School Gardening Project

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I was blessed with the opportunity to head up a gardening project with a Kindergarten / First Grade class at a local elementary school this fall.  I kept notes to share on the blog, to hopefully encourage other parents and volunteers to organize a garden project at their own school!  It was so easy, and it has been amazing to share the garden with the students!

This project has cost about $200, and is currently two months old.  Mostly the cost has been the wood, hardware and dirt. I was able to get some project materials donated by businesses in our community.  The parents of the children in the class donated a large portion of the gardening soil, and my husband and I purchased and made the garden boxes for the school.

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Gardening Supply List:

Wood 10″ wide, cut into four 5 ft and four 3 ft pieces

Stainless steel hardware

20 cubic yards of organic gardening soil (10 for each box)

Peat moss (we needed about 3 cu ft)

1 schoolroom watering can

Lettuce sprouts (donated by Full Moon Natives)

Organic Radish & Carrot Seeds

Flower Seeds (Zinnia & Marigold so far)

Kids Aprons (donated by our local Home Depot)

2 old tires (donated by a parent who needed new tires for her van)

1 Rain Gauge

1 Do Not Disturb gardening sign & stake

17 energetic kids

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First we met with the school’s principal, to get approval and listen to his concerns about the project.  We promised to weave the garden activities into their classroom curriculum and got the final approval for our year long project.

Next, we constructed two 5″ x 3″ wood garden boxes, and then filled them with peat moss and gardening soil. The kids enjoyed feeling the difference in the peat moss and the gardening soil.

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The kids are currently growing a salad garden, since lettuce, carrots, and radishes have a shorter growing season.  We have a goal to harvest our winter garden by the holiday break in mid December.  In the spring, they will plant native milkweed and learn about our endangered monarch butterflies.  They will also continued to grow different selections of vegetables throughout the rest of the school year.

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The students will learn to use the garden’s rain gauge.  It is a plastic gauge with magnified numbers found at our Home Depot for about $5.  We will record rainfall measurements and discuss the occasional lack of rainfall.  I secured the rain gauge to the side of the garden box with a stainless steel screw, so that the students can not pick it up and play with it.

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Last week we added unwanted tires to the garden space. We painted them the school color and filled them with soil and previously sprouted zinnia seeds!  The kids were really excited about their tires.

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Our class teacher came up with the “Gardening Teams” idea.  Each morning, I spend about 15 mins with a small group of children.  They get one on one interaction in the garden, while we are taking care of it each week.  Gardening Team 1 is on Mondays, Gardening Team 2 is on Tuesdays, and so forth.  I enjoy answering their silly questions and listening to their interesting stories.

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Our romaine lettuce is looking great!  I am hoping that not only will the kids eat it, but also share it with teachers and staff at their school.

I will update as this gardening project continues.  I am so excited to help teach food education to our youth!

Happy Gardening, Bee

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Grilled Okra Recipe – Summer Gardening

In our Kitchen…

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We have had the best okra harvest this year!  My littlest gardener isn’t a fan of tomatoes, yet. So I experimented with grilled okra pods for the first time this year.  My husband said, “Grilled okra? That doesn’t sound good.”  Well…

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The entire family LOVED my grilled okra!

Grilled Okra

Ingredients:

A dozen pieces of whole fresh okra, stems trimmed

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

1-2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon

Salt & Pepper to taste

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I used two bamboo skewers, and marinated the first batch for a few hours before grilling. The second one I didn’t have time, so we just brushed on the ingredients as we grilled.  Both times the okra was tender with the nice flavor.

After you season the okra, place it on the grill at 400 degrees, and cook until the okra’s green color brightens, and charred grill marks appear on the edges, about 5 minutes. Turn the okra over, and cook until tender, about 5 more minutes.

This recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.  And the kids loved to dip the grilled okra into a special comeback sauce I whipped up.

Southern Comeback Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup chili sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon of dried basil

We also replace the mayo with sour cream, depending on the flavor of the rest of the dish being served with the okra.

In our Garden…

I am getting the garden beds ready for fall gardening now!  Seminole pumpkins are already producing, tomatoes and beans have sprouted, and we are seeing citrus on our trees!  Fall and winter are my favorite time in our FL backyard!

 Happy Gardening, 

Bee

Summer Gardening in Florida

I talk to people all the time that don’t think you can garden in Florida’s hot and humid summers. It isn’t always the easiest task, but it is definitely possibly, and always rewarding!

I found the easiest crops are: basil, sunflowers, peppers, and okra. They seem to love Florida’s heat and thunderstorms.  Summer is a great time to work on improving your soil as well!

Above are photos taken of our late August 2014 summer garden. Shown: purple basil, sweet basil, native milkweed recovered from the Monarchs, okra, Seminole pumpkin, and sunflowers. We have already started our Seminole pumpkins for fall and are currently preparing our soil and planning our fall garden beds.  The pine straw falling for all the Florida pines is a great, natural mulch for our pumpkin bed.

 

Here’s a great monthly calendar, divided by Florida’s three regions, to help you garden year around in the Sunshine State:

Florida Gardening Calendar by UF IFAS Solutions

Happy Gardening, ~Bee

Connecting Kids to their Food: Vero Beach Farms – Indian River County

“On average, U.S. students get less than four hours of food education per year. Millions of kids aren’t learning about the importance of fresh, nutritious food at home or at school, making it almost impossible for them to be healthy adults. ” ~Food Tank

 

One of my passions is teaching children about the food we eat.  Check out our most recent field trip to visit two Florida farms! The kids loved collecting the eggs right from the hen’s coop, as well as seeing the fish swimming in the hydroponic gardens!

Children learn through experience.  Be sure to look for ways in your own communities to strengthen your children’s relationship with the food they eat! And if you are lucky enough to visit or live in the Indian River County area, please stop by and visit these fantastic farms:

 

White Rabbit Organic Farms & CSA

Osceola Organic Farm

Happy Gardening, ~Bee

Myakka River State Park – Sarasota FL

In in May we celebrated 9 years of marriage with a kid-free camping trip to Myakka River State Park!  My husband, who just started his own blog, wrote about our trip here!  But I wanted to share this unique state park with you too.

One of the oldest state parks in the state, Myakka River State Park is located in the Sarasota area.  I grew up on the East Coast, so Florida’s west coast ecosystem is a new, exciting place to explore.  My favorite part about the park was the 76′ observation tower, as well as the park’s delicious Pink Gator Cafe!  We have been to a lot of state parks, and I never seen such a nice park cafe.  Florida craft beers, alligator stew, and many other healthy choices were on its awesome menu.

We are looking forward to bring the kids back to this beautiful park in the fall!

Hello Blog! Hello Summer Garden!

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Wow, time flies! We haven’t written since spring!  We have been enjoying the summer and all the season brings to our Florida backyard! Sunflowers, tomatoes, and elderberries have been the highlight of our gardening efforts. Florida’s beaches, state parks, and local farms have been our sources for summer entertainment.

We purchased a new blender, and have been exploring the world of green smoothies.  My little gardeners delivered a few salad baskets to loved ones, and we are anxiously awaiting our first harvest of pineapples!

 

But the best thing I have to report since I last blogged… is my husband and sweet girls gave me a lemon tree for Mother’s Day!

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 Happy Gardening, Bee

Children’s Book Review: Green by L. V. Seeger

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I am passionate about children’s books. We visit our local library at least once a week, and if you looked at my Amazon account you would see most of my purchases are for childrens books! ;)

One of my 2014 blogging goals was to sit down and share some of our favorite books. All book reviews will focus on environmental themes in children’s literature.

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Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

A satisfying homage to green, the color of all creation.

Subtle cutouts on each beautifully illustrated page of Green gave surprise and delight to my little readers. This book promotes curiosity and attention to detail.  The die cut pages hidden among the richly painted images keeps the audience lingering on each page.

Most children think of primary colors and this book gives a beautiful insight to shades and hues of colors.  Our favorite hue of green mentioned in the book was the ‘khaki green’ lizard.

Green does an excellent job promoting care for our environment while teaching colors.

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Another one of our favorite Laura Vaccaro Seeger books for children is First the Egg–a Caldecott Honor Book and a Geisel Honor Book.

Happy Reading!