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, May 26, 2016

Last Session of the School Year

Working together to plant the seedlings.
We held our last Garden Club session of the school year this week. It was a scorcher compared to the past few weeks but the students worked really hard to plant all of the seedlings they started so many weeks ago in the Library Grow Lab. They planted watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkins, squash, and tomatoes. According to the Stella Natura calendar, today was the perfect moon phase for planting fruit. 

We haven't done much cooking from the Garden this year so we thought we'd end the school session with a quick and easy recipe. The children made a Massage Kale Salad. This salad is the easiest salad to put together. Our kale in the Garden isn't quite ready yet so we used local organic ingredients instead. The base of the salad is kale, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. You can then add any other ingredient you like our have available. To keep it really simple we just added fresh organic cherry tomatoes. Some children have never used a knife before. It is our philosophy to give children the proper tools so they may become adept at any skill. They all took turns cutting, juicing and tearing the ingredients.

Tearing kale.

"I love slicing lemons, they smell so lemony!"

adding the juice

Massaging it until it is soft


Final product

I let the students add the ingredients as they deemed appropriate. Cooking is all trial and error and every opportunity for mistakes is a teachable moment. After the tasting, some children thought the dressing was too lemony while others thought it was just right. We talked about how cooking is all a matter of personal taste and how we can do things differently based on weather we are making a dish for ourselves or to share with other people. 

After their healthy snack the students got busy getting the seedlings into the ground. They worked as a team planting each bed together.

The plants directly sowed into the Garden over the past few weeks are doing well as are the perennial beds. We saw evidence of several praying mantis nymphs so have deduced that the other two cases have hatched. We also saw a very large grasshopper. I hope he doesn't decide to snack on the new mantis nymphs. We are off to a great start leading to the Summer session.

Mantis nymph searching for food.

Ants and peony seem to have a symbiotic relationship.

blue eyed grass

strawberries coming along nicely

Thursday, May 19, 2016


First Praying Mantis spotted in the Garden a couple years ago.

It all started a couple of years ago when we first spotted a gorgeous praying mantis on our Garden sign. I was thrilled to see it taking up residence in our garden as we were having some problems with pest bugs and  we are an organic garden that doesn't use chemicals of any sort. 

It was a gorgeous specimen. I'm not sure if it was male or female as I'm not a bug expert. They have very unique personalities. It would seem to listen to me when I talked to it during my morning watering sessions. It would tilt its head to one side to give the impression of hearing what I was saying.

Mantis mating
Toward the end of the summer I noticed this amorous couple. It has been well documented that the female will bite the head off the male once mating is complete. I'm glad I didn't capture that!
I kept looking to find egg cases as further evidence that the mating was successful. Either they were really hidden or the female decided to choose some other venue to host her egg cases. This year after finding THREE egg cases deposited in the Garden I realized where we had gone wrong. At the end of the summer we routinely cleaned out all of the dead plant material and put them in the compost bins. This year we didn't. The mantis had no where to lay her egg cases before and now she did.

This is the first case to hatch this year.

So what stressed me out as being inefficient (not cleaning the beds at the end of the season) turned out to be exactly what the mantis needed to have a safe place to deposit her egg cases. My husband meets me in the Garden on Club day and gets things set up before I bring the students out. Today I get a text "The mantis egg cases are hatching!" As the students were walking into the library to meet me for Garden Club they were met with a librarian squealing like an excited 6 year old! I couldn't help it, I just get so giddy when it comes to anything nature related. The students immediately caught my enthusiasm and starting asking "what is it? what's going on?" When I told them the mantis' were hatching they said "well, hurry up lets get out there!" Needless to say, I had to stop a group of children from running to other classrooms to gather the rest of our Club members. Every time another student walked into the library they would all say "the mantis eggs are hatching, we need to hurry up and get out there!"

starting to emerge

hatching is hard work

sometimes siblings just get in the way

made it!
Last week I found a YouTube video that showed an egg case hatching. The mantis seemed to swarm out of the case and the people creating the video were soon inundated with hundreds of newly hatched mantis. The children and I thought we would be witnessing the same phenomena. Not so much. Our hatch lings seemed to have a harder time coming out and only a few emerged at at time. Once out, they quickly disappeared into the oregano plant to stay safe and find food. The children were very lucky to see the few hatching they did. Every time they went back to check, there seemed to be more hopping around off the case.

Now to find some food!

I've read that only 1/5 of all hatch lings survive. Praying mantis are quite carnivorous and will eat siblings if a food source isn't readily available. Here's hoping they find a nice crop of aphids or other tasty pest so they don't have to eat each other! We are all looking forward to seeing many grown mantis out and about in the Garden this summer. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Weather Or Not, Here We Grow!

Seedlings planted 4/28/16!

Despite the cool dreary weather things are really starting to sprout in the garden and in the school library's growing station. The pumpkin seeds the students saved from last years Garden and planted in soil blocks are up 3 inches and are starting to get their second set of leaves. The squash seeds (also saved from last year's harvest) are taking a bit longer, but as of Friday, they are just starting to break through the soil. 

During the last Garden Club meeting we made ready the new boxes for our organic strawberries. We started off by reading the book The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac. 

In this Cherokee legend of how strawberries came into existence, the author tells of how the Cherokee people are reminded that kindness, respect, and friendship are as sweet as the red ripe strawberries. We thought this would be a fitting metaphor for the students at Oswegatchie to remember whenever they are working in the Garden. We purchased Jewel and Cabot organic strawberries from Johnny's Seeds.

The children worked really well together removing fresh compost from our bins and filling the boxes.

We had to add a little more organic soil to the boxes as there wasn't quiet enough compost to do the trick.

Unfortunately, that was about all they were able to get done before the skies opened up on them. We went back on Saturday and finished planting the strawberries.

With all of the rain we have had the past week, the perennials are starting to pop. It still hasn't been warm enough for the praying mantis egg cases to hatch but we are keeping a close eye on them.

Next week during Garden Club we plan on putting in the lettuce and kale seedlings the children started a few weeks ago. We are hoping the sun will decide to shine sometime soon. We sometimes worry that inclement weather will put the children off working in the Garden. However, the look on this face tells us fun is had whatever the weather brings!