Tag Archives: seeds

What are you growing in your school garden this year?

broccoli crown

In mild winter climates likes ours in Southern California now is the perfect time to be planting our winter garden, and how advantageous that it should also coincide with the start of the school year.

What to grow in a school garden is a question we hear alot. The short answer right now is cool weather crops. Cool weather crops differ from the warm weather crops we grow in the spring and summer mainly in that they do not fruit. Peruse the list below and you will notice that when consuming cool weather crops we are eating mostly leaves, stems, and roots.

For northern climates cool weather crops can be grown very successfully in a greenhouse.

The following is a list of cool weather crops arranged by family:

Alliaceae (Allium or Onion Family) – chives, onions, scallions, shallots, garlic, leeks

Amaranthaceae (Amaranth or Beet Family) – amaranth, beet, chard, spinach, quinoa

Apiaceae or Umbelliferae (Carrot or Dill Family) – anise, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage, parsley, parsnip

Asteraceae (Sunflower Family) – artichokes, cardoons, chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, raddichio, jerusalem artichokes

Brassicaceae (Brassica or Mustard Family) – arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, rapini, rutabaga, tat soi, turnip

Fabaceae (Legume Family) peas, fava beans, soybeans, lentils

Lamiaceae (Mint Family) – mint, rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, thyme

Solanaceae (Nightshade Family) – potatoes

Whatever you decide to plant I suggest starting some of the plants from seed like lettuce, cilantro and radishes. Then choose one of each and allow it to bolt and go to seed. This a very valuable lesson about the cycle of a plant from seed-to-seed which can be easily accomplished within the school year.

Ten School Garden Activities for September

Welcome back teachers and students.

September in a school garden is one of our busiest times. We need to get started quickly to insure a harvest before the long winter break.

For those without a school garden the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has written an extensive online manual, Setting up and Running a School Garden.

For those returning to an existing garden there is much to do. Preparing the beds for another season of seed sowing and transplanting is probably the hardest job physically we will have all year. Organizing a garden day with other parents, teachers, students and volunteers is something you may want to consider.

The following ten activities should be done (more or less) in order:

1) 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. sunflowers, marigolds, lettuce, fennel, 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 The School Garden Resource page at the California Waste Management Board and the 8-page pdf, 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 and bottom to top. See video, How to Amend a Raised Bed.

6) Review the pdf, Vegetable Family Chart. At this time of year we will be planting cool-weather crops. 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.) See How to Read a Seed Packet.

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. Set up irrigation schedule.

Sow Easy – Indoor School Garden Activity

By Lisa Gustavson,  Getinthegarden.com

Are you looking for an easy garden project to occupy your time while early sown seeds germinate and snows melt away? Seed tapes are the answer. They’re super-simple to make, use everyday items in your home and make sowing small seeds like lettuces and flowers a snap! Seed tapes are simply paper strips with seeds adhered to them. They make planting and spacing small seeds outdoors faster and easier.

What you’ll need: A paper towel or napkin, flour (organic), a small paintbrush and seeds. You may want to recycle a cardboard tube to roll the seed tapes around as well.

First: Mix the flour with enough water to make a medium-thick paste. Don’t worry about exact amounts, just so long as the paste is thick enough for the seeds to stick to.

Next: Use the paintbrush to dab the flour paste at equally spaced increments along the paper towel. Use the packet as a guide for spacing and a ruler if you’d like it to be precise. You can fit several rows along each sheet of paper towel.

Last: Press two or three seeds gently onto each dab of paste making sure they adhere. Let the strip dry completely and cut between each row of seeds. Roll up each strip and store in a plastic bag in a cool dry place until planting time.

This is a great project for children! Clean-up is a snap and if there is flour paste left over it can be thinned with more water and used to decoupage seed packets and flower pictures from catalogs to clay or plastic pots. (Be sure to coat with an eco-friendly sealant so they’ll be waterproof.) It’s sow easy!

Seed-Saving and Seed Study for Educators

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OAEC) School Garden Program announces the release of “A Handful of Seeds” – a new publication on seed saving and seed study for educators.

This guide is available now as a free PDF download on their website. CLICK HERE to download the 91 page (1.6MB) full color illustrated guide.  Inside you will find lessons linked to California Educational Standards, practical information on seed saving in the school garden and seed history and lore.

Choosing Tomato Seeds

Always a difficult decision. Tomatoes (and corn) is everyone’s favorite homegrown vegetable. We’ll be starting them indoors in late February and early March. If you haven’t gotten your seeds yet, get them NOW.

This year I’ve decided on Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Pineapple Tomato, Cherokee Purple and Sungold Tomato.

Sungolds are bright orange, cherry tomatoes, hybrids, very sweet, and very high yields. The others are heirlooms, open-pollinated, 1-2 pounders: green, yellow blush, and deep red.

The intent is both visual and culinary. The different colors will delight any child and the depth of flavors from the four varieties in a freshly made salsa, bruschetta, or checca will excite the palate of any adult.

Favorite Seed Companies:
Baker Creek
Botanical Interests
Gourmet Seed
PineTree Seeds

Seed Sale from Botanical Interests

Botanical Interests, Inc., supplier of quality seeds to independent garden centers and health food grocery stores, is extremely interested in helping schools with their school gardens.

For schools needing NEW seed for their gardens, email shaynal@botanicalinterests.com for a 40% discount code off any seed purchased from botanicalinterests.com.

Include the name of your school and your contact information. Old or donated seed with poor germination is very discouraging to kids and teachers when it doesn’t germinate after so many hours of preparing a garden!

Also check out http://www.botanicalinterests.com/schools.php for easy, paperless seed school fundraisers.”

For more information about School Garden Fundraisers see my Q&A with Curtis Jones, President of Botanical Interests.

Botanical Interests

Starting from Seed

The vegetables we grow are mostly annuals. They start from seed, flower,
and end as seeds all within a defined year. That’s their life cycle.

Bolted Lettuce

Bolted Lettuce

Save some seeds this year.  The easiest are cilantro and lettuce.
We also do arugula, fennel, marigolds, beans and sunflowers.
See Starting from Seed for more instructional material.

marigold

Marigold Seeds