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!

Monday, March 16, 2020

 Jerusalem artichokes

Last year we decided to plant some Jerusalem Artichokes (also known as Sunchokes) in the garden.
They are a perennial root vegetable that are easy to grow. They are planted in early spring and can grow 6-12 feet tall with clusters of yellow flowers on the tops of the tall canes.

They will grow in just about any soil in full sun, and will produce large amounts of knobby tubers at the base of the plant that can be replanted or eaten. We plated 4 lbs last March and harvest about 80 lbs this week!

If replanting it is important to know that they can become invasive, especially if you don't remove all the small tubers, so be sure to plant them in an area that you don't mind having them regrow. If you want to remove all of them, then dig up in early summer when the tubers are small.

Plant them in late winter, early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Before planting, cut tubers into one or two ounce pieces, with two or three prominent buds. Don't let the pieces dry out before planting. I store the tubers in buckets covered with garden soil until I am ready to plant them. I also left some in the ground over winter and dug them up this week to replant as they will stay preserved in the ground. We just harvested from the two beds in front of the chicken coop and replanted some back in for a new crop for this year. 

To plant, space 12" to 24" apart and bury 3" to 5" deep in the soil.

Jerusalem Artichokes are also a great food source. The tubers are sweet and can be eaten raw, baked or mashed. They taste like water chestnuts and can be used fresh in salads or cooked like potatoes. 

They contain a type of starch called Inulin, which converts fructose in the digestive tract (as opposed to glucose), and therefore is better tolerated by diabetics. It's low starch content also makes it a good choice for someone on a low-starch diet. Inulin can cause gas, so if you aren't used to eating them  introduce them slowly to your diet. 

Here is a good recipe we found for roasted sunchokes:

If anyone is interested in growing some in their garden or wants any to eat, we have a surplus and you are welcome to take some. There are about 10 lbs buried in the bed in front of the chicken coop.

They are covered by a few inches of soil, so use your hands to dig out and please cover up the others when finished so they don't dry out. They do dry out quickly so keep them in a cool place like a basement covered with soil, or in the refrigerator in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer.

Rob & Cynthia

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

September 25, 2019

We are 5 weeks into the school year and the chickens are starting to get to know the students. The students have been getting to know the chickens as well. They are shy and making new friends can sometimes be hard but this is another lesson our school garden can help us learn. 

The chickens love hiding in the sun chokes and raspberry patch. The children would not be deterred. Some climbed into the raspberry patch with the chickens to begin building trust. 

After a while the chicken felt comfortable enough to accept a treat of mealworms.

At the end of the 45 minute session friendship was beginning to blossom. 

Chickens are social creatures and prefer to be in groups of three or more. They will bond with humans like a dog or cat would and chickens can be trained to do simple tricks. They are also creatures of habit. By letting them out and putting them "to bed" at the same time everyday they have begun to recognize the pattern and will now walk up to their upper level when it is time to be "tucked in" for the night. 

The addition of chickens to the garden ecosystem has been a beneficial one. They are eating the pest bugs and leaving their droppings in the garden as fertilizer. Since the arrival of frogs to our garden pond we have seen zero mosquitos! 

The garden is becoming more and more diverse. In addition to the myriad of pollinators that have shown up this season, we have rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, and a rainbow of bird species inhabiting the space.

Even though the calendar says it's Autumn, that doesn't mean the growing season is over. We have ever bearing raspberry bushes that will still produce until the middle of October. The children eat them as fast as they ripen! Sweet potatoes will be ready for harvest soon, okra is still producing, and we have snap peas we planted in August that will be ready soon. The peppers and eggplant are still producing and the herbs continue to delight our olfactory glands.

As usual, the flowers never disappoint.

One of three pears that our tree produced this year.

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.