Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time to Reflect

a first-grade scholar draws a picture during reflection space

Over the past few weeks we've started every garden class with a five-minute "reflection space."

Reflection space is a time for scholars to complete a short written or artistic assignment in their garden journals, and to have a few minutes to relax and enjoy the garden before class begins.

When scholars arrive in garden class they receive a "do now" related to the classroom lesson.  During our weather unit, for instance, 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders were asked to record the temperature on a thermometer and make three observations about the day's weather.  1st graders who are still learning the basics of writing usually draw a picture of something they see in the garden.

After collecting their journal, a pencil and a reflection mat scholars head into the garden silently and pick a reflection space.  When scholars finish the "do now" they can relax and enjoy the garden in peace.

We spend about five minutes in our reflection space before transitioning into the beginning of the lesson, a great way to start class on a serene note.

a 1st-grade scholar enjoys the garden after finishing her "do now" 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cardboard and Coffee and Mulch, Oh My !

All school year we've been eagerly awaiting an opportunity to expand our Dreamkeeper garden.  So far everything in the garden grows in raised beds, but soon we'll have over 700 linear feet of growing space directly in the ground.

Over the past few weeks we've been collecting a number of materials - cardboard, coffee grounds, horse stable bedding, mulch, and topsoil - for use in building our soil.  On Saturday November 12th we had over 40 volunteers help us start that soil-building process by creating "lasagna layers."

We began with an empty field and a few piles of materials.

First we put down a layer of cardboard to act as a weed barrier and to provide our soil with carbon, one of the important elements in plant growth.

Next we added mulch (brown material on bottom), another carbon source and weed barrier, followed by nitrogen-rich coffee grounds (not pictured), followed by stable bedding (tan material) from Equest Farm at city park.

Finally we added topsoil (dark brown material on top).

With regular watering and the help of our soil decomposers like worms, mites, bacteria and fungi, we'll have beautiful rich soil in just a few months!

A big thank you to all of our volunteers from St. Augustine High School, Xavier Prep, and New Orleans Food and Farm Network!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A view of the garden in early November

The garden looks terrific this time of  year!  Here in Southern Louisiana we have an ideal climate for growing crops late into the year.  Unlike places further north our weather stays warm into November and December, allowing us to have a second growing season in autumn.  Most places stop harvesting their fruits and vegetables no later than Halloween, but we might have a harvest right up until Christmas!

At our open garden day on October 1st we planted many different kinds of seeds.  Today our garden is blooming, leafing and fruiting with broccoli, cherry tomatoes, red russian kale, bush beans, red and white onions, green bell peppers, chili peppers, bok choy, spinach, cauliflower, summer squash, red okra, cabbage, pink and white radishes, arugula, lettuce, carrots, basil, rosemary, oregano, zinnias, hibiscus flowers and more!  Our variety is part of the strength of our garden, warding away pests and preserving all the good minerals and organic matter in our soil.