Week 24 – Spring Garden Preparation

We’re a little more than halfway through the school year. According to my calculations we have 17 weeks remaining. We are still harvesting chard and kale on a weekly basis, however most of our other winter veggies have either all been harvested or gone to seed. We are now clearing those beds and amending them once again with organic compost for an all new planting of warm-weather, spring vegetables. Over the next couple of weeks we will be planting rows of beans, corn, squash and decorative sunflowers, as well as transplants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers that were started indoors. For schools that are not accessible year-round I recommend growing cherry tomatoes, as the larger beefsteaks will not likely mature before school’s end.

Week 23 – Cole Slaw Recipe

We’re harvesting cabbage, we’re harvesting carrots, put them both together what have you got? That’s right, we’re making cole slaw, a name derived from the Dutch word koolsla (kool) cabbage (sla) salad and made famous by a guy named Richard Hellman, a New York City deli owner who made salads and sandwiches with his wife Nina’s home-made mayonnaise. Once Hellman started bottling the mayonnaise in 1912, cole slaw took off as a national side dish. For those of us on the west coast we know Hellman’s mayonnaise as Best, it is one and the same and the one by which all others are judged.
To make our cole slaw I’ve got a cutting board, a kitchen knife, a vegetable peeler, a carrot grater, and a big mixing bowl. First lets harvest our veggies. When picking cabbage pull the whole plant from the ground, snip off the base (stem and roots) and cut away the big tough outer leaves till your left with a tight round head. With the carrots (4 small ones) cut away the green tops. Wash both under running water. Cut the cabbage into quarters and then into thin, fine strips. Peel the carrots, grate, and add to the cabbage. Next, we make our dressing. Add three tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, sprinkle of sugar, dash of salt & pepper and mix well. Enjoy!

Week 23 – Bolting

Bolting is the term used when a vegetable crop runs to seed. It is triggered either by a cold spell, a hot spell, or changes in day-length (photoperiod). Annual crops will bolt in the first year, biennials in the second year. Some vegetables (lettuce, mizuna, arugula, etc.) become unusable (bitter) once they bolt.

A tell-tale sign that a vegetable has bolted is the formation of a central stalk. Once you see this you know that the vegetative stage is over and the flowering stage has begun.

I recommend allowing one or two plants to bolt (lettuce and cilantro are good choices). This will not only give students an opportunity to view the complete life cycle of a plant, it will also enable the formation of seeds of which we can save for the following season.


More on Bolting at Wikipedia

Week 22 – Planting Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the easiest vegetables you can grow, but they prefer cool weather. Think about where they originated – mountains of Peru, and where they grow well – Ireland, Maine, and Idaho (all cool weather environments). You should try to get them into the ground at the right time. Here in Southern California, according to digitalseed.com the right time is now.
If you want to grow potatoes, you should plant seed potatoes. A seed potato is nothing more than a piece of a potato with an “eye”. Potatoes from the supermarket should not be used as seed potatoes as they are bred not to form eyes (keeps them fresh on the shelves longer). Visit your garden center or order from specialty seed catalogs for seed potatoes.
Potatoes grow best in soft loamy soil and in full sun. Add plenty of compost prior to planting , to create a rich, loose soil that retains water, yet is well draining. Soil should be slightly acidic to avoid potato scab. Plant “eyes” in hills, two to three eyes per hill, and cover with 3″ of garden soil. Space hills one foot apart. As the plants grow, mound additional soil around the plants every week or two. Do not let the tubers or potatoes be exposed to sunlight. You can cover the soil around the plants with compost or mulch.
Below is a picture of a potato flower. From this picture can you tell what family the potato is in.

Week 21 – Rain

Our gardens are loving the rain. When we consider there are droughts about the globe and even close to home we are thankful for the rain and all that it does for us.
Please review this student-friendly article what is drought from the National Drought Mitigation Center and spread the word.

School Garden News – Minnesota

School composting is growing ‘dramatically’

Composting is taking off at schools throughout the metro area: It’s good for the environment, gives students an easy way to be green and can help reduce a school’s garbage costs because organic waste comes with lower tipping fees and taxes.

“The interest is growing just dramatically,” said John Jaimez, an organics and recycling specialist who has helped launched similar programs at eight Hennepin County school districts in the last five years.

As much as 80 percent of a school’s trash comes from its cafeteria and kitchen, and about three quarters of that is organic, he said.

Participating schools collect food, napkins and other nonrecyclable paper in biodegradable bags that are picked up by different trucks than those that haul regular garbage. The organic waste is inspected to make sure it’s at least 90 percent pure, then taken to a waste processing facility near Rosemount that sells the resulting compost for landscaping to buyers that include school districts such as District 196.
Click link above for complete article

School Garden News – Texas

Growing minds and bodies

While little girls and worms are a seemingly odd couple, school district officials say the combination makes sense. The worms help produce compost for the school’s garden, and teachers use the garden to educate students about the environment. “(The garden) provides a whole new canvas for inquiry,” said John Garland, assistant director of child nutrition for IDEA public schools.

While the organic garden is used as an outdoor classroom at the school, it also serves an equally important function: feeding the students fresh food that’s high in nutrients. The school garden produces 60 pounds of lettuce per week that is used in salads and other lunchtime meals for the school’s 1,200 students. That quantity could rise to 80 pounds per week by the year’s end. The garden also produces sweet peas, cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes. Garland said he tries to maximize the garden’s production in its limited space.

…The school is using the garden in some interesting ways to teach students about agriculture and the environment. Among the projects this year are:

* Science students looked at carrots to learn about roots.
* Art class students drew tomatoes growing in the garden.
* Seventh-grade students took soil samples to study soil fertility.

You teach pollination in science class,” Garland said, “and then you come in and see it.” Giving children an up-close look at food production teaches them a valuable lesson about “intimacy with life and intimacy with food production,” Garland explained. He recalled working with a group of students on a class project to plant sweet peas earlier this year. By the time they were harvested, the children were begging to eat them.

Click link above for complete article.