Back to School and Into the Garden!

School is back in session and it’s time to get our youngsters out of the cafeteria and into the garden–their very own school garden.

From aphids to zinnias, beets to watermelon, children can gain a wealth of valuable knowledge from participating in a garden, but they need guidance.  And who better to guide them than you?

ladybug in action!

“Me? But I don’t have time for a garden.”

Of course you do—you simply don’t realize it yet!  Gardens don’t have to be time-consuming.  Nor do they have to be stressful.  I mean, where in the garden manual does it say you must sacrifice every ounce of your free time and sanity for the sake of growing vegetables? More

Going Back to School

Kids head back to school next week which means I as garden coordinator head back with them.  While we didn’t spend a lot of time in the garden over the summer (peanuts are fairly low-maintenance), we have BIG plans for the year ahead, beginning with our pumpkin patch.  As you may recall, last year our pumpkins hit a rough patch of fungus and did not produce the orange beauties we were expecting.  Why not?

Well, we could chalk it up to ambitious gardeners, seed crowding, Florida humidity, the normal stuff–but this year we’re doing things a bit differently.  We have moved locations, giving the pumpkins ample space to stretch out and spread their vines.  We also plan to put mulch beneath them to ward off grass growth.  Kinda hard to cut the lawn around the pumpkins and vines which caused some of the problems.  But no worries.  We will master the art of pumpkin growth this year!  We’ll also harvest our peanuts and generally prepare the garden for our fall crop. 

As to our lessons, we will coordinate garden and classroom for a seamless and common sense approach to education.  Translated:  what they’re learning in class will correspond to what they’re learning in the garden.  Easy enough when it comes to botany and chemistry.  It’s life science in middle school that will prove a bit more, “challenging” shall we say?  Oh yes, we’ll be talking reproduction in the garden, 101. 🙂

If anyone has any suggestions for curriculum or craft ideas, I’m all ears!  On the current agenda we have:   art in the garden to express their creative side, journaling to practice their power of observation and writing skills, science projects with our attempt at building a solar oven, measuring and graphing for a slice of math among the beds, the power of self-sustainability beginning from seed to harvest, then learning to save their seeds for next season, and of course cooking.  We eat what we grow which makes everything taste better.  For added fun, we’re incorporating Spanish into our garden, with bilingual plant signs to vocabulary lists.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  Oh–and don’t forget the field trip to the worm fun.  Talk about a good time, worms are it.

So follow along with us as we share our garden lessons and crafts and by all means–share some of yours.  We’ll consider it a coop garden of sorts, albeit virtual in nature.

The Last Hurrah before Spring Break!

The kids are antsy and itchy and not because of anything in the garden, oh no–it’s almost spring break!  Try corralling that kind of distraction for an afternoon of weeding and you’ll get dips and dives in enthusiasm–until they spot the strawberries.

“Can I have one!  Can I have one!” 

Zeroing in on the plants in question, I do the quick math in my head:  5 strawberries, 10 kids…  And this is just the first group out for the day!

“Please, can we pick them?”

What could I say?  This is the day they’ve waited for, the one I promised would come and fill them with more excitement than they could contain.  Glancing between kids and berries I had no choice.  “Yes”–hands flew outward–“but not before I get a picture!”

Talk about the difficulty of delayed gratification–you’d a thought we were on a ten-hour bus ride with no stops for bathroom breaks the way these kids were bouncing, bobbing, bursting for release.  But the berries were worth it.  🙂 

Upon our return, these cucumbers will be great fun.  They’ll climb right up this fence–ours for the grabbing!  (Someone sense a pickling lesson in our future?)

The kindergarteners joined us this week for the honor of planting the ever popular watermelon seed, dropping several into each hole.  They have no idea how much space one watermelon plant needs, let alone five in each hole.  But they had fun and each had a turn (THE most important factor in gardening with the wee ones).

While weeding, we noticed this little guy–another near catastrophe in the making.  Poor thing had no idea what was going on, what, with all these little hands darting in his direction! 

And speaking of things flying at high speeds I leave you with this note of caution:  when gardening during Science Olympiad week, keep your eyes peeled.  While supervising the garden activity, I was surprised by a splash on my ankle.  Turning, I spotted the group of middle school boys–laughing.  Never a good sign.  Apparently, their project was some sort of water balloon launch and I was in range. 

Eyeballing the little pumpkins, I thought, it’s all fun and games until the garden coordinator gets wet!  (Though I had to admit, they’re distance and precision were pretty good.) 

To his credit, the young man came over and apologized to which I promptly accepted.  He’s just lucky it was my leg and not my lens.

p.s.  The upper elementary kids surprised me with this wonderful shamrock filled with limericks about their *fabulous* garden coordinator, yours truly.  Each and every rhyme is a true creative gem–I wish I could post them ALL here for your reading pleasure–you’d love them.  I will cherish it and the salt and pepper snail shakers (my favorite kind of snails–the pretend kind!). 

Thanks kids and have a GREAT spring break!