The Garden at Oswegatchie School is a sustainable organic garden where children get a hands on experience learning where their food comes from while developing an appreciation and respect for nature. The Garden will be a learning center to teach gardening as well as incorporating art, music, literature, math and science. It is a place where children are encouraged to join in and participate in the process of creating, developing and maintaining the garden!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Look At Us Now!

So, the summer flew by and the chickens have grown! It really is amazing how quickly they develop. Rob did a phenomenal job constructing the coop and extra run. The chickens have been comfortably lounging since the middle of July and are quickly adapting to the routine we have set up for them.

Once the chickens were about 8 weeks old they were old enough to go outside. Rob did the coop in stages so it wouldn't be so overwhelming.

Once the chicken were acclimated to their new digs, Rob added the extra run.

The chickens seemed right at home from the start. It's no wonder, they had been in the breeder up until this time. Experts recommend for 6 chickens 24 square feet of coop space, 60 for their run. Our run is 48 but you can include the coop so we have 72 square feet of space all together. That is what is recommended if the chickens don't free range. Ours get outside into the garden frequently so we have more than enough space.  Chickens love to roost at night so we have installed a roost bar and since they won't be laying eggs until the spring we will install the nesting boxes then.

Chickens are social creatures and it is amusing to watch them set up their "pecking order". A pecking order is a hierarchy of who leads the flock. This can mean who eats at the feeder first to who decides where they roam in the garden.  Right now there doesn't seem to be a clear leader but there certainly is a lot of head stomping and loud squawking.

foraging in the garden beds

An added benefit to having chickens is they speed the compost process. We feed them kitchen and garden food scraps. They eat most of it and scratch the rest of it into the dirt with their clawed feet. Then their poop adds much needed nutrients to the soil. When they are free ranging they are eating weeds and bugs and pooping directly into the beds. They are doing great work in our garden!

Our peach tree has been slow to produce but this year we managed to get one lone peach. The chickens loved it!

Every day brings new discovering with these amazing creatures. As we watch their personalities unfold and we learn who they are, they are becoming part of the Oswegatchie family.

looking for food scraps on the picnic table

posing for the camera

foraging in the garden bed

We hope you continue to follow us along on this journey.

Rob and Cynthia

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Chicken Update

Chick from the original hatch

So after a rough 23 days we only ended up with one surviving chick from the nine eggs we incubated. An incubator malfunction damaged three of the eggs that began pipping and 5 eggs never formed embryos. We were able to replace the ones we lost from a local farm. The school garden will be the new home for 2 Buff Orpington, 2 Rhode Island Red, and 2 Barred Rock hens. 

The benefits of keeping chickens are numerous. Some of the reasons we are introducing them into the garden ecosystem is to eliminate the tick population, get rid of the grubs in the lawn, and provide natural fertilizer for the garden beds.

 Chickens have unique personalities and can recognize and remember people and other chickens they like even after being apart for a while. Chickens are also very smart. Some have been able to learn basic commands like come and sit. They are a social creature by nature so it was imperative that we got flock mates for the sole hatch survivor. 

5th graders getting to know the chicks.

The flock will be ready to live outside by mid July. The students will be building a coop as part of the summer garden program.

Weekly progress will be documented here.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Micro greens, Fairies, and Chickens Oh My!

Spring is blooming here at Oswegatchie and with it all the excitement a new season brings. We started in March growing micro greens with the Kindergarten classes as part of their living/nonliving lessons.

Students planted the micro green seeds and then took care of them for a couple of weeks. When they were ready to harvest each class made a simple salad dressing and had a greens tasting party.

In April third, fourth, and fifth grade students let their imaginations soar as they created homes to house fairies in the garden.

The students used a variety of natural materials to complete their projects which were then displayed at our school's annual art show. 

The houses will now be displayed proudly in our garden.

May is shaping up to be just as exciting in the library as we are in the process of incubating 9 eggs! We are attempting to hatch 3 Buff Orpington, 3 Rhode Island Red, and 3 Barred Rock eggs. We chose these variety for their temperament and ability to handle cold New England winters. 

The incubator has an automatic turner and self regulates temperature. The humidity is adjusted by adding water to the wells on the bottom of the incubator. If successful the chickens will live in our school garden to become a valuable part of the ecosystem we are building there. 

Children are enthusiastically collecting data daily to make sure the temperature and humidity stay at the optimal levels. I found a fantastic tool from Learning Resources that allows children a glimpse of the daily progress inside the eggs.

Each morning students are excited to see how much the embryos have developed. They are keeping track by drawing each day's growth on a chart.

Students from Mrs. Gallis' class plant seeds in one of the raised beds.

Due to time constraints I haven't been able to organize an after school garden club this year. However, I have been taking whole classes out to the garden when the weather permits so eventually all the Oswegatchie students will have spent time nurturing our garden. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring!

Today is meteorological spring! While it's not quite the season of spring (astronomical spring), which happens on March 20th, it does mean that temperatures will start to trend warmer, and we are excited to get back out into the garden to put our hands in the soil!

We have already started some of the cold crop and flower seeds, getting them ready to be transplanted as soon as the beds thaw out.

Kale seedlings in soil blocks

Marigold seeds germinating on the heat mat

Romaine Lettuce "Freckles"

"Blue Curled Scotch" Kale

Most of the seeds we grow come from the garden. We have been saving our own seeds for several years now, growing varieties for flavor and yields. Not only does this practice save you money each year but the crops grow better because they have been adapted to your garden (pest resistance, drought tolerance, etc) and you end up with healthier crops.

Seeds saved from the garden,
Kale (left), Scallion (middle), and Chocolate Runner Beans (right)

Garlic harvested in July, dried and re-planted in November 2018.

The garlic are just starting to poke through the leaves.

There are lots of activities planned for the garden this year! 
We have been working throughout the winter putting together ideas to make this year packed with fun activities to utilize the garden and can't wait to get started on some of the exciting things we have planned. It's shaping up to be a busy year in the garden, so stay tuned!


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Harvesting  Rainwater

Our goal is to make the school garden a sustainable system, one that doesn't depend on outside resources. We work to achieve this by saving seeds and bulbs each year to replant in the spring,  making our own compost using leaves from the surrounding trees and debris from the garden, and by companion planting to help with pest problems so we don't need to use pesticides.

One major problem we've encountered was that we relied heavily on the city water from the school to keep the garden irrigated each season, especially throughout the summer months. Dragging the garden hose 150' to the building to hook up to the water supply was a chore in itself so we decided to take advantage of the free resource and harvest rainwater from the roof of the shed. 

We purchased two 60 gallon rain barrels, already set up with a cover, screen to filter out leaves, spigots to hook a hose up to and over flow valves.  We installed gutters and downspouts on the shed and hooked up both barrels. 

Before deciding to try harvesting rainwater we needed to calculate how much water we could collect off the roof of the shed.

Its a simple calculation:
(length x width of the roof in inches) x (inches of rainfall) divided by 231
(because 1 gallon = 231 cubic inches)

The shed roof is 62" x 100" per side.
(62 x 100) x 1 divided by 231 = 26.84 gallons per inch of rain!

We have rain barrels on both sides of the shed so we need to double that number:
26.84 x 2 =  53.68 gallons of rain collected for every inch that falls!

Thats's quite an impressive amount of rain from a small shed!

This year we have gotten approximately 42.54" of rain so far! If you plug that into the equation:

(62 x 100) x 42.54 divided by 231 = 1,141.77 gallons, for each side of the roof, double that to account for both sides of the roof and we could have potentially collected 2,283.53 gallons of water!

Needless to say, the rain barrels collected more than enough rain water to keep the garden irrigated for the entire growing season and they are both still full! We haven't had to use the water from the faucet at all so it we have achieved the goal of keeping the garden irrigated sustainably!

We did water the garden by hand from the rain barrels, which was still a bit of a chore, but we didn't mind because it gave us time to really look at the plants and closely observe how everything was growing. The idea of putting a solar pump on the barrels to move the water through a hose to the beds was considered, but after much research we decided to try using ollas (pronounced oy-yas) next year.

Ollas are terra cotta vessels that are buried in the garden and filled with water. The water is released when the surrounding ground becomes dry, providing irrigation to the plants. Ollas have been used for thousands of years. Depending on how dry it is they only need to be filled every 3 to 5 days. We add a lot of organic matter to the garden and plant densely using different height plants spaced close together to create mini microclimates. This helps to keep the soil covered, minimizing evaporation, allowing the soil to hold on to more moisture, so we usually don't need to water that often.

In the spring we are going to put a couple ollas in two of the beds to see how well they work.

Gardening in harmony with nature, instead of trying to control it, seems to be less effort and offers greater rewards by means of minimal pest problems and greater harvests.

We've been noticing more and more critters showing up in the garden as well. It's nice to be able to observe so many forms of nature just foot steps from the school!