Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Destination: TROLL NATION

It's amazing what our creative and industrious kindergarten, first and second graders have been building...digging...excavating...and where they have been getting really's Troll Nation!

If you haven't had a chance to visit , come check it out in the k-2 area behind the sand box.
It started as a simple hole back in October and has blossomed into tunnels, caves and roads. When it rains it becomes miniature rivers and channels!

It's incredible what a little digging in the earth can do for focus, stress relief, fun, community, and a general feeling of connectedness.

We hope, when the garden starts to get more established, the kids will feel a similar sense of ownership and find such wholehearted enjoyment!

Have a Wonderful Holiday Break with your Beautiful and Creative Children!!

Bird Houses...

Gourds make great birdhouses, which attract birds, who eat bugs...and the circle of a happy garden continues...

This is why we plan to plant gourds in the spring.
In the mean time we are actively looking for folks with gourds to donate to the cause.

Wouldn't it be great for our kids to paint them and fill our gardens with color and birds?

Let us know if anyone has a good gourd resource!

...and for all you builders out there, any kind of birdhouse idea would be welcome and fabulous...either to bring in a bunch already made for the kids to paint or even to lead a building workshop?

The Garden Art Ideas are endless...we love to see art appear in the garden. Feel free, teachers and liasons, to add to our gardens in any way you long as it's rain proof !

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday Garden Maintenance!

Over the Holiday Break our Garden is going to need some Care!

If it is sunny and dry it will need watering every two- four days.

It works best if two people work together, and the time it takes is about 1 hour.

The work includes watering the following...

1~The K-2 Garden.
2~The compost and worms.
3~The Passion Vines in the Kinder Area
4~The Strawberry and Pea Planter Boxes next to the Kindergarden Room.
5~The 5 Planter boxes outside the Fourth and First Grade Classrooms.
6~The Raised Beds in the 3-8 Garden
7~The Lemon Tree.
8~Remove Leaves from around all the plants in each Garden and Planter Boxes, especially Eucalyptus leaves.

If we have lots of rain...which we would love, then there may not be a need to come at all.

Please let us know if you would like to get some extra volunteer hours in by tending the Garden. We would like to get a schedule organized soon! As of now, we need about 6 volunteers, and you may only come one day during the whole break. Once we know who will be helping, we can go over all the details with you just before the break.

See you in the Garden !

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Wish List ?!!!...

The Water Saver Rain Barrel
After all this beautiful rain, boy do
we wish we had one of these...
(Santa, are you listening?)

Actually, there are ways to make a barrel
like this with a spigot attachment for a hose and a good old fashion garbage can.

This may be one of the projects on the horizon!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fruit Tree Inspiration

Please take some time to watch this video below. This organization (Common Vision) is an amazing group of people who are making a huge difference in schools across California. Let's hope they can come to SDCCS on their next tour !!!

For more information, check out their website here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Toast to Compost!

Composting can be tricky, it can be fun, it can be messy, and it can be a great project for kids...and it most definitely is ESSENTIAL for the garden. So far we have one outstanding compost area set up with a stacking composter, a tumbling composter and a worm house, aka vermicomposter, donated by the Gibbons-Croft family and the Green family...these will help our garden thrive! We are working on setting up the same kind of thing over in the 3-8 garden but any help or donation in this area would be great!

Here's what we would like to happen to keep our compost healthy. We would like each classroom to have a pail for collecting scraps from kids lunches. Once a week those scraps can be tossed into the composter! Then we can water and turn the compost. We have included "watering the compost" twice a week to the list for the garden liasons and volunteers posted on the white board in the garden. A whole watering can should do the trick. The worms also need watering but not as much or as often.

What to Compost:
melon rinds, carrot peelings, tea bags, apple cores, banana peels - almost everything that cycles through your kitchen. The average household produces more than 200 pounds of kitchen waste every year and we can successfully compost all forms of kitchen waste. Egg shells are a wonderful addition, but decompose slowly, so should be crushed. Coffee is an excellent addition to compost...the kids can bring it from home...many coffee shops also donate their grounds! And if your class participates in cooking projects, the veggie scraps are appreciated!

What NOT to Compost: No dairy products, and high-fat foods like salad dressings and peanut butter, can present problems ...also NO MEAT or CHEESE!
Garden Refuse can also be composted. All of the spent plants, thinned seedlings, and deadheaded flowers can be included. Most weeds and weed seeds are killed when the pile reaches an internal temperature above 130 degrees, but some may survive. To avoid problems we shouldn't compost weeds with persistent root systems, and weeds that are going to seed.

Managed Composting
involves active participation, ranging from turning the pile occasionally to a major commitment of time and energy. We can get fully cooked and ready-to-use compost in 3-4 weeks if we water, feed, turn and tend our compost!

Worm Composting (or vermicomposting) is different than traditional composting. Worm composting is a process that uses red earthworms, also commonly called redworms, to consume organic waste, producing castings (an odor-free compost product for use as mulch), soil conditioner, and topsoil additive. Naturally occurring organisms, such as bacteria and millipedes, also assist in the aerobic degradation of the organic material.

Vermicomposting is especially useful for processing food scraps, since the worms consume the material quickly and there are fewer problems with odor. Worm composting does not generate temperatures high enough to kill pathogens. For this reason, vermicomposting is more appropriate for food, paper, and yard waste. Food scraps should be chopped or shredded for faster degradation. Unprocessed materials can be used in vermicomposting, but the time required for complete degradation of the organic waste is generally six months or longer.

Worms love... coffee, paper, chopped up lettuce or thinnings from the garden. The worms do not need to be fed more than every other day.

It is up to our Teachers and Garden Liaisons to decide how into composting they would like to be...and we have more links and info for you as well as workshop information! If one or two teachers get inspired, certain classes could take over composting and do all the collection, temperature-taking, turning, and general maintenance. Other school gardening programs have had good results dealing with composting this way. There is a huge amount of curriculum and lesson plan's information out there for those of you that are interested!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Green is Spreading...

At last the 3rd-8th grade garden beds are getting planted! Hurray, it looks great! And good news...we are close to having water over there, if we don't already.

Many of the garden plans are moving right along in a positive way. We are working towards our shade structure goal, working on a plan to present to the school district. It is also important for us to get a good, workable system set up in each area for more efficient otherwords, we want everything to be where it should be...watering cans, trowels etc. Many of us have made that long trek across the blacktop just to realize we forgot the water key...

Hopefully, after the Thanksgiving break we will have some workshops listed for Teachers and Garden Liaisons to help everyone figure out how gardening is actually going to integrate into daily classroom activities. We are actively looking into great garden curriculum, lesson plan ideas for all ages and are hoping to find knowledgable folks to come in to work with all of us...teachers, kids everyone! We are very fortunate to have a Master Gardener (soon to graduate from the program) assigned to our school. She is a retired Teacher and Principal from Bay Park Elementary. She was and still is very active in the school gardens they have. You can read a bit about it here. She has so much knowledge and will be working closely with us in the future.

Next week a few of the Garden Liaisons and volunteers will be tending and watering our gardens, tree, vines, planter boxes etc. We are hoping that over the next break in December we will have even more help in this area from our SDCCS families! Keep the garden in mind as a volunteer/hours option.
Have a great holiday with your families everyone. We are thankful for our wonderful SDCCS community!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kids in the Garden

Each of the Kindergarten, First Grade and Second Grade Classes have been having tours of the Garden this past week...

We tried to make it fun, introducing the good smelling herbs, (kitchen and medicinal) and gently touching them with two fingers...meeting the grape vine, the baby mandarin orange tree and the weeping mulberry tree. We discussed winter vegetables versus summer vegetables and the benefits of planting marigolds around them. Each child planted a sweet pea seed and made a wish...some did a few garden chores, protecting flowers by lining a path with stones...and everyone had the chance to whisper a secret to one special plant that they will keep an eye on all year and let us know if it needs extra care.

We ended each tour with a ring-around-the-tee-pee and a special chant that goes like this.. "inch by inch, row by row, I'm gonna make this garden grow!"

After all these magical tours, it felt as if each child made a connection with the space and learned a few garden rules; nice words spoken here, walking feet, keep the rocks on the ground, etc. Also, a bit about how to care and show respect to the plants in our special garden... and all growing things.

Here are a few "kid quotes" we collected while in the garden...

"I am talking to a plant now.." Ian
"The seed kind of cracks open and that's how it starts"... Katie
"Sweat Pea, That's what my Grandma calls me"... Alysah

They even came up with a few names for the Garden...

"The Garden Gate".... Bret
"The Love Plants".... Victoria

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Grades 3 thru 8, You're Next!!

Don't think the garden motivation stops here! Now that we have the K-2 garden well under way, we want to make the 3rd-8th grade garden a desirable destination as well! It is our goal to build some sort of shade structure with beams attached to planters (like the picture but not in cement!) with a trellis cover for the center of our raised bed area. We would love to have this done between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hopefully this will attract all the teachers as an "outdoor classroom" area to be used for more than just planting, gardening and composting...but also hanging out, reading, breaking up into small groups, etc!

Our one obstacle to a flourishing garden in this area is water!! We thought we had that covered but we just found we have pipes that are in need of repair and a shut off valve that may be difficult to turn back on. We are working on this...and, in the meantime, we will have to use the spigot next to Jeff Plapp's classroom with a hose, watering cans and a wheelbarrow. We are hoping that enthusiastic Middleschoolers won't mind wheeling a watering can or two over to their thirsty plants. (maybe we could call this PE?) We know this is not ideal and have a work order out to the two Irrigation people who work for SD City Schools.

So...if anyone wants to help the 3rd-8th graders water once their beds are planted or if anyone wants to work on a guided building project, donate wood, time, or ideas...please contact Amy or Annie ASAP!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Garden Liaison's, What can you do ?

Now that we have the K-2 Garden mostly planted, we have come up with a simple maintenance schedule to ensure that all the baby plants and seedlings have all the nourishment they need to prosper. After consulting our Teachers we have come up with these days for weekly watering that the children can be a part of.

Monday is Miss Jen's First Grade Class
Tuesday is Miss Karen's Second Grade Class
Wednesday is Miss Morgan's Kindergarten Class
Thursday is Mr. V and Miss Kate's Multi Age Class
Friday is Jacob's Kindergarten Class

On these days the Teachers will bring their children out to do a bit of watering...mainly just the seedlings and the passion vines...and to throw out compost scraps and feed the worms. This is really just an opportunity for the Teachers to do a bit of gardening with the kids. This doesn't need to take more than 15 minutes unless they are in the mood for more!!

The rest of the watering for that day will be up to the Garden Liaisons to either do themselves, or coordinate a parent volunteer to spend about 40 minutes on your classrooms day tending to the garden. We will have a weekly calender on the white board in the garden that will list the daily chores. The chores will mostly be watering and everyone's favorite job, weeding. I am sure the children would love to pull weeds as well. Everyone will need to know the combination to the locked bench with the water key in it...and how to work that thing!! Amy will be in the Garden, this Wednesday and Friday after school to go over all the details, so please stop by. We do plan to incorporate some type of irrigation in the future, which will make watering a breeze.

So, if you are wondering what the overall responsibilities for a Garden Liaison will be, here's what we think...
A Garden Liaison will...

1) Find out how your child's teacher would like to integrate gardening into their plans for the year.

2) Choose a day of the week for classroom gardening projects and put up volunteer sign-ups for these jobs if the teacher wants help.

3) Put up a sign-up for parent volunteers for the once weekly maintenance...(for instance, water on Monday).

4) Keep an eye on the plants in your classes designated area...share information about the plants in your garden bed and pass it on to the kids.

5) Continue to check the Garden Blog for updates to pass onto teachers, parents, children, etc.

6) Keep classroom up-to-date about Garden Events via bulletin board or class newsletter and keep Garden Committee up-to-date about classroom garden interests as they evolve.

7) Encourage other activities with the help of parent volunteers involving the garden...sketching plants in the and eating...perhaps learning about medicinal herbs...look into stories or folklore involving certain plants. For a great resource for gardening lessons and activities click on this link here. This is also a link in the Education Bar in the upper left hand corner, Kids Gardening.

8) Keep track of watering cans and tools and return them to garden!

9) If this seems like a may decide to make it a two person job! Either way it will be a very enjoyable way to spend your volunteer hours.

We hope the garden will enhance the school experience, not take away volunteers from teachers in much needed areas...hopefully the position of Garden Liaison will help the Teachers, maybe provide them with more time for small groups, etc.

As always, suggestions are appreciated in the comment section!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The First Planting Day!

What a great success!

Watching SDCCS families plant together and work as such a fabulous Cooperative was a beautiful sight to see! Key ingredients: Good Food, Good Art, Motivated People,
and a Fine Display of Creative Energy!

We look forward to many bountiful, green days to come with our entire community. THANK YOU EVERYONE!

And now, let's let the pictures do the talking!
( If you would like to see more photos from the day click here, and go to our SDCCS Garden Flickr group.)

We hope to see you in the garden soon!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Garden Festival, Sunday November 4th!!

Come to our Garden Festival!!
This Sunday November 4th 11:00-4:00

Fun for the Whole Family!


Hope to see YOU there!

a little gardening 101...

We have many experienced gardeners at SDCCS and some who have self-proclaimed "brown thumbs" but most of us live somewhere in- between...
Over the next couple of weeks and throughout the year, teachers, garden liasons and parent volunteers will be planting all sorts of veggies, herbs, trees, vines, seeds and flowers with our kids and maybe now is a good time for a refresher about the basics. First, a few definitions...

topsoil: the good dirt for our plants (not hardpan or clay or sand etc)

compost: decomposed plant matter that acts as food for the plants and earthworms

mulch: usually chipped bark used to hold in covers the soil after planting, helps keep out weeds and keep in water... good for paths and walkways

6 pack (not the drinking kind or the muscle kind): 6 small plants sold together...the containers will be reused for seedlings

thinning: kind of obvious, but after you plant seeds... many of them so tiny its hard to sprinkle only a few... too many will sprout in one place and thinning is necessary for the plants to grow without overcrowding

pruning: cutting back a plant so it will grow bushier and healthier

dead-heading: snapping the dead flowers off a plant so all that growing energy can go into making more flowers/seed etc

companion planting: a method of planting that pairs kinds of veggies, herbs and flowers so their different properties can help eachohter thrive...for instance, some plants grow tall and shade seedlings that can't take full sun...or certain flowers keep snails away...or certain plants attract ladybugs that will eat aphids and white flies...and of course the reverse is true, and some plants do not do well next to others...onions can be tricky as can garlic and fennel.

OK, now a bit about planting...
When you are planting vegetables, herbs, and flowers it is best to squeeze and bend the plastic planter they are in to loosen them...if they are root-bound (in otherwords, the roots are a clumped together and often still in the shape of the planter...) it is necessary to rip off the bottom 1/4 of the root system. I know it sounds drastic but it will help the plant to drink right away and adapt to its new home.
It's also good to give your newly planted plants a gentle watering and be diligent about watering until they are established. And be prepared to weed a lot...make sure you have marked well the areas where you are expecting seedlings and try to differentiate between them and the weeds.
It is important to know enough about your plant to space them the proper distance...tomatos get huge, radishes not so much etc. Here's a good list for vegetable spacing but more research is necessary for many of the medicinal and culinary herbs that will be planted.

Veggie Spacing Guide

Asparagus 15-18 inches apart
Beans, lima 4-6
Beans, pole 6-12
Beans, bush 4-6
Beets 2-4
Broccoli 12-18
Brussel sprouts 15-18
Cabbage 15-18
Potatoes 10-12
Pumpkins 24-36
Radishes 2-3
Rutabaga 4-6
Collards 12-15
Squash, summer 18-24
Squash, winter 24-36
Sweet corn 15-18
Turnips 4-6

Lettuce, head 10 to 12 inches apart
Southern pea 3-4
Spinach 4-6
Eggplant 18-24
Kale 15-18
Tomatoes 18-24
Leeks 3-6
Onion 2-3
Pumpkin 24-36
Cucumber 18-24

Expect a bit of time where the plants look great...then not so great a couple of days later...and then hopefully, great again!

Happy Planting...and comment if you have questions or quick tips!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Next Step...A Garden Festival!!

Sunday, November 4th from 11-4 come join us for the first annual Garden Festival! Let's celebrate the new green spaces we are creating for our school by doing some planting and some artwork with the children! This will also be an opportunity for families to donate something on the garden wish list (on the left) perhaps a shovel... and then they can put that shovel to use!

We also have a list of things we could use help with that have nothing to do with the Garden Festival and everything to do with organizing and communicating the garden "chores". We have developed a "SDCCS Garden Guide" Binder ". This essentially will be a Plant "How To" Guide, that will be accessible to everyone. It will be stored in outdoor trunks along with tools. We will also have a white board at each Garden with the design layouts, and a calender that will let anyone who comes to volunteer, Teachers and Students what needs to be done in the way of planting, watering, weeding, fertilizing. etc. This will be a great tool for Garden Liaison's, Teachers and Volunteers to Communicate. We can also use the Blog to help us as well. We are not sure if the Blog is working as a good communication tool, so please feel free to comment at the end of the post to let us know your thoughts. Its easy to do, you just need to register a name, don't be shy !! Comments are great way to ask questions, and give us your idea's, we check them daily.

Here is Our "NEXT STEPS LIST", things we really need now to proceed smoothly...

1. We need a plumber who can help us add some hose bibs so watering can be done more quickly. We also need MORE hoses and splitters!
2. We need someone to start and help maintain our composting system and even a worm farm...we have a good spot for it, just not the time to implement it. We could use the help in this area!!
3. We really need an ongoing Donations Coordinator whose job would include scanning Craig's List for free plants, tools etc and then arranging these items to be picked up or delivered. There is so much free stuff out there...we just need to get it...gardens are expensive, especially in the first few years!

If anyone has any ideas they can put into action let us know!
Please comment below or e-mail Amy or Annie (addresses at the left)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It Takes A Village....of Very Hard Working Volunteers!!

Our Big Dig Day was a huge success !! We were so happy and excited about how great our day went!!



Here is what we accomplished in 9 hours.

In the K-2 Garden, we ammended the soil, rototilled and layed out cobble around the bed designs. With the expertise of one of our SDCCS Parents, Joe Rich, we had the most beautiful fence, along with two incredibly charming Arbors built. If you ever need any type of landscape or hardscape work done, Joe is your Man! Check out his work at Fortress Fence and Landscape. Joe not only designed the fence, he brought a whole truck load of tools and extra supplies! Joe, Thanks so much for everything !! The Garden will forever have a bit of YOU built right in !!

With the help of Alan, Shawn, and Pepe, 6 Raised Beds were built and moved over to the Dirt Area in the Big Playground for the Upper Grades. Both Alan and Shawn were in awe of immense power of the Nail Gun that Joe Supplied. Thanks Guys !! After that, more Volunteers worked tirelessly not only to level the beds, but shovel 10 yards of top soil in each and every one. There was lots of sweat, laughs, and great ideas flowing out there !! Thanks to Matt, Riaz (great design layout!), Sue, Jeff, CJ, Melanie, Jack, Amy, and anyone else I missed for all that hard work!

The Kids were involved as well. They painted wonderful designs on 4 different benches, and we placed them in various area's around the school. Thanks Haley, Chloe, Lucy, Lilly, Kristen,and again whoever I may have missed. We love our children's Artwork!

We also had the children help us plant our very first fruit tree, a semi-dwarf meyer lemon, along the new chain link fence out in the front of the school. We envision each grade planting there own fruit tree, to build a small SDCCS Orchard. Let's hope we will have some lemonade to share this summer. Thanks to Chloe, Lucy, Haley, Annie, Amy for planting, and Jay and Kit for digging that hole !!

There are many more people to acknowledge for their incredible effort... from Arnold who delivered benches days before and worked all day long on Saturday, to Matt, Riaz, Sean, Jose, Emil, Jay, Sonja, Tara, Laurie, CJ and Jeff for tirelessly working the fence, and rototilling. To Jay and Pepe who worked every corner of that place along with Dmitry, Matt, Kit, Tara, Christine, Sonja, Sarah... Thank you Lydia and Daleth for moral support, childcare and refreshments...really! Thank you Merrill for wheeling endless amounts of cobble stones back and forth and back again, with such a happy face, (we have video!)... Sarah, August, Jose, and Amy for help everywhere you were needed... There's more! Sue, Melanie, Jack, Linda, Juliane...Thank You too!! And Sarah, for giving new life to the four dying ficus plants around the school, Thank you! Lauri, for all those late nights you spent re-working the Whimsical Garden Design sketch for the K-2 Garden, your vision and plant knowledge is just wonderful..Thankyou!! Emil, thank you always, for the great visual documentation and helpful hands! It's amazing what can happen in one day when we all come together!! I also want to thank all the people on the Garden Committee who have been working behind the scenes to make all of this happen! What a wonderful group of people !!

If you would like to see more photo's from the day, please visit our flickr photo group pool here: Flickr: The SDCCS Green Room

See you in two weeks for the Garden Festival. Sunday, November 4th (11am to ?)...we promise to ask you only to dig one or two holes...the rest is for the kids !!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Just a taste of what went on...

bigdig 10-20-2007 5-12-28 PM (by You)
...a Meyer Lemon Tree is honor of our school that always seems to make lemonade out of lemons!

bigdigpano2 (by You)
Six 4ft X 12ft raised beds were made and filled...ready for planting!

grim diggers sepia (by You)
Just a few of the "Grim Diggers"

bigdigpano1 (by You)
A work in progress!

Friday, October 19, 2007

getting ready for tomorrow!

Yes, it was a busy day with every delivery coming during recess or some otherwise busy time...but it all worked out! Cobble stones, compost and amendments, wood and cement, and 10 cubic feet of topsoil!

The dumping of the stones was the highlight for the kids.

Amy driving a dump truck was a sight to see!

...and the kids did a bit of digging on their own, creating a town and river!