Every season there is a star, a variety that exceeds our expectations either with fruitful bounty or with taste. Last summer it was chayote. This past summer the star was Trombetta di Albenga, an Italian, heirloom, vining squash, that when picked early tastes similar to zucchini only better.
It can be grown either along the ground, which makes the fruits curl
or along a fence which allows the fruits to hang straight.
If the fruit is not picked it can grow very large (5-6 ft), though at this point it is no longer edible but can be used like a gourd.
The most amazing thing about this variety is that its November and its still fruiting.
One interesting observation, in the early part of the summer there were many male flowers and fewer female flowers, now at the end of the season, there are many female flowers but very few male flowers.
To insure pollination we manually brought the male and female flowers together. The male is on the left.
A couple of week later, a botanical offspring…
Great article from University of Florida Master Gardener Program.
It’s time for kids to go back to school, which also means it’s time for teachers to start thinking about their school gardens. You can help a local teacher and school garden by purchasing a few things on their school garden shopping list.
School & Office Supplies
Pens or permanent markers: for labeling plant markers, spray bottles, seed packets, etc.
Graph paper: for laying out fall or spring garden plans
Ruler: for straight boxes and rows on the garden plan
Notebooks: the small pocket-sized ones are great for taking notes while in the garden or bringing to the nursery, home center, etc.
Blunt-tip scissors: plenty of stuff to cut, so get a decent pair
Popsicle sticks: great as labels for transplants, seed flats, or in-garden bed plantings
Hobby/utility knife: cutting string, fabric, bags, plastic mulch, etc.
Linseed oil: for preserving and maintaining your garden tools
Plastic baggies/paper lunch bags: use these to hold packets of seeds, soil to be tested, and for distributing the harvest to friends, neighbors and food banks
Plastic containers with lids: store seeds, soil amendments, bulbs, tools, etc.
Cooking knives: for removing or chopping up plant matter bound for the compost pile
Towels: for wet cleanups
Colander: for washing your freshly harvested veggies prior to bringing them inside
Child-sized rubber boots: keep several sets for the classroom
Aprons or big shirts: to cover the kids school clothes when in the garden
Large hats: keep small faces and bodies covered in shade
Insect repellant: check with parents before applying to a child
Sunscreen: protect from sunburns, but, again, check with parents before applying
Hand sanitizer: goes without saying, with what kids get their hands into
Boxes: for new planting areas or for your worm bin
Newspapers: for that worm bin
Nursery (check to see if they’ll donate)
Seedlings: these are often better for schools, since kids can see them growing immediately
Seeds: these are cheap and kids love seeing their plants pop out of the ground
Worm bin: fun project for classrooms
Mulch: always a needed supply for the school garden
Potting soil: another always in need supply for the school garden
Pots: several different sizes are always good for teachers
Compost bin: these are great projects for classrooms, and the best ones for classrooms are the ones that can be turned and are off the ground
Although most of the supplies needed to start gardening or composting will be purchased by the individual schools, supplemental funding for the program comes from a variety of other sources. Help is always needed, so check with your local schools to see what they may need.
This past weekend I attended the Seed Library of Los Angeles’ (SLOLA) presentation of “The Truth about GMOs.” Special guest speakers included:
Jeffrey Smith, Director, Institute for Responsible Technology, and the leading consumer advocate promoting healthier non-GMO choices; author of the world’s bestselling and #1 rated book on the health dangers of GMOs, Seeds of Deception.
Tom Newmark, Board Member, Greenpeace, Inc. USA. He is a founder of Sacred Seeds, a sanctuary in Costa Rica dedicated to conserving medicinal plants across the globe.
Please see this incredibly informative presentation in the video below.
In November, California voters will decide the fate of Proposition 37, a Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Initiative.
A panel discussion has been organized by eight Hamilton High School science students and the South Robertson Neighborhood Council Green Team Committee to evaluate the issues and then make a recommendation to the Neighborhood Council which in turn will send its recommendation to the Los Angeles City Council.
The students have put together an impressive roster of advocates on both sides of the issue to explain their positions in depth. If you think that this is not a nuanced issue, you might be surprised after hearing this interesting panel of speakers. The panel consists of: a biologist, a representative from Women for Agriculture, a lobbyist, environmental activists and a filmmaker. The event is open to the community and there will be a Q & A following. Any questions concerning this event can be directed to: Paula Waxman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-559-2552.
WHEN: Thursday, September 6th
TIME: 7:00 to 9:00 pm
WHERE: Hamilton High School Cafeteria, 2955 South Robertson Blvd., LA 90034
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
We first planted carrot seeds in September. We harvested them in January. We also left a few plants to flower so we could save seeds from them. The flowers appeared towards the end of April and today, the end of July, they are ready to be harvested for seed.
Allowing carrots to go to seeds not only provides seeds for next season but the flowers also attract beneficial insects that snack on the pests attacking your summer plants.
A few things to know when saving seed from carrots:
1) Make sure you are starting with an heirloom or open-pollinated variety and not a hybrid.
2) It takes a long time to go from seed-to-seed. Plan for it. We sowed seeds in September and harvested seeds in July. That’s 10 months total.
3) It takes a lot of space. One carrot plant sends up one main stalk and multiple side stalks. Instead of one carrot plant needing only 2 inches square, one carrot plant going to seed needs about 2 feet square.
4) Reduce watering after the plant has flowered. Stop watering once the plants start turning brown and the seeds have fully matured. When they’ve completely turned brown the seeds are ready to harvest.
5) Hang seed stalks upside down in a cool dry place for another week to assure complete dryness.
6) Separate seeds from stem over a newspaper or plate.
7) Gather seeds into a plastic bag or glass jar and store in a cool dry place.
Job creation has been an important theme in our country the last couple of years. President Obama is struggling with it, the presumptive GOP nominee is struggling with it, and Congress is struggling with it.
At John Muir High School in Pasadena, CA, three volunteers have come up with a school garden model that is creating jobs for students.
On about an acre and a half of land Master Gardener/Project Manager, Mud Baron, Master Gardener/Retired School Teacher (and alumnus of John Muir High), Doss Jones, and Pasadena Unified School District Facilities Grounds Coordinator, Shirley Barrett, have succeeded where so many others have been left baffled.
Under their guidance and tutelage and with help from many other dedicated volunteers, students are turning this school garden into a mini-farm enterprise. They are also getting help from various grants and foundations as well as commercial growers and seed companies that provide seeds and seedlings.
Produce and flowers are sold at the Pasadena Farmer’s Market and the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. Partnership with local farms has created a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) drop-off hub at John Muir HS for local residents to purchase healthy, organic fruits and vegetables. Produce from the school garden is added to each box.
Students are learning lessons that go far beyond the typical high school experience; they are learning nutrition, commerce and cooperation. They are learning the responsibility of holding a job, showing up on time without excuse, and perhaps for the first time in their lives, earning an honest wage from work completed with their own hands.
Any person who takes pride in their work takes pride in themselves. This is a lesson that cannot be taught without experience. John Muir High School Farm is giving students this experience.
For more information see these video interviews:
1) Interview with Mud Baron
2) Interview with Doss Jones
3) Interview with Shirley Barrett
School’s out. Gardens are growing. During the summer you’ll want to inspire your children to stay active both physically and mentally. Reading and gardening both are excellent activities especially when the reading involves garden themes.
Multi-award winner, Dawn Publications, of Nevada City, CA specializes in quality children’s books about nature. I have had the pleasure of reading two of their latest publications, Molly’s Organic Farm (ages 4-10) and Jo MacDonald Had a Garden (ages 3-8).
What I loved about these books besides the well-told stories and beautiful illustrations are the curriculum components at the back of each book. These can range from topics of discussion such as crop rotation and beneficial insects to indoor activities and garden tips.
If you go to the Dawn Publications website, you can also download activity ideas relating to the different books. For example, when looking through the pages of All Around Me I See by Laya Steinberg you can find animals, insects and birds hiding in their habitat. In the downloadable activity, Classroom Camouflage, students will discuss how camouflage helps keep animals safe from predators.
See downloadable activities by book here -> http://www.dawnpub.com/downloadable_activities_book/
Gardening with your kids and reading with your kids about gardening will make for an enjoyable summer for both you and your kids.
LifeLab.org and California School Garden Network(csgn.org) are teaming up to compile a list of “One Bite Lessons” in preparation for the California School Garden Training Program’s Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education (GENE) Workshops.
This compilation of activities will end up being posted on the csgn.org site.
What is a One Bite Lesson?
A One Bite Lesson is an edible activity that doesn’t require a kitchen or excessive preparation. It is a fun and creative way to have kids sample plants right from the garden.
One Bite Salsa – Harvest a pepper and snip off some onion greens. Have kids harvest a couple of cherry tomatoes. Break pepper into pieces, tear up small pieces of onion greens. Eat cherry tomato, pepper piece, and a bit of onion in one bite.
Flower Feast – Discuss which flowers in the garden are edible. Harvest a variety of edible flowers and eat a mini bouquet or go on a floral walk sampling different flowers as you pass them.
Six Plant Part Burrito – As a group, harvest edible roots, stems, leaves (large ones like roman lettuce), flowers, fruits, and seeds. Wash veggies. Use a cutting board or plate and cut plant parts up in small pieces (minus the large edible leaf part). Have kids fill their leaf up with samples of each plant part. Roll up your “burrito” and munch on down or sample each part separately. Also know as 6 Plant Part Tacos, Finger Salads, and many other creative names.
Share your One Bite Lesson ideas and view what others have shared at http://csgn.org/node/846
FYI the free Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education (GENE) Workshops will be piloted and offered during the 2012-2013 school year. Announcements will be sent this summer. To be added to the e-list go here www.lifelab.org/csgt