Transplanting, Potato Towers and Sixth Grade Planning

Transplanting was in full swing today. The kids worked on two varieties of basil, petunias and some geraniums which had been started from seed. We also built a large potato tower out of a tomato cage and hope to have new potatoes by the end of the school year!
Today the 7th grade students introduced Mr. Weider’s sixth grade class to the garden. Tours were given of the greenhbouse, the four season greenhouses and the dormant garden. The kids were excited to learn they will plant their own garden in a plot east of the large garden.

Jon thurston | jthurston@sad34.net

Our Students are Tops

People often question the sanity of any teacher wanting to work in a middle school environment when there are so many other options available in the field of education. The kids are going through so many changes all at once that your not always sure what to expect from one day to the next. And boy can they be forgetful. But when you get the classroom setup right and provide enough creative challenge for any type of student you can have the time of your life. If you are able to keep on top of all the different emotions through the school day you are often rewarded with a smoother running class environment.

Getting Ready for Seed SalesIt’s true that beginning adolescents benefit more from direct experiences than from abstract ideas and principles. The students demonstrate that to us each and every day. I can’t tell you how proud I am of our students as they carry out the daily tasks required to run a year round garden project. Someone is always ready to step up to the plate when things need to get done. Taking out the lunch waste, cutting swiss chard during lunch, giving a visiting class a soil lesson, preparing fresh produce for the soup kitchen, mixing the compost pile, tending the worms, collecting daily hoop weather data, cleaning the garden and greenhouse, presenting to the community and on and on.

Yesterday, Mr. Thurston and I went to the Tremont School to kick off a new garden project for their students. It was an honor for us to share our project with their school community and to announce a $25,000 grant their school received from a local family. The process started last year when some of the Tremont School faculty came to our school to learn about the gardening project we had for our students. After spending some time with our students they were hooked and are now beginning an outdoor learning lab at their own school.

Compost PileA few days prior to our presentation, though, we had to let the school know that we couldn’t afford to bus the students to present the garden project and they would be stuck with just the two teachers to present. I did mention that I would ask the students to put together a short video highlighting their learning and responsibilities throughout the year. They took me up on the challenge and within two days had worked out a wonderful 14 minute video piece explaining their role in the Garden Project while touring the grounds. It was greatly received by the Trenton students, giving them something to strive for in their own garden program. Congratulations THMS Garden Students for another job well done.

-Mr. T.

March 26 greenhouse news

Greenhouse PetuniasPeppers seeded at the beginning of March were transplanted today. The kids are using Ms. Davis’ room to grow the peppers since they are very sensitive to aphids. Many herbs have been seeded this month and will be put up in pots for sale this spring.  The students have planted eighty types of tomatoes for seed saving in the fall.  Our worm castings are helping to give us some spectacular petunias this year.

Our Goals

The goals for our classmates this year is to take on the challenge of keeping a working garden in order. We are assigned specific jobs in different divisions/departments of the Garden Company.

The divisions are; Compost, Seed, and Garden Stand. The Compost divisions job is to deliver compost to the gardeners, manage our lunch food scraps and worm farms. The Seed division manages all the seeds for sale and growing. They are responsible for ordering and saving all of the seeds used by the Garden Division. The job of the Garden Stand is to sell all the goods produced by the Garden Company.

-Editors Note

mailboxclose.jpg

Technology in the garden and how we use it.

computer.jpgThis year in the garden, the kids are getting up close to nature. Our garden uses a variety of different technologies for the education of our class members. Ranging from laptops to electronic microscopes for looking at insects. This is your guide to all the unknown wonders and technologies used in our garden. Lets get started off with the microscope.

The USB microscope is an attachable device that you can plug right into your laptop. Of course there are certain programs one must obtain to use this microscope…we’ll feed you the intel on those later. The microscope uses focusing technologies that enable it to automatically capture clear images of small objects such as partially mummified aphids, money, small flowers, fungus, you name it and the microscope magnifies it. Your classmates can the pictures without leaving the classroom or having to hassle with those big bulky metal microscopes that can be a real pain. Some of our pictures taken with the microscope will berefract.jpg shown on a different page.

Laptops are also a very helpful tool to use in the garden. Laptops help us monitor the temperature & PH in our garden along with other statistics such as planting dates they also help us make the weekly worm technology section!

Next post we are going to talk about the garden loom.

-Sam and John

Petunias and Out in the Community

petunias1.jpgJon Thurston Says: March 19th, 2007 at 6:07 am Things are really growing in the greenhouse! Coming from a cooler greenhouse situation we planted hanging petunias in early January from seed. Many are starting to flower already. Soon they can be purchased and hung outside during the day and brought in on nights below 35 F. Petunias are fairly tough plants and can thrive at cool temperatures if acclimated properly.

Steven Tanguay Says: March 19th, 2007 at 9:07 am The Garden Project Team gave two community presentations last week. One to the Master Gardener’s Association at their annual banquet. Our presentation lasted a bit over an hour and included a movie, slide show, some good talk on pest control and a great meal (the best part)! The second presentation was to the Belfast Rotary and also included a nice meal with fresh greens and homemade lasagna. We are continually so impressed with how well composed and prepared the students are when they are talking about their own learning experiences at our school. Next we’re off to the Tremont School to kick off a new gardening program at their school. We expect great things from them.

Healthy Foods Initiative

greengraph.jpgIn the Fall, Forrest M. and I (Rochelle S.) were told by teachers Mr. Tanguay and Mrs. Hartkopf that they wondered if putting the Greenhouse’s mixed greens into the High School cafeteria would be . They needed students to do market surveys with all of the high school students. Forrest and I immediately got to work.

We made a survey with three questions- what did you think of the appearance of the mixed greens, did you enjoy the texture and taste and would you like to see more mixed greens on the salad bar?

After creating the survey, we made posters telling the students in the cafeteria that we we doing and where to give their responses. We had great participation as even the principal came by. It went very successfully as we collected lots of surveys and were able to gain a real idea of what the students thought about our greens. We really appreciated the high participation by the students.

Back at school we tabulated the results and began preparing with other students that are doing many different neat things to bring healthy greens into our school. put together a presentation on our findings for the public. Our group gave a talk about our work to some of the school board, the Superintendent, the Food Service Directors and a few of the staff. Here are the results of the survey:

Visual Appeal of Greenscutgreens.jpg

78% of students visually preferred mixed greens. ater holding characteristics

Some of the nutritional values of the mixed greens comes from the fact that we put a lot of spinach in the mix.

Hope for More Greens

74% of students preferred the taste of mixed greens.

Enjoyment of Texture & Taste of Greens

86% of students would like to have mixed greens added to salad bar.

Spinach has 21 more times the vitamin A then Iceberg and Romaine lettuce hold, the greens typically served at cafeterias. Also, the spinach has 5 times as much calcium to offer. Won’t you join us for lunch?

-Rochelle S. and Forrest M.

Did You Know You Might Be

Did you know that you might be eating Troy Howard Middle School’s (THMS) garden’s Food testsgreens? We have harvested a lot of greens this winter inside the greenhouse.  We have planted many different greens like spinach and swiss chard. The THMS garden project has been harvesting greens and packaging them to send to the Belfast Co-op and the school kitchen twice a week. If you have been to the Co-op lately you might have bought some of our own organic greens. The students have advertised our garden produce at the Co-op to help increase sales.

Winning OnionIf you stop by the school for a visit, you can see some of the achievements we have made since the beginning of the year. For example, we went to the Common Ground Fair this year, and won all first places except for one contest. Everyone worked really hard, growing the vegetables and watering them so they would be nice and healthy to help people get better nutrition in their food.

We have had many compliments on the vegetables that we have grown. So why not stop by the Co-op or the school greenhouse to see our vegetables and try them for your next meal!

-Brooklyn C.

Compost Concoction

comptea.jpgCompost tea is used to replace the fungicides and pesticides that are often used in gardens. We don’t want to use pesticides and fungicides to get rid of bugs and weeds for a few reasons, one, they often kill good plants and bugs as well as bad ones and also the chemicals used to in them are very harmful for the environment.

This is helpful to the garden and it will grow better as well. Compost tea increases plant growth by providing nutrients for the plants and the soil. It also has beneficial organisms. All of this means it decreases the number of diseases in the garden, and it replaces the toxic garden chemicals.

Using mature compost, an aquarium pump, a gang valve, a hose, molasses that is un-sulfured, and some water you can turn your brown “things” into a gorgeous garden that everyone is dying to see. You could have a prize winning garden! Wouldn’t that be nice to have beautiful plants? So try compost tea, you have nothing to lose; instead you gain your dream garden.

-Emily B.

Growing Greens in the Snow

hoopgreens.jpgCan a person grow greens, in Maine, during the winter, without artificial heat?
The obvious answer to this question would most certainly be no. Outside, the weather is literally freezing and, of course, plants cannot grow in these conditions. Water may freeze inside the root and will not be able to get to the plant. Some of us in the THMS Garden Co. decided to look at this question, wondering if, by building a Hoop House, we could change the answer to this question.

We built a 12’ by 20’ hoop house for the plants to grow in. Our hoop houses are like the big green house, but mini, without any artificial heat. With a team of people, these hoop houses can be moved around the garden. Inside the hoop houses we assembled small hoops to hold row cover close to the ground.

Next, we conducted a series of experiments using probes that can measure and record temperatures at certain intervals. We placed one of these outside the house, two in the
hoop house with one under a row cover inside the hoop house. The temperatures were generally much colder outside, and warmest under the row cover (see page #6 for graph). The temperature without the cover was about 15 to 20 degrees colder then with cover.

Why was it warmest under the row cover?

probe.jpgThere is something called the greenhouse effect. When sunlight comes through the walls of a greenhouse, it bounces around but is not able to leave the greenhouse. With a row cover, some of the heat in the greenhouse bounces under the cover. Under the row cover the heat is contained the best, but outside, with no cover, the heat is contained very little.

In both the hoop house and under the cover, we were able to keep the temperatures high enough to grow greens, even during those below 0 degrees nights. Right now we are growing some spinach, planted this winter, both inside of and out of the row cover.

The row cover spinach is growing much better. Even though the temperatures stayed very cold this Feb we did notice that growth picked up as the days became longer, despite the cold. So thanks to our greenhouse effect, our probes, and our healthy greens we have proven that it is, in fact, possible to grow greens in Maine during the winter, without any artificial heat.
-Healthy Greens Team