Category Archives: Instructional Activities

Week 36 – Spring Harvest and Planting Peanuts

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)

Week 30 – The Three Sisters Garden

At Dorsey High School we are recreating a Three Sisters Garden as practiced by Native Americans hundreds of years ago.

The three sisters are: corn, pole beans, and squash. Typically they are all interplanted in a hill (or mound) to compliment one another.

Corn provides support for beans, which in turn provides nitrogen for the corn and squash. The squash grows along the ground acting like living mulch suppressing weeds and minimizing evaporation.

The corn and squash should be planted first, followed by the beans once the corn is about 8-12 inches. The beans are planted in a ring around each corn stalk.

One practice we will not be recreating is the planting of fish or eel with our seeds. Native Americans often did this to provide extra nitrogen to the soil. Thankfully we now have a product known as fish emulsion, which is an organic fertilizer that supplies the same nutrients as the raw variety.

For more information on the Three Sisters garden
Please see:
1) Creating a Three Sister Garden-Discovering a Native Trio from Kidsgardening.com and;

2) Celebrate the Three Sisters: Corn, Beans and Squash from Reneesgarden.com.

Weeek 27 – Late Winter Harvest

Next week is spring break. Make sure watering issues are addressed while you’re away. In the meantime, we are currently harvesting: beets, chard, kale, carrots, cabbage, fava beans, broccoli side shoots, and fennel. Did you know kale is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat? Read this article Kale: The Phytonutrient Master and start adding some kale to your diet. FYI, we’re growing the dinosaur kale (aka Black Tuscan Cabbage).

Week 26 – Starting Tomatoes from Seed

We are currently planting rows of bush beans, zucchini and corn as well as starting tomatoes from seed. We are using a recycled egg carton as our container with one seed being planted in each compartment. Remember to keep the soil moist throughout the entire germination process.
Once the seedling gets two sets of leaves like below we pot-up to a larger 3″ peat pot container. Peat pots can be planted directly in the ground.
Once the seedlings are about 6-8 inches tall we can then transplant them to our garden. Remember to harden-off your seedlings before transplanting. Hardening-off is the process which introduces the seedlings to the outdoors a little at a time. We place the seedlings out side for a day, then bring them in at night. We do that for 2-3 days then allow them to stay out at night 2-3 nights. Once acclimated we can then transplant them to our garden.

Week 25 – Fava Beans

Its harvest time for our fava beans, the longest pods are 12-13 inches. To enjoy them we first have to shell them from their pods. Simply cut down the long length of the pod and pull out the beans.
Notice the thick inner lining of the pod that protects the beans like a warm winter overcoat. As you shall see there are in fact two overcoats. This explains why this particular legume is a cool-weather crop while others in the family like pole and bush beans prefer warm weather. Take one look at this double overcoat and it all makes sense.

To cook favas, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, then the beans, and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander. Next, peel off the outer white skin (the second jacket) by pinching through the skin opposite the growing tip.

Press the growing end of the bean between your thumb and forefinger and the bean will spurt out. The simplest way to enjoy them is to sauté the fava beans in a little olive oil or butter until tender and then salt and pepper to taste. For those a little more adventurous try fava beans in place of garbanzo beans in your favorite humous recipe. And for those who are truly gourmands or inspire to be…Fava Bean Soup with Short Ribs.
1) Make a beef stock from short ribs. Strain and save meat.
2) Cook the fava beans in the beef stock until soft and tender.
3) Puree beans in a blender adding just enough stock to liquefy.
4) Salt and pepper to taste .
5) Serve with shredded short rib meat sprinkled on top

You’re going to thank me for this one 🙂

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!