? The migration of hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies starts in Canada each fall and they travel all the way down to California and Mexico to spend the winter. Monarch waystations are places that provide the necessary resources for monarch to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. So if I understand this correctly, the monarchs are in Canada in the fall, they fly down to California, have some babies. The babies get the baton, keep flying down to Mexico. They hang out there for the winter, baton, California, baton, back up to Canada, baton…
Anyone, please tell me if I got the gist of this natural wonder – the monarch migration. You can visit Monarch Watchto learn more about the monarchs and how you can create an official monarch waystation in your own backyard! In addition to being good for the environment, the butterfly gardens are incredibly beautiful. Download the waystation application form and on it you will find lists of the milkweeds needed for the larvae, nectar flowers for the adults and the sustainable management practices to keep your monarch habitat healthy and happy!
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