school garden

Community in the Time of COVID

Despite the sometimes seemingly insurmountable uncertainty facing folks these days, the Cascadia School Learning Garden has remained a place where people can feel a sense of belonging. In addition to continuing garden classes this season, the school learning garden has been able to provide families with produce, seeds, starts, and a place to safely and tangibly connect to the school itself.

And, as Garden Teacher Nicole likes to say, when you take from the garden, you must give back to the garden. The Cascadia community has done a tremendous job at giving back. Students and families alike have found a sense of connection by participating in our garden work parties this Fall. We have maintained appropriate social distancing and adhered to the district guidelines while weeding, mulching, harvesting, winterizing, and tree planting, making a lasting impact for years to come.

A garden symbolizes hope. It represents faith in a brighter, better future.

The Cascadia Learning Garden is no exception. It has been there for families in this time of need, as they have been there for it. It will continue to bloom, grow, be fruitful, and whatever other garden metaphors you can think of as we continue navigating these trying times as a community with the common goal of staying safe, healthy, and connected.

Uncategorized

National Pollinator Week: 3 Ways to Help Pollinators

Happy National Pollinator Week! I know what you’re thinking- Pollinator week is every week. Well, that’s true. But this week, we wanted to highlight the amazing creatures that pollinate our fruits and vegetables, and allow us to have healthy, delicious foods. In this post, you will find (at least) three different ways to help your local pollinators, and fun, hands-on pollinator friendly activities to do with your family around.

  1. Food

When I talk to kids about pollinators, I like to ask them what they think pollinators need to live. Their needs are similar to ours! Food, water, and shelter. What do pollinators eat? Nectar, and often, pollen, from flowers. As the pollinators visit the flowers, some of the pollen rubs off on each flower they go to, which is the process we call pollination. This is how plants make their fruits and seeds. In order to attract more pollinators, you should provide a wide variety of food for them- not all pollinators like to eat the same things! Butterflies are attracted to red and orange flowers, and bees’ favorite colors are blue and white. Meanwhile, hummingbirds love trumpet-shaped flowers. In addition, you want to think about the time of year your blossoms are blooming. It is important for a good pollinator habitat to have something in bloom almost the whole year- from February to October when they are most active. 

One thing to think about if you have a garden is letting some of your veggies “go to seed”. For instance, letting radishes flower creates a great food source for butterflies and is pretty to look at until you need to plant something else! 

A fun activity to do with kids is making Pollinator Seed Bombs. This is a quick, simple, messy project that’s good for pre-K and elementary aged kids. Watch Foxberry’s video on how to make this project here:

  1. Water

Like humans and other animals, pollinators need a water source! When thinking about water for pollinators, remember bees can’t really swim! When their wings get wet, they are unable to take off and fly again until they dry off. Therefore, you don’t want to keep a deep bowl out as a water source for bees. One thing you can do is put marbles or rocks in your bowl for the bees to land on and sip from. Using a shallow dish like a plant saucer works well. First, find some rocks from the garden, and arrange the rocks in the dish. Then fill the container with water just up to the level of the rocks. Place it somewhere in the shade so the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly. 

Butterflies, on the other hand, prefer drinking from mud. This behavior is called “puddling”. Butterflies get the salt and nutrients they need from the minerals in the wet soil. You can help these colorful fluttering creatures by creating a butterfly puddle! Again, find a shallow dish, like an old pie pan or plant saucer, fill it about halfway with soil, and mix in water! Make sure your butterfly puddle stays wet all summer so butterflies can sip from it. Place the mud puddle somewhere visible, but where it won’t dry out too easily. If you want to, you can decorate it with pretty stones for the insects to land on or place rocks in a fun pattern in the mud. In the early spring, this is also a great project for mason bees, which require mud to make their nests.  

  1. Shelter

Creating a place where pollinators can live can be a bit more tricky. “Pollinator hotels” are generally used for nesting. Which materials you use for pollinator hotels depends on which pollinators you want to attract. Mason bees, for example, come out in early Spring, around March, and need tubes about ¼ inches wide and 3-6 inches deep. Leafcutter bees, however, come out in the summer and need tubes or holes only 8 millimeters wide! Other materials such as dried leaves and moss can also be used as nesting material and to add an interesting look to your design.

Here is a really great resource on how to make a DIY beneficial insect hotel: https://www.fix.com/blog/guide-to-making-your-own-insect-hotels/


Like this topic? Check out these other resources!

Pollinator activities on KidsGardening.org

City Fruit Pollinator Bingo

Garden lessons, Workshops and presentations

Stories from the Garden

Nicole did a  workshop with the School Learning Garden Network. This is a for-garden educators, by-garden educators event which aims to connect the Seattle (and broader) school garden community and share stories, successes, failures, and resources.

Her workshop is one in a series that would have been presented at the annual Winter Workshop, which was cancelled due to COVID-19. Now, the School Learning Garden Network is offering these FREE online events for anyone interested in learning more about the amazing work of garden educators and community members who support school gardens in the Seattle area.

The presentation is called “Stories from the Garden” and highlights the various school garden programs Foxberry Education has been involved with. Nicole’s co-presenter, Patty Lavelle is the Garden Educator at Jane Addams Middle School, which is the location the in-person event would have been held at. Patty has an amazing virtual tour of their school garden as well. Stories from the Garden also presents an opportunity for parents to learn tips and tricks for working with their kids in the garden!

Check out the presentation today!

Stories from the Garden

At Home Projects, Garden lessons

Inviting Urban Wildlife to the Garden

Many of us are stuck inside these days, but I find comfort in the fact that animals are still able to come and go as they please. Now is the time of year when birds are collecting materials for their nests, bees are beginning to emerge in search of pollen and nectar, and many other animals are out and about searching for food, water, and shelter.

Here are a few ideas you can do while at the home to help out these amazing urban critters!

Like us, urban wildlife needs 3 essential things to survive: Food, water, and shelter. This time of year, they are also looking for a safe place to raise their young.

1. Bird and Squirrel Feeders

This project is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can help out your local wildlife! There are many ways to make a feeder: The classic pine cone, peanut butter, and seed is always a good option. You can make a similar project using an apple half if you don’t have access to pine cones. Recycled materials like toilet paper rolls or old milk cartons can also be used, and you and your kids can even create a bird garland with string and dried fruits! Don’t be upset if a squirrel comes to your home-made feeder- they need food too! My backyard squirrels have even planted me beautiful sunflowers in my garden that they found in my feeder.

Home-made suet is another great way to attract furry and feathery critters to your yard or garden. It is a zero-waste project that can be catered to the specific diets of birds in your area that you are aiming to attract. These “cookies” are no-bake, but very messy, so be aware! They should be put out once they dry, so they don’t start to get moldy! They can also be made even simpler with bird seed and coconut oil.

Screenshot (8)
DIY Suet Recipe

2. Bird baths

“Bird baths” are just as much for bathing as they are for drinking! If you currently have a birth bath, make sure that the water is fresh, and being changed regularly. Birds won’t come if the water is too deep- this can be fixed by placing small stones in the middle to for a place to perch. Birds need to bathe in order to loosen the dirt in their feathers, so it’s easier to preen.

If you don’t have a bird bath, you can make one using a plant pot saucer and some pea gravel. Have the kids help collect rocks from the yard and find a nice shady spot somewhere along the side to put it. The bath shouldn’t be put out in the open or the animals will feel exposed to predators. Putting it in the shade of a tree or a fence will also help keep the water from evaporating too quickly.

t/sdcard/DCIM/100GOPRO/GOPR0021

Apparently, white is used in bird plumage to warn other birds, and is a color of danger for them. Try not to use too much white in these projects, or in your yard in general if you are trying to attract birds to it!

3. Nesting Material Ornaments

Now is the time we are seeing birds big and small searching for the perfect twig for their nest! They also need soft, natural materials to line their nests with, so they are warm and safe for their eggs and future chicks. Generally, they use dried grass, moss, cattail fluff, and anything else they can find that might work as nest liner. I have even seen and old nest with snakeskin woven in! You can help birds keep their hatchlings cozy by creating nesting material ornaments. These are colorful and whimsical decorations for your yard that also act to attract native wildlife. You can use recycled net bags, like the ones potatoes and mandarin oranges come in, to hold the materials. Start by going outside and gathering grass clippings, dead leaves, and anything that looks like it might belong in a nest. Then, you can turn your search inside and collect bits of yarn and cloth scraps. Even pet hair would be a great addition to your nesting material ornament if you have a cat or a dog! Finally, put it all together, and hang it up in a tree near your house so you can watch the critters come by and “shop” for their home-improvement supplies.

nesting-supplies

It is a common misconception that birds “live” in their nests. Nests are actually only used by birds to lay their eggs and raise their young. After nesting season, nests themselves are abandoned, and many adult birds sleep, or “roost” off the ground in tree branches safe from cats and other predators.

Have fun trying one of these crafty, practical, hands-on activities with your kiddos at home today to inspire respect, wonder, and admiration for their natural environment.

owl bird feeders

More Ideas/Resources:

National Audubon Society- http://www.audubon.org/

Everythingbirds.com

National Wildlife Federation- http://www.nwf.org

Onelittleproject.com/birdseed-ornaments/

Wildaboutbirds.com/read/attracting-birds/how-to-help-birds-with-nest-building

Uncategorized

Winterization in the School Garden

The days are growing shorter, colder, and darker, and people and animals alike must begin to make previsions. We shed our so-called “summer coats” for heavier, bulkier winter ones. In this time of change it is time to prepare your garden for the coming months.

IMG_20190206_130105791-COLLAGE

Beds

Just like you probably add a few additional layers to your own bed during the winter time, you can “bundle up” your garden beds too! There are three good reasons to do this. and two different methods we suggest. First of all, covering your beds will prevent erosion, or soil loss, and perhaps nutrient depletion in the harsh winter storms.  Covering the soil will also keep it from getting too compacted. Leaving space between soil particles will make it easier to plant seeds in the spring and help roots and bugs find their way. Thirdly, covering the beds will help to prevent weeds from growing over the Fall, Winter, and early Spring, which will make your job of planting easier later on.

Wedgwood Beds

The two methods we suggest are using cover crops and burlap. Hay works as well, but can have seeds in it which may germinate and be a pain in the Spring. You can also cover your beds with cloches to extend the growing season a bit, but that is for another post!

IMG_20181204_142705188_HDR

To cover with burlap, make sure the bed is fully cleaned out of any previous crops and/or weeds.

If you have compost to add, you can do so, as well as adding lime to enrich the soil. If you do this, make sure to use a soil test and follow the instructions on how much lime to use.

Next, cover the soil with burlap and pin it down with rocks or garden staples. In the Spring, you will have rich, fluffy soil to plant in!

Cover crops are another great way to cover your beds. Not only do they provide all the benefits of burlap by holding the soil in place and maintaining space between soil particles, but they also serve to add nutrients to the soil!

IMG_20190119_163159318

Cover crops such as fava beans and other legumes “fix” Nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots. This means the plants have to be worked into the soil to get the benefits. First, you will want to clean out the bed just like with burlap.

Secondly, plant the cover crop seeds as instructed on the packet. Make sure to keep an eye on the plants, and as they flower, chop them up and work them into the soil.

Worm Bin

Does your Learning Garden have a worm bin? If not, it should! If so, have you found your worms seldom make it through the winter? Here are some tips that should help!

IMG_20181204_142721384_HDR

Begin by making sure the bin is big enough that the worms can cuddle for warmth. We recommend at least 2x2x2.

Next, move the soil and worms towards the middle of the bin so you can line the inner walls with cardboard.

This will help to insulate the bin, and the cardboard will eventually break down and become part of the worm bin itself. You should also add a few extra layers of newspaper and burlap to the top to retain heat and moisture.

Also keep in mind that if you do lose your worms, their eggs can withstand freezing temperatures and should be able to hatch come Spring!

Chicken Coop

If your Learning Garden contains a chicken coop (lucky you!), then there are a few recommendations we have for helping your fine feathered friends fare the foul frosts. Firstly, you can line the inside walls of the nesting box with cardboard just like with the worm bin. IMG_20181201_141401248_HDR.jpg This will help to insulate the area where they lay and sleep.

You can also add some extra layers of pine shavings and not clean as much out when you do change the litter. This is called “deep litter method”. It helps to keep the roost warm and cozy by allowing the compost to break down and heat up naturally.

Avoid the temptation to install a heat lamp during the winter. Not only can this be a fire hazard, but chickens are actually pretty good at withstanding low temperatures. Creating too much of a temperature difference between their coop and the outside will just make it harder for them to regulate their own body temperature.

Finally, stapling a sheet or two of plastic to the outside of the run can help to keep out the wind, rain, and snow. Be careful to leave a certain amount uncovered to allow for ventilation.

img_20190204_102035469_hdr-1.jpg

Hope your winter is not too harsh! Let us know if this was helpful to you, or if you have any questions about/need assistance with preparing your garden this season.

 

 

Sources and Resources:

Methods of Winterizing your Garden

The Art of Cover Cropping: Sustainable Care for a Happy Garden

Regulating Temperature in a Worm Bin

How to Keep your Chickens Warm in the Winter

Chickens & Body Temperature: What you need to Know