students

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

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.

Last Day of School

Today is our last day of school and while there’s not a frown in sight, they are sad to say goodbye to their garden.  And who wouldn’t be? Gardening is BIG fun–especially during school hours!

“You mean we get to go outside again?”

“Yes pumpkin, you do.”

Speaking of pumpkins, our summer “crop” of students will do the honors this year and plant our pumpkin patch. Waiting until August is simply too late. Too late if you want pumpkins to carve for Halloween, that is. Or how about a pumpkin stand? Our seed sale fundraiser last week was a rip-roaring success. We raised an amazing $285.00 for our garden!  Isn’t that awesome? Now each student will have a tool to work with in the garden (no more sharing between friends) and we’ll ALL have gloves that fit.  For bonus points, we’ll throw in some magnifying glasses to use for leaf study, bug discovery, infection inspection–it’ll be super!

But before we go, how about one last check on our tomatoes (we’ll pull these out over summer and replace them with peanuts). 

Our first batch of which have already begun to sprout.

 

All over the place!

 

Gorgeous.  Simply gorgeous.  Come fall, we may host another seed sale, or send some home to parents as thank yous!  My summer plan is to create a full-fledged garden curriculum for the students, one that will coincide with the botany and science lessons they’re learning in class. With a seamless approach to their education, hopefully the students will be the big winners.

So if you’d like to incorporate gardening into your child’s education, sign up for new blog post notifications and you won’t miss a minute of the fun.  All lessons will be free for he taking!