Monday, April 20, 2009

A new school garden in Northeast DC

We recently helped to install a new school garden at one of our partner elementary schools - Elsie Whitlow Stokes Public Freedom Charter School, located in the Brookland neighborhood.
The school put in 12 4x8 raised garden beds, two of which are for the WYG's Garden Science program to use.

Stokes is one of the three DC elementary schools that participate in our Garden Science program.
Over the winter, we spent eight weeks in third and fourth grade classrooms teaching lessons relevant to plant, environmental, earth, and life sciences using garden topics like pollination, insect life cycles, and nutrition. For the first time, we also starts seeds in each classroom this year, which grew wonderfully thanks to a grow rack that we fashioned ourselves. We also made worm composting bins and harvested the worm castings at the end of the eight weeks to add more nutrients to the school garden's soil (see our previous post about worms).

Last week, the new school garden's ribbon was cut and many little hands plunged into the soil.

Our fourth grade classes transplanted the seedlings that we started in the classroom and direct seeded more lettuce and carrot seeds to fill up our two raised beds.

It was fun to design the beds as well - giving thought to how much space different plants need as well as how much sun. We practiced our measuring skills - using rulers and measuring tape to determine our plant spacing and planting depth. We'll have to wait and see in a few weeks, but we think the beds will be a beautiful mix of both flowers and vegetables. The students are especially excited for the sunflowers - not as excited for the spinach.

We were happy to have a part in a fabulous new addition to DC school gardens. See the DC Schoolyard Greening Consortium's website for a complete listing of school gardens and schoolyard greening projects in the District:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's growing in the garden...

April's a busy time in the garden - planning wise. Everything looks nice and neat and under control. A lot of goodies are sprouting in the greenhouse and being hardened off in anticipation of May planting dates. We're trying to enjoy this feeling of neatness because we know that before too long, we'll have more things growing than we will know what to do with. Two weeks ago, we had our Tuesday volunteers help us get all our potatoes in the ground. We planted about eight different varieties, including my favorite, fingerlings.

Our peas went in right around St. Patrick's Day. We were a little concerned when some time went by and we weren't seeing much germination, but with all this rain and cool weather lately, our peas are really coming to life now.

We put these peas in a raised wooden bed that we have near the entrance of the garden. Below is the main pea area, just waiting for them to get big enough to start trellising. Notice our sweet view of the Capitol Columns in the background!

Asparagus is another one of my favorites (warning: I'm going to say this about pretty much everything). They're just so exciting because they're the first harvest of the season. Ours taste so sweet that we are all constantly picking a few raw and munching on them for snacks throughout the day. We're even getting creative by making asparagus wraps: asparagus and chives wrapped in sorrel!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tips on Kids + Garden

Last week, we hosted an area teacher training workshop organized by DC Schoolyard Greening. It was a two part-er: one evening spent at Bancroft elementary and one day spent out in the Washington Youth Garden. The first session focused on starting a school garden, implementing gardening into curriculum, and accessing resources. Our second session was geared towards gaining hands-on skills. We had workshops on seeding and transplanting, composting, soil testing, tool safety, and working with children outside. In the last workshop, we shared thoughts and experiences regarding working with children in a garden and recorded our collective wisdom on the subject.

Tips on gardening with children from Washington DC educators...
Small groups are best
Do not give a child the hose
Start small
Sense of ownership - can divide space by classes
Start traditions
See results - grow salad greens
Let children design
Liter bottles with holes for watering
Protect planted areas - clearly mark, use row covers
Get salad spinners
Make your own salad dressing
Use colors
Plant bulbs (cluster with hula hoops)
Have older kids teach younger ones
Incorporate literature
Do soil testing with children
Take time for journaling
Fun to grow: popcorn, lufas (can make soap too), cotton
Get donations - befriend Garden Center manager
Don't try to do too much
Let children cook
Children will eat what they grow
Find the stories behind the plants you grow
Stickers and temporary tattoos make good prizes
Just let the kids dig
Look for bugs
Incorporate arts and crafts
Make garden signs with children
Don't get too fancy

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What's growing in the garden...

Who doesn't love garlic?! That's why we planted a lot of it. Between our staff, volunteers, and program participants, it has a tendency to disappear pretty quickly...

Our garlic went into the ground mid-October. Garlic needs to overwinter and then will be ready to harvest around July. We planted a number of different varieties, including New York White and German Extra Hardy. There's also some elephant garlic, which is actually a wild leek.

Another great thing about garlic is that it's easy to save. So come harvest time, we have to resist the temptation to take it all home.

Here's a wider view of the garlic beds. Next to the garlic we recently planted scallions.

Our Garden Coordinator Chris has been busy in the greenhouse - we have a lot of vegetable seedlings growing alongside the Arboretum's fancy ornamentals. It can be pretty easy to get distracted in the Arboretum greenhouses.

We have brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower), alliums (onions, leeks), flowers, and some randoms like cotton and millet all going strong in the greenhouse.

This first week in April, we'll start seeding all our warm season crops like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers as well. Exciting!!