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.

Week 20 – Swiss Chard Recipes

Swiss chard is having an identity crisis. Not as popular as carrots or as tasty as tomatoes, this prolific relative of spinach is in need of a good publicist. Being a biennial it will take two years to complete its lifecycle and go to seed. To the school gardener and the home gardener this means greater reward for your labor. With minimal effort one can be picking Swiss chard 52 weeks a year in our mild winter climate. Just pick the outer leaves and leave the smaller inner ones intact.
This lovely rainbow variety does cause heads to turn and students clamor to take a few cuttings home simply because “it looks pretty”, however, the one question I get from everyone, including teachers is, what do you do with it? My simple answer is, its in the same family as spinach, any recipe calling for cooked spinach can be substituted with the green leaves of Swiss chard, the stems are another story and we’ll get to that in a second. Below you will find two recipes for Swiss chard, the first is for the leaves, the second, for the stems.

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Sausage
In boiling salted water cook ½ lb pasta for 10 minutes, drain in colander. In same pot sauté ½ cup onion and 2 cloves garlic in 2 TB olive oil. Add one chopped turkey sausage and cook till browned. Add two bunches chopped Swiss Chard (about 3-4 cups) and sauté till wilted, adding up to ½ cup of broth (chicken or vegetable) as needed, about 10-15 minutes. Add cooked pasta, salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving.

Swiss Chard Stems Moroccan Style
Chop stems from two bunches of Swiss chard (approximately 2-3 cups) and sauté with one onion and two cloves of garlic in 2 TB olive oil. Add a little chicken broth, vegetable broth or water, about ¼ cup, and cook till softened, about 10-15 minutes. Pour off liquid then stir in 3-4 tablespoons of tahini (start with 3 then add more as needed), juice of one lemon, two tablespoons olive oil, pinch of garlic salt, pinch of cumin, salt and pepper to taste.


School Garden News – Oklahoma

Third grade students at Stillwater school combine literature and gardening

A group of third grade students at Skyline Elementary School in Stillwater is developing their love of literature and horticulture thanks to two Oklahoma State University Botanical Garden ambassadors.

The program, Literature in the Garden, is part of the Jr. Master Gardener Program and aims to engage children through powerful garden- and ecology-themed children’s books. The curriculum uses those books to inspire learning through a variety of activities.

The children have participated in a number of classroom activities, and also have taken a field trip to the OSU Botanical Garden where they sketched plants, participated in a paper making activity and toured the Oklahoma Gardening Studio Gardens. The students also made seed balls and scattered them in a garden on the school grounds to see how well they would grow.

One of the group’s favorite activities so far has been eating “dirt.” No, they did not eat real dirt, but a combination of edible foods that represented the various layers found in soil. Graham crackers represented sand, chocolate cookie crumbs were fertile soil, peanut butter represented the clay layer in soil and rocks and seeds were represented by peanut M&Ms.

For complete article click link above.