students

A Model For School Gardens

Ever wanted to start a school garden and didn’t know where to begin?

Then you must check out the incredible work being done by Millennia Gardens Elementary in Orlando, Florida. In collaboration with Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Green Works Initiative and the help of countless dedicated volunteers (and of course, enthusiastic students!), this school is paving the way for future school gardens everywhere. Education is at the heart of their mission, with an emphasis on environmental stewardship and healthy living.

These students are learning to recycle, beginning with tires. Have you ever seen an old rubber tire look so good?

I haven’t. They’re simply beautiful–and the butterflies are flocking to these flowers in droves. In a touching tribute to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub attack, rocks were painted with the names of each victim and placed in the garden for all to visit and reflect upon.

An education board placed near the butterfly garden explains the life cycle of the butterfly, labels the parts of plants and flowers and even discusses the value of other important pollinators. Where was this classroom when I was growing up?

But the fun doesn’t stop here. These students have established an impressive hydroponic garden, pictured here with an abundance of strawberries. If that wasn’t enough, these budding humanitarians grow lettuce and donate it to Sea World to feed rescued manatees.

They have also established a lovely raised bed garden.

Sound expensive to maintain? Not really. These ingenious youngsters have employed a “pedal-a-watt” system where they actually power the pumps and timers to keep their garden growing green and lush by cycling. Yep, you heard me right! These kids pedal to their heart’s content and deliver the much needed energy to their garden equipment. Now that’s what I call saving money on electricity. And, expending youthful excess energy and calories!

However, the “awesome” factor doesn’t stop there. Check out these wind-turbines…

They’re just one more way the kids are practicing sustainable methods of living. Notice that black pile of dirt in the background? Millennia Gardens Elementary is one of the only schools in the county to recycle their food waste, allowing the city to convert it to a rich, organic compost that will feed their garden.

Wow. Talk about a bright future–these kids are setting a stellar example for schools nationwide. For more information on what they’re doing and planning for the future, visit their website:  www.ecoclubfl.com

Earth Day for Kids!

Earth Day began back in April of 1979 coinciding with the birth of the environmental movement. Poor air and water quality were fundamental to the movement, along with protecting endangered species, a push that drew support from all sides of the political spectrum in an effort to save the earth we inhabit. (Could you imagine such an agreement in today’s tumultuous political times?) We’ve come a long way since those first days but we’re not there yet. While many of us yearn for a gas and oil free lifestyle, our technology is not quite there. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make real differences in our everyday lives.

Most of us recycle our plastics and glass, newspaper and cardboard. Many of us conserve water with every flush, every faucet turn, but how about moving our conservation efforts into the hearts of our children? From composting to gardening, to recycling and thinking futuristically, kids relish the opportunity to be part of a cause and the health of our planet is certainly a good one. One way to encourage kids in the garden is to make it fun.

From insects and worms to wild critters and mysterious finds, there’s never a dull moment between the rows of a garden and D.S. Venetta proves it with her series of chapter books, Wild Tales & Garden Thrills. Not only will kids be engaged by the stories, they’ll learn the basic tenets of organic gardening and why it’s so important for healthy living habits—including the health of our planet. Composting, companion planting, crop rotation, seed-saving–it’s all there. As a bonus, each book includes vocabulary words, fresh recipes & organic gardening lessons in the back!

CAUTION: by the time the kids finish the first book, they’ll be insisting you start your very own garden and compost pile (if you haven’t already!). Next, they’ll be convincing their teachers at school.

It’s not hard. None of it’s hard. But it does require effort. Thought. Intent. And that’s what the annual Earth Day celebration means to me and my family: we are the custodians of the planet. If we each do our part, we can live in harmony with nature. Animals, too, but that’s another post for another day. 🙂

Here’s to wishing you joy and good health on this Earth Day, and hope you reap abundance from this beautiful earth.

Books available from your favorite indie bookstore, as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million. Do your kids love their ereader as much as mine? Perfect! These books are also available for Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo with full-color illustrations.  Coloring books featuring all of the illustrations from the books are also available–perfect for engaging the younger set! Visit author D.S. Venetta’s website for more information.

Aruba Green Education Symposium

I just returned from a week in Aruba, visiting with the elementary-aged students and talking organic gardening. What a great group of kids–smart, well-mannered and VERY engaged in the topic. And if that wasn’t enough to make it a GREAT trip, the scenery was fantastic! Considering that my gardening in Central Florida during the summer slows to a near standstill, my trip to Aruba was a wonderful way to continue my passion for gardening. I was invited to speak as part of the Green Education Symposium, an educational outreach from the National Library of Aruba.

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It was my first visit to the island and I was thoroughly impressed. From the gorgeous scenery to the warm and generous people, Aruba is an amazing mix of tropical breezes, turquoise waters and desert inlands.

Aruba mangroves

White sandy beaches were littered with cactus and Divi trees, mangrove lagoons were a sanctuary for birds and fish, and the colorful buildings of downtown Oranjestad offered an abundance of visual pleasure.

Aruba beach cactus

Scheduled to be the first Green Island–totally self-sustaining via renewable energy sources–Aruba is all about organic gardening and sustainable gardening practices (one of my favorite topics!). And where is the best place to begin such an aggressive overhaul for a community-at-large? The children, of course! Some of my favorite gardeners…

Aruba school visit 2

Teaching the youngest among us the value of sustainable living ensures a long and prosperous future for the people and the climate of Aruba. A worthy goal to be sure, one we can all learn from.

Healthy Gardening = Healthy Planet

Healthy Living = Healthy Humans

Win-win! And kids know that vegetables taste better if you grow them yourself. For more information on Aruba’s quest for green, visit their website: Aruba Environment.

BACK to School Special!

Kids are going back to school and what better way to greet them than with a brand new book?  Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, by D.S. Venetta, is a new fiction series for elementary-aged children (grades 2 – 4) that connects kids with nature and the food they eat. And what better place to do so than a school garden?

EVERY school should one!

Venetta, Dianne- Beans, Greens and Grades (final) 800 px @ 300 dpi

Lexi and Jason Williams take center stage at school when Principal Gordon enlists their help to establish a garden at Beacon Academy. The kids are THRILLED to be selected as Green Ambassadors for this important project, but quickly learn how challenging it can be to work with others toward a common goal. Not only must they teach their fellow students how to garden, Lexi and Jason feel the pressure to make it fun and exciting (or become known as “The Most Boring Gardeners Ever” in school history). When the principal reveals a generous amount of grant money has been offered to continue the green program if the children succeed, the stakes rise.

No worries! Lexi and Jason are up to the task, assisted by their student council members. But as they formulate, organize and implement the plan for Beacon Academy’s first school garden, the kids are sidetracked by trouble, toils and trauma. Everyone has their OWN opinion on how to care for their plants, what should be done, and who should be doing it.

Hey–wait a minute. Who’s in charge around here? Find out in book 2 of the Wild Tales & Garden Thrills series!

And don’t miss the back-to-school special offer! Get the entire series–coloring books included–for over 30% off. Talk about getting kids excited about gardening–this series is it! Visit www.dsvenetta.com for full details.

Sustainability Education has never been so FUN!

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“This is a story that kids will be absorbed in without realizing how much they’re learning–about seeds, planting, plant life cycles, bugs, fertilizer… If you’re looking for a chapter book to get kids excited about nature, gardening, and science, this one would fit the bill.” ~ Queen Bee Books

 

Planting Peanuts

These delightful little nuts are a joy to grow.  Not only do they mature through the summer season, they take their time doing so–while YOU go on vacation!  Yep, plant these puppies in April/May and check back in July/August to reap your bounty!

peanut roots

Okay, just kidding.  You don’t want to leave anything alone that long–except maybe your bathroom scale–because who knows what could pay your garden a visit in the meantime?  Not that peanuts are prone to insects or disease, they aren’t really.  Pretty tolerant from what I can see and living with me–plants need to be tough.  I vacation!  I write!  I have other things to do!  (Don’t we all?)

That said, optimum practice is to “visit” your garden on a daily basis.  Not “work” or “weed” or “water” but simply visit.  Say it with me:  “Ah…it’s so lovely out here among the beds of lush green fruits and veggies.”  More

Now That Vacation Has Settled…

The students hit the garden running–literally. 🙂  It’s understandable.  Gardening is exciting!  I mean, have you ever seen what a real “bunch” of broccoli looks like on the plant?

bunch of broccoli

It’s cool.  Fascinating, really.  Mind you most of these kids have never seen broccoli still attached to the stalk.  No trip to the grocery store, no plastic wrap, and you can eat it?  You bet.  But eat it before it goes to flower.

bees are swarming the broccoli

By then, the bees are swarming and the plant is throwing its energy into creating seed pods. More

Progress Report

The kids have been diligently tending their garden, learning about the cold, learning the ways of crop rotation.  Rotating crops helps to improve soil structure, increases a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and aids in pest control.  As we prepare to harvest and begin the new season, organic gardeners need to know what they grow, know what grows where, when and why.  Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?

But we make crop rotation easy at BloominThyme and sing our way through the garden ~ beans – leaves – roots and fruits!  Beans – leaves – roots and fruits! More

Where Have the Students Been?

You mean between field trips to the butterfly gardens and fossil museum?  Christmas break and Martin Luther King Day?  Well, they’ve been in the garden, that’s where, expanding and tilling and generally having a grand old time!

You see, we have learned a valuable lesson.  Plants need sunlight to grow and they need a good dose of it–especially during the winter months.  During spring and summer, our Florida kids enjoy an early afternoon break in the shade, but right now?  Not so much. More

What Shape is YOUR Garden In?

Good shape, poor shape, the kids have discovered all kinds of shapes in their garden this week, especially when it comes to leaves.  They’re long, short, ragged, smooth, small, wide, narrow…  Well, you get the idea.  Brussels sprouts tend toward the round side.

Oval with a point as in oregano.  Pepper plants share this shape (but it’s too cold for those at the moment). More

Friends Planting Friends in the Garden

This week the kids learned the concept of companion planting.  Simply put, grouping plants together by how they can help each other is one of the secrets to organic gardening.  (So is worm poop, but we’ll get to that later.)  Squash bugs LOVE squash plants but they HATE radish.  So how about we plant radish next to our squash?

Our radish help our squash by preventing an attack of squash bugs!  How great a friend is that? More