Harvesting Swiss chard and Kale

Beans are done; corn is done. Squash plants all have powdery mildew and it appears to be spreading to the cucumbers and tomatoes. Welcome to the dog days of summer.

Usually during this time we not only harvest the remains of our summer crop but we also look forward to the fall and the new season of cool-weather crops. I am perusing seed catalogs as we speak.

Two plants that you must consider this fall are Swiss chard and Kale.

swiss chard and kale

Both are highly nutritious and extremely high yielding. You will get more yearly produce from one square foot of swiss chard than you will from any other vegetable. Period.

Lacinato Kale aka Tuscan Cabbage, Cavolo Nero, Dinosaur Kale or Black Tuscan Palm, is an heirloom that can grow to 5-6 ft tall under ideal conditions. Like Swiss chard it is a biennial, which means it goes to seed every two years.

Kale leaves can reach 18” long so giving the plant plenty of room is key.

We planted both of these in the early fall and both are still producing weekly harvests, even through the dog days of summer.

Guest Gardening Segment on the Marie Osmond Show

Dear School Garden Weekly Members:
Yours truly is going to be on TV sharing simple gardening projects for children and parents. I’m doing a guest segment on The Marie Osmond Show, Monday, 7/22, at 12 Noon, on the Hallmark Channel.

I’ll post a computer link to the episode once it airs.

Thanks, tell your friends.

George Pessin
LA County Master Gardener

National School Garden Network Brings School Garden Professionals Together

Santa Cruz, CA – At last year’s National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, school garden professionals convened to create a national network for supporting regional school garden programs. Through sharing resources and engaging in dialogue, the newly formed National School Garden Network (NSGN) strives to eliminate redundancy and help facilitate regional-based school garden programs. The Network is calling organizations and individuals that support multiple school garden programs at a regional, school district, or state level to join the online forum.

“There is no one way to create and sustain school gardens”, states Life Lab Outreach Director John Fisher, founding member of the NSGN. “The recipe for a successful school garden program varies from region to region, but organizations often have similar needs such as acquiring funding, creating policy, training teachers, and creating valid assessment tools. Our Network’s goal is to create an ongoing dialogue to share best practices.”

School garden support organizations can visit www.nationalschoolgardennetwork.org and join the  online forum or browse webinar topics related to school garden program development. Additionally,
national and regional conferences are listed to encourage school garden support professionals to meet face-to-face.

“Managing school garden programs is a challenge, but I believe creating a support community for its professionals is the key to sustainment,” says Sam Ullery, school garden specialist at the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. “My experience supporting more than 90 school gardens in the District of Columbia is successful, in part, because I’ve had a network to rely on. I look forward to participating in this new forum where I can expand my network and share what I’ve learned with others.”

The National School Garden Network is comprised of the following Advisory Committee organizations from across the nation:

  • Life Lab – Santa Cruz, CA (John Fisher)
  • UC Davis School Gardening Program – Davis, CA (Jeri Ohmart)
  • DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education School Garden Program – Washington, DC (Sam Ullery)
  • Community Groundworks – Madison, Wisconsin (Nathan Larson)
  • New Jersey Farm to School (Beth Feehan)
  • Whitson’s Culinary Group – New York (Bill Whitcomb)
  • Edible Schoolyard Project – Berkeley, CA (Emilie Gioia)
  • National Farm to School Network (Mary Stein)

Visit www.nationalschoolgardennetwork.org to learn more.

Zucchini Pollination – Pop Quiz

The following are squash flowers from a zucchini plant. One is male, the other is female. Can you identify which is which? I’ll give you a hint…when the male pollen fertilizes the female ovary zucchini seeds are created and the ovary swells to carry the seed.

Here’s a thought, wouldn’t it be great if “the birds and the bees” were taught where the birds and the bees actually congregate? What do you think?

male-zucchini-flower

Female Squash Flower

 

AVID Gardeners at Mark Twain Middle School Create Masterpiece

Jane Andino, Teacher/Volunteer and UCLA Education Graduate Student had an idea. She envisioned an educational curriculum that would involve students acting as catalysts for a widespread movement: one in which each school and community would create and nurture a communal garden.

Her idea was realized at Mark Twain Middle School in Venice, CA with considerable help from a talented group of volunteers, a dedicated teacher, Jill Usui, and the hard work and creativity of a special group of 7th and 8th grade students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class.

Over the course of this past school year, the students researched the history and daily maintenance of their well-known school garden and then created a resource packet, a brochure and the above video to inspire other communities to build and maintain their own school garden. For more information about The Process and The Schedule of this unique pilot program please visit Jane’s website at creatingschoolgardens.wordpress.com.

One lesson they learned immediately is that the creation of a school garden cannot be done alone. Many hands are needed. Fortunately for Jane and her students, Mark Twain Middle School already had some very formidable volunteers in the way of Master Gardeners and Community Volunteers who call themselves the Gardenistas.

From L to R: Master Gardener Idalia Ramirez, Community Volunteer Michael Stenger, Master Gardener Marianne Brown, Master Gardener Patty Kestin, and Master Gardener Renee Meshul.

From L to R: Master Gardener Idalia Ramirez, Community Volunteer Michael Stenger, Master Gardener Marianne Brown, Master Gardener Patty Kestin, and Master Gardener Renee Meshul.

The Gardenistas were responsible for not only assisting Jane and her students in their project but also crafting the Mark Twain MS School Garden into the jewel it is today.

Well done Mark Twain Middle School, your namesake would be proud!

How To Transplant a Tomato Seedling

Tomatoes plants are almost always transplanted into our garden from seedlings. Whether you grow the seedlings yourself or buy them from a nursery it is best to remove the lower branches and bury the stem up to the uppermost leaves.

tomato seedling

Original tomato seedling

tomato seedling 2

Tomato seedling with lower stems removed

Tomato Seedling Transplanted

Tomato seedling transplanted up to lower leaves.

The reason we do this is because the hairs along the lower stem will develop into roots. They will enable the tomato plant to take in more water and nutrition from the soil.

tomato hairs

Tomato “hairs”

Seed Saving in a School Garden

It is late winter and many of the crops from our September planting are either finished (cauliflower, broccoli, peas, beets, and carrots) or bolting (cilantro, lettuce, arugula). Now is the time to pick out which plants we want to save for seed. Choose plants that are healthy, vigorous and with characteristics worth saving. The red Lollo Rosso lettuce below is being chosen for its deep red leaves. We have placed a stake next to with a large circled “S” on it. This is to remind us that we are saving this plant for seed and not to harvest it.

Saving lettuce seed

Our arugula was fantastic this year, the lobed leaves were very mild compared to the more bitter arrow-like leaves even late into the season so we are letting the entire patch go to seed.

arugula patch

“Maintaining the genetic diversity within a population is the key to its continued evolution and the ability of the plants to adapt to varying environmental conditions. To avoid detrimentally decreasing the genetic diversity being maintained within a population of plants, seeds should be saved from the greatest possible number of plants that meet the selection criteria.” – Suzanne Ashworth, “Seed to Seed”

oakleaf lettuce

Green Oakleaf Lettuce being saved for seed