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!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 28, 2013

Haven't been to the Garden in a couple of days because it was raining daily and didn't figure there was much else to do. We were pleasantly surprised by the harvest we got today. We picked about 2 pounds each of string beans and tomatoes. We also harvested our first peppers. While the peppers, tomatoes and corn are getting ready to produce and abundant harvest, we are just about done with string beans and yellow squash. Very soon we will start planting our winter garden to include collards, kale, carrots, beets, lettuce, radish, and chard. Within the next couple of days some butternuts will be ready to harvest since we planted them so early. While we are extremely pleased with the recent harvests we are disheartened to find petty vandalism in the Garden. It takes a low person to steal from children especially when the items taken result in the destruction of plants. Someone has stolen some tomato stakes and the clips that secured them to the plants causing some of the plants to be damaged when they fell over. All I can say is "really people?" Anyway, enjoy some recent photo updates.

Bountiful butternut!

This one and a couple others almost ready!

Non-GMO  corn reaching for the sky

tassels mean the ears are developing

We need to add more soil to the bed of corn after heavy rains washed some away. Either that or it's deciding to walk away.

This lettuce will be available for pick up on Monday 7/29

beautiful tiger swallowtail we've seen flitting about

Monday, July 22, 2013

Garden Update 7/22/13

We harvested another 8 pounds of veggies from the Garden. I'm pleased with how well our little beds are producing. I'm not so pleased with the pests that keep plaguing our plants. Today we had to rip out all of the remaining zucchini plants. They had an infestation of some type of stem boring insect that annihilated the whole bed. We are going to treat the bed (organically) and let the soil rest for a little bit before planting anything else there. While we are disappointed this happened, it just proves that we need to get more healthy organic matter into our soil. All in good time.

On a positive note, the corn is now almost taller than Rob and we have our first tassels which means we will have corn soon! 

More noteworthy news; our butterfly attracting plants are attracting butterflies! Friday we spotted this Red-spotted Purple basking in the sunshine and sipping nectar. I'm not sure why it is called a Red-spotted Purple as it does not have red spots nor is it purple but all of the books I have on butterflies indicate that as the species.

We usually go to the Garden before 7 a.m. and don't have the opportunity to see many butterflies at that time of day. On Friday we went later in the day and were fortunate to witness this beautiful butterfly. I'm sure if you are in the Garden in the afternoon you may have the opportunity to witness the butterflies that come by the Garden for a snack.

So, despite the awful heat and frustrating pests, the Garden is doing remarkably well for it's first year. I spoke to Mr. Ozmun (our new principal) last week and he is on board for starting a school-wide composting program. That will help the soil tremendously! 

This guy has his eye on the lettuce. It's a good thing he can't reach it!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Another Productive Saturday

Busy, busy, busy :)

We had another work party this morning. The weather was cooperative. Overcast and not too humid. With the help we got today we were done in just over an hour. Thank you Ms. Edwards and Heikkinen family! We were able to get all the beds weeded, the area around the garden mowed, and the boxes trimmed. After that the children picked another 2 pounds of produce. Today it was mostly string beans. We also got another yellow squash, zucchini, and a couple of cucumbers. The tomatoes are abundant! I can't wait until those little orbs starting turning crimson! My mouth is watering in anticipation. 

The children loved using the Eco-friendly push mower

working hard in the pumpkin patch

taking care of the squash bed

harvesting beans longer than their hands!

picking yellow squash

found another cuke hiding
There is never a dull moment in the Garden. Just when we starting feeling confident about getting the squash bugs and cucumber beetles under control, another pest surprises us! Ah, the joys of gardening. Everyday is a learning experience. I love when these unexpected learning opportunities present themselves because I feel it is important for the children to learn that the Garden takes time and effort to maintain. You can't just plunk some plants down and come back later to get perfect vegetables. It doesn't work that way. Life doesn't work that way. You have to work hard to produce results. Now let me come off my soap box and show you what we found this morning.

Tomato horn worm
That alien looking creature is a tomato horn worm. The picture doesn't really do it justice as he was a gorgeous shade of tomato leaf green. In fact I didn't see it at first. What I noticed were it's droppings. I thought it was the eggs of a yet to be identified pest bug. I called Rob over to see if he knew what type of critter laid eggs that looked like tiny brown clusters of balls. He took one look and said "it's poop, look for a tomato horn worm nearby."  After searching diligently we spotted the little (or not so little) bugger. He was about the size of Rob's thumb! He was plump and squishy and really liked to hold on to the tomato branches. After searching all of the tomato plants we "evicted" three more. These critters are called tomato horn worms but will also eat eggplant and petunias. The best (organic) method of ridding your garden of them is to pick them off and squish them or give them a soak in soapy water. More information about them can be found here.  Just like other garden pests, these can be avoided by making sure your soil is well amended with organic matter. Healthy soil equals healthy garden.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Growing, Growing, Growing!

Heat tolerant lettuce coming along nicely.

The Garden has been in place for 68 days. In that time we have harvested approximately 25 pounds of veggies! More will be coming shortly as the tomato plants are loaded and today we noticed 6 butternut squash growing nicely.  The heat tolerant lettuce that was planted a few weeks ago is growing well as are the 3 Sisters. Pest bugs continue to be an issue. Seeing as this is our first year with the garden and our soil is not optimal, this is not surprising to us. Until the Garden is a fully functioning ecosystem we will see these kinds of problems. The really exciting part is once our compost bins are in place, our crops are varied and diversified, and we have a large enough haven for pollinators and beneficial insects, we will notice a vast difference in the Garden's ability to fend off attack from pest insects. Our harvest yield will increase as well. Until then, enjoy these scenes from the Garden. :)

Butternut squash forming

Tomatoes filling out nicely

Here come the peppers!

1840 Farm's 3 Sisters

This morning's harvest, 7.5 lbs!
We always need help with weeding and maintaining the Garden. Please feel free to stop by anytime and pull a few weeds or just to enjoy the oasis the Garden is becoming. We are just getting started so hope you continue to follow us along on this journey.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New additions to the garden!

We have started adding some furniture to the garden so there will be seating and work areas when we run the garden club and also so people can sit and enjoy the gardens while visiting. We thought it would be nice to incorporate child size tables and chairs so the children would be comfortable.

This is the first of four child size picnic tables that will be going into the garden. The other three tables will be assembled by volunteers during one of our garden work parties - date to be announced soon. We will also be adding two regular size picnic tables so we can have ample seating when we do garden picnics or harvest parties!

 The tables are 48" long, 24" high and 44" wide and are designed so even a small adult can sit at them.

Thanks to a generous donation from Kyle Caulkins, a student, who donated money to the garden from a fundraiser he did, we will be building 3 more tables!

If anyone wishes to build a child size picnic table for themselves, 
feel free to download the plans here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Garden Happenings 7/5/13

Many things are happening in the Garden this week. Yesterday when we went to water we saw a pair of finches snacking on the sunflowers. For a while now we have noticed that the small sunflowers in the Garden sign bed have been getting eaten. The damage was too extensive to be bugs. We weren't sure what the culprit was. We were pleasantly surprised when we saw the pair having breakfast.

It is easy to forget that when you plant a garden you attract various wildlife. Some beneficial, some not so beneficial. Even though these finches are annihilating the sunflowers, they are beautiful to watch and are an important part of the Garden's ecosystem. We will be planting extra sunflowers next year to share with the birds. 
Speaking of ecosystems. We are in the process of getting the Garden certified as a Monarch Way station. Due to the widespread use to herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides coupled with the increased development of neighborhoods, and shopping centers, the Monarch butterfly's habitat is dwindling. More than 100 million acres of Monarch habitat has been wiped out in recent years! In order to help protect the Monarch habitats we are going to create a Way station to provide these beautiful creatures a place to feed and lay their eggs. By planting plants that are Monarch food sources and habitats we will create a protected spot for them to stop and reproduce before continuing their yearly migrations. More information on the worthy cause can be found here at the University of Kansas website.

Monarch on coneflower
We still have bugs. Frustrating but part of the process of growing and maintaining a garden. The "bug juice" has proven very effective but it takes diligence to keep the bad bugs at bay. In addition to the organic spraying and sticky traps, we still pull them off as we see them to keep the damage to a minimum. The good news is the amount of bugs we see is dwindling. Once our soil is healthy, we will see this problem greatly diminished. Our garden at home is highly amended with organic compost and we have zero pest bugs. It takes a few years to get to that point. A garden is the ultimate lesson in patience. 

Mexican bean beetle having breakfast. We gave him a nice soapy "bath" afterwards.

Mexican bean beetle eggs that were disposed of after snapping the picture.

Spotted cucumber beetle who later joined the Mexican bean beetle in the soapy water.
On a more positive note, the Garden is starting to produce bountifully. We picked another 2 pounds of veggies this morning and by the end of next week we will have more squash, string beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers ready to pick. If anyone wants fresh basil please help yourself! It is planted in with the tomatoes on the left side of the Garden if you are facing it. For now, enjoy the progress pictures we snapped this morning.

This morning's harvest.

cucumber bed going crazy!

squash in the pumpkin bed?

Thriving tomatoes!

3 Sisters

Bountiful beans!

cukes from a different angle.

sweet basil

beans close up

pumpkin patch
We also got the wood to make the picnic tables that will go in the Garden. Stay tuned for a date and time the children will be able to come and help build them.