February in the School Garden is a great time to observe seasonal changes. Days are getting longer, soils are warming, buds are breaking.
Phenology is the study of observing and recording these seasonal changes from date the California From currants flowering to the first siting of a Western Bluebird. Earth Partnership for Schools has developed a curriculum for creating Phenology Wheels . Students create first and last logs of observations then highlight a couple of these observations every month on the wheel.
This is also a wonderful time to look at seed catalogues and dream about the garden. There are some fantastic small organic seed companies out there like the very local Bohemian Seeds which is a run by a west county farming collective that includes our fabulous Program Director Sue Davis. Ask for their seeds at local farm and garden outlets. I highly recommend a couple of other small, family run, organic seed companies-Uprising Seeds and Adaptive Seeds. They are both located in the Pacific North West. Beware though for you will probably want everything in their catalogues!
Seed companies will sometimes share last years’ catalogues with you so you can share with students. Save for rainy days and let students create collages of their dream gardens.
Planting: Time to direct sow into the garden: spinach, radishes, turnips(Japanese White can be eaten out of hand) and peas-how about a pea tunnel like Dunbar School Plant inside or on a protected outside table: lettuces, leeks, spinach, kale, chards and Asian greens.
BareRoot berries are in the nurseries- an economical way to purchase strawberries and raspberries. Look at when they ripen as with a school garden often best to get fall harvest rather than through out the summer. February SOW DIRECTLY: Peas for Pea Tunnel, spinach, radishes, turnips, peas, beets, Asian greens (bok choys; mustards) START INSIDE: Onions, lettuce, brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, kohlrabi), peas, leeks, Asian greens MAINTENANCE: Plant bare root fruit; asparagus. Continue pruning; spray for peach leaf curl; compost on strawberries and other perennials. Organic mulch on any bare soil. Prune deciduous trees, cane berries, grapes
CoolBeans-would love to hear from bean growers and seed swappers if you did any trading with other schools. Any photos very much appreciated. Coming soon will be the 2019 list of cool heirloom beans for you to grow, eat and swap with other school gardens!
Happy Gardening! Laurel Anderson Board President
Planting for October. You can direct sow this month the following- beets, carrots, cilantro, radishes, turnips (Japanese White turnips are juicy and sweet and can be eaten out of hand), spinach ,peas, asian greens. Seed bed needs to stay moist so one trick is to water well and then cover with burlap or cardboard when leaving for the weekend. This should maintain moisture for the days out of the garden.
Don't forget the Community Seed Exchange has lots of free seeds locally grown.Open last Sat of the month and every Wednesday from 4pm-5pm Happen to know they have loads of Detroit Red beet seed!
November Plant your cover crops now to add nitrogen and organic matter to the your garden beds, wheat or barley, wildflowers, daffodils and other bulbs, garlic, and perennials and native plants are all good choices.
If you have the room, you might look ahead to planting garlic in November. Garlic needs a very rich bed with lots of compost since it stay in the ground for almost 9 months. Usually harvested in June so is a bit tricky to pull off in a school garden but such a fun harvest! It can be done and is a fun class project.
An interesting activity is to weigh the cloves planted and then weigh the harvest! It can be pretty impressive how many pounds you get from your few cloves.Best to plant in a bed to themselves as you do need to turn off water as they start to form the heads or plant with crops that would be coming out in may.
The Community Seed Exchange will be hosting a workshop on growing garlic followed by a garlic swap and give away the last Saturday in October. Sign up for their mailing list or follow on FB.
Natural Dying with Plants If you have the ability to heat water in the garden doing some experiments with natural dying is a colorful and exciting fall activity. You could use a solar cooker as well to get water up to temperature. It is useful to know that plants create " stains" which are not colorfast and won't stand up to repeated washing but still are lovely for a demonstration or "dye"s that are colorfast. Calendula which is the easiest garden plant to harvest makes a lovely yellow dye. Another easy plant for next season to grow is Calliopsis tinctoria which makes a rich saffron dye and American Goldfinches love the seed. Avocado pits make a pink color and grapes can stain silks a lovely shade of purple. Black walnut makes lovely browns. Common sunflowers make a green dye.
When I did this with students I used small silk squares I purchased from DharmaTrading Company which I put in a mordant bath using alum which is the least toxic before garden class. I would get a dye bath going first thing in the morning or day before. I would then work with small groups. We harvested plants from the garden and added a bit to the dye bath. Then each student would stir the bath and we would put 2 silk squares in each bath. One we would take out after 10 minutes or so and the other I left in over night and showed students at the next class. This would be a much richer color. We then made a silken prayer flag for the class with all the different shades we had created. This would be fun if you just did it with one plant but if you get inspired you can play with lots of different dye plants. Maybe plant a dye garden!
Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess is a great inspiration!