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!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Chilly Work Day

Cleaning out the beds.

Today started out clear and sunny. I thought it would be the perfect day to get some work done in the Garden. By the time school let out and it was time for Garden Club, the sky became overcast and  a cool breeze kicked up. The less than perfect weather didn't stop our dedicated students from jumping in and getting their hands dirty to get the work done. 

The first task at hand was to get the beds ready for planting. The students removed old growth and got rid of any hearty weeds that started to make an appearance.

With lots of teamwork the tasks were completed in a short time and they were able to move on to planting.

Removing the seeds from a sunflower we saved from last year.

Testing out Rob's new macro lens. This is a close up the the sunflower seeds.

Once the seeds were removed we planted them in the Garden.

The cool weather is ideal for planting the Giant Swiss Snow Peas and Maxiegolt heirloom shelling peas.

"Grow good little seed!"

Working together planting with good intentions. 
Using the seeds we saved from last year's pumpkin and squash harvest we planted soil blocks to be germinated in the grow station inside the school library. 

Jack Straw Pumpkins

Musque de Province squash

Ready for the grow station.
The Garden is rapidly turning in to a diverse habitat for many creatures. We have birds building nests again in the four bird houses the children built 2 years ago. The praying mantis egg cases are ready and waiting to hatch. Bees and butterflies are abundant in the warm months. Today Rob spied a Mourning Dove scoping out the perennial flower bed. Hopefully it will choose a different spot to make its nest.

Mourning Dove
With Rob's new macro lens, we are getting some very interesting shots which will serve as learning tools for us to use with the children.

Volunteer violet.

Extreme close up of an earth worm.

Make a wish on the dandelion puff!
We put in a raspberry patch and strawberries will be coming in May. Lettuce and kale were sown directly into the raised beds and we will transplant the seedling the students started after they have been hardened off. We also added lavender, bee balm and anise hysop to the perennial herb bed.

You can now follow us on Instagram: @thegardenatosw

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Found Treasures!

Praying mantis egg case!

While cleaning out the garden today we found three praying mantis egg cases! The children were very excited to see these treasures and quickly pointed out that the praying mantis is Connecticut's state insect. More information about the praying mantis can be found here. In order for the egg cases to hatch the temperate needs to be at least 70 degrees for 2-3 weeks. It can take up to 8 weeks for them to hatch depending on when the mother laid the eggs. Hopefully we will be able to see some of the babies when they hatch.

Second case found in the daisies.

Third case found in the perennial oregano.
It was a beautiful day to clean out the garden beds. The children were very eager to get to work. They worked really well together and accomplished quite a bit. They cleaned out all of the raised beds and four of the ground beds. We will be direct sowing many varieties over the next couple of weeks.

There is lots of new growth throughout the garden. Many of the perennials are coming back strong, as well as some "volunteers".

Volunteer lettuce

Lilac starting to bud.
The children were very engaged with their "discoveries". They found lots of juicy worms making the soil healthy.


Last week the children created paper seed disks to give to the students in their classes for Earth Day (April 22) We "tested" a disk to make sure it would sprout and were very pleased with the results!

Sprouting Earth!

We added a planting instruction tag to the disks before the children handed them out.

Next week is school vacation week so we won't be having a formal club. If we decide to have a work party over the break, I will let the club members know.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Getting Ready For Earth Day

The rain kept the Garden Club inside this afternoon. We decided to do a project to celebrate Earth Day, Recycled Paper Seed Disks or as the children called them Plant-able Paper Earths. The project was a big hit with the kiddos. I think because it was SO messy. The great thing about the project was they got a hands on lesson in recycling. We used paper scraps from the school's art room and the seeds that were embedded into the paper pulp came from seeds saved from the marigolds grown  in the Garden last year.

Basic materials include screening, jars with open screw top lids, paper, circle forms, and seeds.

You will also need a blender (one you can dedicate to craft projects) and water. 

First the children separated blue and green scraps from the art room scrap bin.

The paper was torn into tiny pieces.

We soaked the paper scraps in warm water until it was softened.
Working in small batches (keeping colors separate) we blended the paper scraps into pulp.
Once we made the slurry, the children we then ready to build their planets. If doing this project at home you will need more blue than green slurry.

They started with a layer of blue slurry.

They then added their green land forms.
At this point we sprinkled some of the marigold seeds on to each planet and had the students push as much water out of them as they could. We removed the planets from the jars and blotted them on a towel to soak up any excess water.

Now we just wait for them to dry.
Clean up is an important part of respecting our school.

Once the disks are dried we are going to give them to the children to bring back to their classrooms to celebrate Earth Day. To plant them all they will have to do is put them in dirt, water them and place in a sunny spot. Recycled materials that help beautify the school. Many children were eager to ask their parents if they could do this project at home. The link for instructions can be found here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Seeds Have Sprouted!

Just a quick update to let you know the seeds that the Garden Club planted on Thursday have already sprouted! Many already had to be "blocked up" (put in bigger soil blocks). The students made predictions that the seeds would take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to sprout. They were pleasantly surprised when they walked into the library on Monday to see most of  them  sprouted.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Spring Has Sprung?

Our first Garden Club session was supposed to have taken place March 21. I thought it fitting to gather the students on the first day of spring to start getting them excited about this year's garden. However, Mother Nature had different plans as school was cancelled because of snow. Even now as I sit here writing this blog post snow is falling outside, on April 2! I LOVE snow, I pray for it as soon as the calendar declares it winter. I celebrate the first snowfall with the giddy excitement of a toddler BUT NOT WHEN IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE SPRING!!!! I say you had your chance Mother Nature. Your dropped the the ball when it came to snowfall accumulations this winter so don't try to play catch up now! The crocus and daffodils know that it is supposed to be Spring so you can go away now, I'll happily welcome you back in December. 

With that off my chest, I can happily say we finally managed to get the Club together on March 31. We started some seedling inside using the soil block method. We have found this method the easiest, most cost effective, safest for the environment, and to cause the least amount of stress to the plants when the seedlings are transplanted. The only materials needed are soil, seeds, trays (we used recycled produce trays), and the soil block maker.

Mixing soil with water until it forms a ball when packed together.

Push the block maker into the soil to pack it into the chambers.
Make sure the chambers are equally filled.

Push the top of the handle to release formed blocks into the trays.
Students carefully added seeds to the blocks

Finished blocks of peppers ready for the heat mat.
The students always seems to enjoy projects that allow them to get their hands really messy! Who can blame them? Playing in the dirt is fun and getting messy is something a lot of children are told not to do. In Garden Club it's just the opposite. I tell them they aren't doing something right unless they go home messy. :) 

We used the kale seeds we saved from last year's crop.

"It feels warm like my bed!"

Seed starting rack in the school library. The students can keep an eye on the seedling progress.
All in all it was a very productive session. The students planted tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, lettuce, kale, basil, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. We have our fingers crossed that we have a good germination rate. Weather permitting we will be direct sowing more greens in the Garden next week. 

Everyone pitched in to help clean up afterwards. 
The last few minutes of the club session we were able to get outside and see some new life springing up in the beds.

Garlic we planted last fall coming up nicely.

Perennial oregano making a comeback.


Some volunteers that decided to call the Garden home. 
I have added instructions for how to make soil blocks on my school website if anyone is interested. They are located on the right side of the page. Click here to be redirected to the link.