Archive for July, 2010

A Glimpse Into Portland’s School Gardens

This past Friday, July 23rd, GROWINGGARDENS Youth Grow Manager, Caitlin Blethen, coordinated a school garden tour.  Throughout the day, folks on the tour were able to visit a broad range of school gardens around the city, ranging from an established garden and cafeteria project, to a parent-driven school garden, to a teacher-driven garden and depaving project.  We are extremely lucky to live in a community full of school garden inspiration-and the GROWINGGARDENS School Garden Tour provided a great opportunity for current and aspiring garden educators and coordinators to learn from and share with each other.

For those of you that were unable to make the tour, we thought we would share a little bit of the day with you…

To start the day, we visited Abernethy Elementary in Southeast Portland and learned about their Garden of Wonders Program.  Abernethy has been nationally recognized for its Scratch Kitchen Pilot Project, and has supported that project with the Garden of Wonders and the Garden of Wonders classroom.  Abernethy students connect to their food and the environment through participation in year-round garden and nutrition lessons.   Many thanks to Sarah Sullivan, Garden of Wonders Coordinator, and Nori Gordon, Garden of Wonders Educator,  for leading tours of the garden and the Garden of Wonders Classroom.

We followed our visit to Abernethy with a trip to the Atkinson Garden. Since 2001, the Atkinson Outdoor Learning Garden has been run a parent-volunteer group called the Outdoor Learning Garden Committee.  Atkinson students learn about the environment and diversity in the context of four gardens (the wildlife habitat, pollinator garden, the magic garden, and the multicultural garden) as well as in the fabulous outdoor classroom-with a functioning ecoroof!  Thanks to all of the Atkinson parents and Outdoor Learning Garden Committee members that led the tour of the garden, as well as Michelle Markesteyn Ratcliffe, Farm to School Program Manager from the Oregon Department of Agriculture!

We then headed to the Vestal School and Community Garden in Northeast. Built just last fall, the Vestal garden required the removal of 15,000 square feet of asphalt (and was greatly helped by the involvement of a great organization called Depave).  One third of the garden is designated for use by Vestal School, and the remaining two thirds is being used as a community garden managed by Portland Parks and Recreation Community Gardens.  At Vestal, every classroom tends a garden bed and participates in weekly garden visits.  Thanks to Laura Benjamin, Vestal Garden Coordinator/NWSA AmeriCorps, and Tim Hahn of the Learning Garden Institute for help leading tours of the site!

Next we headed north to Faubion K-8 in the Concordia neighborhood of Northeast.  Faubion’s garden program was revitalized two and a half years ago with the goal of creating a garden space that could provide opportunities for teachers and after-school programs to encourage healthy eating and connect students to the environment.  Faubion is currently finishing up their second year of their partnership with GROWINGGARDENS, and has also greatly benefited from partnerships with the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) program, Oregon Tilth, and Concordia University.  Thanks to Amanda Hill, Faubion Garden Coordinator, and Nell Tessman, GROWINGARDENS Youth Grow Educator, for leading the tour and discussion at Faubion.

Finally, we finished the school garden tour at Vernon K-8. Created in 2006, the Vernon Garden is used during the school year by after-school and summer garden club students in the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) program.  This past year, students in the 3rd-5th grade garden club were able to grow and harvest lettuce for the salad bar in the Vernon cafeteria.  The Vernon garden supplied the cafeteria’s  salad bar with lettuce nine times during the 2009-2010 school year, with the hope of growing even more next year.  Vernon is just finishing their second year of their partnership with GROWINGGARDENS. Thanks to Sarah Canterberry, Vernon Garden Educator, for leading the tour of the Vernon Garden!

Thanks to everyone on the tour for a such an inspirational day! And for those of you who missed it, keep your eye out for a tour next summer!

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Summer Planting for a Winter Garden

Believe it or not, the time to plant a winter garden is just around the corner. This year, it feels especially soon considering the cold and rainy start to the summer.  In the Pacific Northwest, we are very lucky to live in a mild climate that allows us to plan for a winter garden. With the growing number of school and home gardens, we thought we would post a gentle reminder about planning and planting for your winter garden.

According to a recent newsletter by our friends at the School Garden Project of Lane County, the two things to keep in mind when planting a winter garden are timing and varieties (check out the newsletter and this article from Oregon State Extension and for more info).

  • Timing: Winter gardening should begin mid- to late summer as plants require the longer, warmer days to get established before heading into winter.  A challenge can be getting some seeds to germinate in warm and dry soil during the hotter days of summer.  Shade cloth and floating row cover can help limit water evaporation and reduce soil temperature.  Limited space is another obstacle the winter gardener faces as summer crops take-over garden beds.  Planning ahead proves to be important for the year-round, intensive gardener in order to allocate space for winter planting.  Also, being strategic by inter-planting slower growing winter vegetables in near established summer crops will be a space-saver as well as a good protection for seedlings from excess heat. For more information on interplanting, check out: John Jeavons’ book How to Grow More Vegetables (an interview with Mr. Jeavons about biointensive gardening can be found here).
  • Varieties: Varietal selection is crucial for winter gardening.  Plants are bred for different seasons and grow best in their intended time of year.  Be attentive to the variety of crop when choosing seeds and starts.  For instance, overwintering varieties will survive the colder temperatures better than those intended for summer and fall harvests.

The best time to sow the slower growing and hardiest overwintering root crops (carrots, beets, parsnips) and members of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage) is early July.  Late in the month and early August quicker growing crops like leeks, onions, chard, and spinach can be planted.  Again, variety is key when choosing winter-appropriate seeds and starts.  Be sure to consult your trusty garden expert whether that includes the seed company, your local garden store, an experienced neighbor who gardens, or a planting guide for your specific region (check out the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide for an easy resource and this site).  With all of information out there for gardeners, a good rule of thumb is to inquire twice and plant once!

Happy winter gardening!  And thanks to our Youth Grow intern, Andryce, for her work on this great post!

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GG’s Latest Dig: A few quick bites

Check out sweet chicken coops like this one at our 2010 Tour de Coops!

First, little GROWINGGARDENS self promotion:  The 2010 Tour de Coops is coming up on Saturday, July 24th.  Get the scoop here!

And on to the links…

  • In a study done by the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK has found that “children in schools that encouraged gardening became more resilient, confident and lived healthier lives.” Learn more from the BBC News article here.
  • A great article about keeping your yard free of garden pests (without the use of chemicals).

And a couple of great links from the Ethicurean Twitter Feed (follow them if you aren’t already…):

  • A Mother Earth News article on gardening on a budget… Simple tips, but important things to think about.

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It’s Berry Time!

Our raspberries and strawberries are producing prolifically, and the blueberries are on their way! We pick berries in the morning to enjoy with breakfast – I slice fresh strawberries on my peanut butter toast as a substitute to jam or jelly- yum!

The other night we harvested four pints of raspberries and even after giving a pint to our neighbors, realized there were plenty more on the canes that would be ready to pick the next day. In order to preserve the berries for later, we  freeze them. Freezing is a very simple and quick way to have delicious and affordable berries year round!

(If you don’t have your own berry patch at home, here is a great map of local U-Pick farms where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables. And local farmers’ markets also will have ripe and delicious ready-to-go berries)

You will need:

  • Something to harvest the berries into (yogurt containers, berry boxes, bowls etc) or store or farmers market bought berries
  • Knife and cutting board (to cut tops off strawberries)
  • Colander or strainer
  • Tin or dish that fits in your freezer
  • Zip lock bags
  • Permanent marker
  • A freezer

Steps to freezing berries:
1. Pick ripe berries (strawberries, raspberries, Marion berries, loganberries, blueberries, etc)

2. Pour them into a colander or strainer and gently wash the berries. Let berries drain as much water off as possible.

3. Remove any stems (with strawberries, cut the tops off)

4.Pour berries onto a dish or tin – keep them in a single layer

5. Put the dish or tin in the freezer overnight

place berries in the freezer overnight

6. The next day, pick or pour the individual frozen berries into a zip lock bag- press the bag to remove as much air as possible
7. Label the berries with the month and date using a permanent marker (it is best to use the berries within a year)
8. Put the labeled bag into the freezer

Now you can have berries anytime of year! You can use the berries frozen – put them in a blender with other fruit and whip them into a smoothie. OR you can defrost the berries and add them to yogurt or  add to muffin, waffle or pancake mixes. To thaw: leave them in their bag put them into the refrigerator overnight, or let them sit on the counter for an hour or so. The  unthawed berries will be soft and juicy.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy fresh or frozen berries?

(PS If you’d like a hands-on demonstration on  preserving fruits and vegetables, consider registering for our upcoming Preserving classes through our Learn and Grow program!)

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