Welcome to issue number two of our third volume of Grist from the Garden - the Teich Garden Systems newsletter. If you received this newsletter from a friend or saw it online, why not sign up to receive our newsletters directly? You can subscribe by clicking the link above. If you missed any of the previous issues, they are available in the archive on our website.
Spring has definitely sprung in the Northeast. We started installing gardens in early March - what a difference from last year. As you get into planting season and have questions, please give us a call or email us at email@example.com.
Jamie and Jared are continuing to tweet: you can follow them via Twitter at @JamieEFriedman and @JTFinkelstein. Jamie is also blogging away - you should take a look to find out what is going on at TGS.
As always, please let us know if you have any suggestions and/or contributions for the newsletter - we would love to hear from you.
Very truly yours,
The TGS Team
TGS in the News
A new Good Food Garden™ was opened in Avondale, Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati, on April 3rd. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, John Lansing, President of Scripps Networks Interactive, and chef and television personality Aarti Sequeira were at the opening. Here is our press release about the event, a blog posting from Scripps Networks as well as a television interview with Aarti and the President of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati discussing the benefits they see from their new garden.
TGS is also excited about the launch of our first television commercial that is appearing in Westchester County New York and Fairfield County Connecticut. If you haven't seen it yet - take a look:
|A Garden from the Ground Up|
By Nomi Rosen, Principal, Deasy School (K-2), Glen Cove, NY
While our school community was watching in eager anticipation early this past fall as TGS installed our garden, my second graders couldn't wait to "dig in." Captivated by an innocent question, What is soil?, they went outside with trowels in front of our school and brought some back inside to find out.
For some students, it was the thrill of discovering a worm in a sample they had collected; for many more, it was the fascination of watching layers of sand, silt, clay and humus settle out after they shook up their soil samples in tubes or jars of water. In no time, we were underway on what has developed into a thrilling year-long study of the Story of Soil.
We have been delighted to discover how much territory in elementary life, earth, and physical science these soil investigations have opened up even as they were providing a wonderful complement and context for plant studies in our garden. When we began planting this fall, my second graders already had lots of ideas about what might make a good soil for a garden, and were already immersed in learning about the mineral ingredients of soil and how they work together to support plants and animals. This winter, with gardening at a lull, they were busy investigating weathering and the question of how rocks become soil. And this spring, with the introduction of earthworms, well, you can imagine. We have also found these experiences, in conjunction with those in our garden, tremendously valuable in our non-fiction reading and informational writing program this year.
Several resources were of particular value to my faculty, and may be worth your attention. One was the grade 2-3 Delta Science Module, Soil Science. This provides a spine of activities about soil that were useful for my teachers, all of whom were essentially unfamiliar with teaching this material. A second important resource was Soil Habitats, in the new series, Seeds of Science, Roots of Reading, out of the Lawrence Hall of Science. This series is equally weighted towards inquiry science and literacy instruction, and comes with many new texts and best-practices literacy protocols that fit right in with a garden theme. Finally, the introduction of inexpensive fluorescent grow-lights in classrooms has both let our students conduct ongoing indoor investigations of plant growth in different soils this year, and also allowed them to grow starter plants for planting in our garden this spring.
One year into our TGS garden, I am happy to say that the larger ripple effect on our overall curriculum has been robust indeed. I am eager to see what next year brings and to hear from other schools about new territories they are exploring as well.
Thank you Principal Rosen! Please contact us with us any favorite projects or activities you do with your children in the garden - we would love to share them with the TGS community either in our Newsletter or as part of the TGS Social Network.
|A Peek into a Dietitian's Garden
By Alexandra Oppenheimer, MS, RD, CDN
Every year my family and I grow a garden. Last year, I could be found in my yard picking tomatoes, cucumbers, figs, zucchini, green beans and basil. While I admit planting isn't my favorite part of the process, I join in gladly, knowing I will get to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor. Having a vegetable garden is a fantastic way to increase produce consumption at home. Being responsible for growing, tending to, and harvesting food generated excitement to eat them among adults and kids alike.
In addition, the freshness of your home-grown produce is undeniable. There is just no arguing with the taste and appeal of a fresh-picked cucumber or tomato. Freshness is another benefit of having your own garden. Since the produce is eaten so close to when it is picked, it doesn't have much of an opportunity to lose nutrients.
So how did I choose what to grow? My fig trees are actually a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation [Ed. note: For those of you not familiar with figs, they are among the easiest of the fruit trees to grow. They are happy planted either directly in the ground or in containers making it a good fit for all kinds of gardeners]. The rest are some of my favorite vegetables that I enjoy eating and that grow well here in the Northeast. Of course, fruits and vegetables are only nutritious if you actually eat them which is why I suggest planting those that you enjoy. When you're more likely to eat and enjoy them, you'll reap their benefits. It's also important to eat a rainbow of colors of fruits and vegetables to get a variety of nutrients. When planning your garden try incorporating an assortment of colors. Here are a few items you can find in my garden and some ways to include them in your meals.
At only about 16 calories for one cup of sliced cucumbers, this vegetable goes a long way helping you feel satisfied with fewer calories. Composed of 95% water, cucumbers are also a fantastic vegetable to help keep you hydrated.
Ways to enjoy cucumbers:
- Chopped in chunks and tossed with cilantro and feta cheese
- Make tzatziki (which contains cucumbers) and then use cucumber slices to dip in it
- Great in salads or rough-chopped in a chunky chopped salad
I am a huge advocate of vegetables that are quick to cook and can be "thrown into anything." Zucchini is perfect when you just don't have the time or energy to think about how you're going to cook a vegetable. Just throw it into whatever you're making-soup, frittata, lasagna, pasta, meatloaf, stir-fry, anything. This is also great since you will have one less pan to wash. Whether I choose to saut� it on the side, roast it in the oven, toss it on the grill or chop it and throw it into whatever I'm cooking, zucchini works. It's fantastic to grow and have on hand, ensuring that vegetables will never get left out of a meal.
Ways to enjoy zucchini:
- Saut�ed with a drizzle of olive oil and garlic
- Thinly sliced and scrambled into eggs
- Cooked into any main dish (pasta sauce, stir fry, baked dishes)
- Stuffed and baked with a whole grain salad or stuffing
If you've never had a fresh fig, this may be hard to understand. Fig fruit perishes rather quickly once picked. Aside from that, they are so delicious that as soon as they're picked and washed, if you don't eat them, someone else will! At 4 grams of dietary fiber for 3 medium figs, they are also a nice source of nutrition. If you get your hands on some fresh figs, just enjoy them in their natural state, you won't be disappointed!
Gardens are one of my favorite ways to get more involved with the food I eat. Any opportunity to include more fresh produce in your life is a good one! I know I'm looking forward to my garden this year, are you?
Alexandra (Alex) Oppenheimer is a Registered Dietitian (RD) in Westchester County, New York. She provides nutrition counseling, corporate wellness, and freelance writing and consulting services. She is passionate about cooking and baking healthfully and growing a vegetable garden during the summer.
Alex has a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, completed her dietetic internship at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics with a Minor in Kinesiology.
Follow Alex on Twitter, www.twitter.com/AlexOppRD
To learn more about Alex, visit her website, www.ambitiousandnutritious.com
Suns out? Seeds in!
By Brian Carney
I'm sure everyone is starting their seedlings! Be they in trays or poop-pots, newspaper coils or soil blocks; our little babies need a safe and cozy place to grow up!
Seeding with kids is either the shortest 30 seconds or the longest 30 minutes of your life- A lesson designed around the wonder of a seed can quickly turn too dirty too quickly if you're not careful. Once the children have placed their seed in soil- and are now holding an uninteresting cup of dirt in their hands, their attention can quickly run out- or worse yet focus instead on just how much of a mess they can make- after all, soil inside the classroom can be a pretty tempting mistress.
The worst that can happen can usually be solved with a quick sweeping- what a broom can't fix though is the bane of every farmer who has packed trays with youngins (or really any large group of less-than experienced helpers) is ... dun dun dun... OVER PACKED CELLS! (The cells I'm referring to are the plant cells in a black plastic tray- not over crowded molecular parts of everything around us) Any time soil is jammed, packed, crammed or shoved into a container trouble is a-brewing.
I like to tell the kids that the plant's roots- especially a young, new, baby plant's roots, are teeny tiny. After all, they grew from something as small as a seed so when it's young, every part of a plant is "mini". Tiny roots, teeny skinny little stem and little bitty dicotyledons. To start the lesson: Take a handful of soil from your bag or container and hold it loosely in the palm of your hand- bring it around to the kids (or have them do this themselves). Have the students poke their fingers into the loose soil- tell them to imagine their fingers are plant roots and they need to grow into and through the soil. Now take that hand full of soil and make a fist. Sometimes I will place that loose soil on one flat hand, palm upwards, and bring down the palm of my other hand onto it to represent a squishing or crushing motion (you are replicating for them what happens to soil when it is stepped on (compressed) in a flower bed or when it is packed to tightly into a planting container). Now have your students try to put their fingers into the compacted soil. Have them describe the change and ask how they think it will affect the plant's growth. Do plants want to set roots into a nice freshly tilled field or a parking lot?
So, back to seeding. Hopefully the students have a basic understanding of how a solid brick of soil wouldn't be a great place to raise a baby veggie. Soil too loosely packed isn't great either but for different reasons. Water will sometimes flow right through super loose soil and your containers may not hold enough water for the seedlings to make it through a weekend. Containers too loosely packed are also nearly impossible to transplant- when you go to pull them from the containers during transplanting, more often than not, you just end up with an unrooted bit of kale in your hand. The worst part about that is that all the teeny tiny root hairs get ripped off and most likely won't survive the process. So suddenly the very simple act of putting dirt in a cup has become a seemingly daunting task- no worries though! Three and a half easy steps and we can guarantee almost standard soil compression for all! Huzzah!
Step 1 - "Make it snow".
Either on a tarp- with the edges rolled a little and tucked under (to create a curb to keep soil at least semi-contained) or outside (a lot of potting soil can be lost if you don't do this on a smooth surface though, be warned) have a group of students take a hand full or two of loose soil and hold it about a foot above their container (plastic pot or tray) now let the soil flurry down and into the container- once the soil has filled the unit- have them sprinkle a little more soil on- so that there is a cap or lid of soil about a half an inch over the top of your pot.
Step 2 - "The open hand swirl" or "wax on-wax off"
Have the students now take an OPEN hand, palm down and pop it on the top of their containers- tell them to do this like they are trying to catch a butterfly in a cup- or a firefly in a jar. NOTE- if anyone puts their finger tips into the cup or container to squish their soil in they will have to dump out their cup and start over. You can demonstrate this by doing just that, over packing a container and then slide the "brick of soil out" show them the rock hard plug you've created and ask them if that the kind of soil they want their seeds to grow up in?!? If you have a big flat tray or a few cups now swirl your flat hand over the top or tops of your containers. This is the "wax-on wax-off" part, W.O.W.O works especially well on multi-cell rectangular trays. Behold- the perfect amount of compression!
Step 3 - "Send em' home!"
This is an important part to keep your eye on too- kids have a tendency to want to make sure their seeds are "good and planted" and will drive the seeds as deep into the soil as they can manage. This is a good time to point out - first, how small a seed is, second, how much "stuff is packed inside a seed" and lastly, how much stored energy or plant food in a seed.
A seed only has just enough "juice" to put out one tiny set of roots usually just one... a radical and just one leaf or pair of leaves. The students should have some idea about the fact that plants need sunlight to live- and they can't live very long without it. It takes some energy for a plant to root itself, and for it to push its little neck from the soil. The energy it takes to do that is stored as food- inside a seed. The reason for this long winded explanation is to help students understand that if a seed is placed too deep- it will use all its stored "juice" to put out its little root and little stem and if its to far to the surface, the fledgling plant never be able to catch its own sunlight -and will die all alone, in the dark, at the bottom of the cup. Dun dun dun. Now, every plant is different and likes to be seeded at different depths (the preferred depth for your specific seed will be listed on the back of the seed packet) but the most common- fool proof depth is between � inch and 1 inch below ground. On a child, this is about the distance from their finger tip to their second knuckle. Have all the students put their finger in the air and then bend it, have them look at the inside of their finger and notice the wrinkles and lines- this is a perfect, built-in depth finder! Drop your seed on top of the soil and have your students poke the seed straight down until that line of their finger is at the surface of the soil. Perfect uniform planting depth for a whole class? You bet!
Step 3 1/2- "Another quick snowfall!"
If the students pack soil into their "finger hole" where they placed their seed it's like putting a lid on a jar. It doesn't take very much soil at all at this point to finish your plantings; so I recommend the teacher or guide does this last part to prevent the very tempting urge to over pack. Kids tend to think the more soil the better and it would be a shame to have to start over at this point. Don't worry about "wax-on wax-offing" at this point either- everything should be uniform and perfect. Congrats!
Ideally this will all take about 20 minutes depending on how many cells you are packing and how many seeds are going in each. Be sure to label! I like to have class trays in something that can be watered from the bottom. A tub or liner that they sell at gardening stores work well but a cookie tray is a good substitute. Watering from the bottom is a great way to encourage deep, well developed roots and I think the best way to ensure your plants are watered properly. When "bottom watering" do sprinkle a little of water on their tops but mostly make sure that there is around 1/3 inch of water pooled at the bottom of your tray when watering. The plants will take some time to pull that water up into their roots but there should never be standing water in your pan for more than 2 or 3 hours. After a few hours, dump out any excess water and next time water less to prevent this pooling. Standing water at the bottom of plants gets swampy- yuck.
Hint- keep in mind the reason for most failed classroom seeding experiments involve over-watering. Just because the surface of the soil looks dry doesn't mean it's not moist and wonderful just below the surface. The only way I know to make sure the plant is wet or dry all the way thru is to slip a plant of two from their containers. Look at the root plug or root ball and see how it looks. Try to keep pulling different plants from different sections to make sure you don't have dry spots. The middle of planting trays are always moister than the plants on the edges! Also rotate your planting tray so that the plants don't always reach the same direction for the sun. It's good for them to get light from all sides. And don't let them get too big! Once a plant gets root bound in its container they kind of "freeze" at that size... not really the leaf size but the roots never branch out any further and that severely limits the growth potential for your hard earned veggie once you put them outdoors in your garden.
I hope everybody has great luck with their class's plants, if you follow some of the guidelines above I'm sure you can lessen some of the common problems with classroom plantings. When everybody plants the same way there is a lot less of a chance for having the one or two brokenhearted students with empty cups. I know of few things sadder than a kid with an empty cup. I despise empty cups.
Garden hard gang! Until next time-
Brian Carney is TGS's Garden Event Leader. Brian spent more than three years at Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Educational Center in Westchester County, New York, as their Children's Educational Director and Farm Maintenance Manager. Brian provides engaging and educational leadership for planting days, harvest days and other garden related events including inside events during the Winter such as seed starting. He can also help with your home gardens. Give us a call to speak with Brian or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|In the Kitchen . . .|Spring presents some great opportunities to try new seasonal ingredients in the kitchen that may only be available for a very short time (For some reason I always think of the fictional Mackinaw peach from Seinfeld). One favorite in New England is the fiddlehead. You may ask - "what is a fiddlehead?" Fiddleheads are young fern fronds that have not yet opened up. They must be picked during the two-week period before the fern unfurls. Fiddleheads are named for their appearance, don't you think they look like the scroll at the head or top of a fiddle? The ostrish fern is the species that produces these edible shoots, which have a unique texture but taste a bit like asparagus or okra.
A simple way to prepare fiddleheads is to saute them. First, trim and rinse about one pound of fiddleheads, removing any brown ends or mushy parts. Next, in a large pot bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add approximately one tablespoon of salt and the fiddleheads and cook for one minute. Drain the pot and rinse the fiddleheads with cold water. Finally, in a large frying pan, heat two teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the fiddleheads and saute, stirring, until they start to brown which takes about five minutes. Add two cloves of thinly sliced garlic and keep stirring until the garlic is fragrant and just starting to color which takes about another minute, then add salt to taste.
Another seasonal favorite are ramps. The ramp (Allium Tricoccum), also sometimes called a wild leek, is a member of the more well known onion and garlic family. Though the bulb resembles that of a scallion, the beautiful flat, broad leaves set it apart. Ramps can be difficult to get and they only have a two or three week window of availability. Ramps add wonderful and uniquely pungent flavor to soups, egg dishes, casseroles, rice dishes and potato dishes. Use them raw or cooked in any recipe calling for scallions or leeks, or cook them in a more traditional way, scrambled with eggs or fried with potatoes. Since ramps aren't cultivated in the way leeks are, they're much easier to clean. Just cut off roots, rinse thoroughly, and scrub off any excess dirt on the bulbs.
|Experiences In The Garden|
Musings From Kendra Thatcher
At last, I am semi-settled here in Bucks County. I can see my home town, Lambertville, from our kitchen window along with a great view of the Delaware River (who beckoned my return for so long). I will be starting my petite garden on the back deck shortly but since we haven't had much rain, I have to think carefully about my water use (we wouldn't use more than a watering can or two per week). So how do I handle the excitement and anticipation of my herbs, lettuces, cherry tomatoes and other crops? Prep - Lots and lots of prep and planning. Prep includes choosing the best variety of each plant and figuring out what it most compliments and planting it there (i.e., oregano goes well next to just about anything, but basil and tomatoes really help each other's growing process). It also means I can think ahead to the meals I'll be creating in our kitchen-with-a-view and how I'll coax each ingredient to marry the other. It feels good to be so close to home and it feels even better knowing that these little gardens have followed me throughout my journeys offering me comfort and consistency.
We hope your gardens are getting off to a great start. During these difficult times, please remember all those who are in need and consider donating your extra vegetables to a local food bank. Here is a link to Ample Harvest which can help you locate an organization near you that can accept your donation: AmpleHarvest.org
For our existing TGS gardeners, check out our Social Network - we have posted a lot of information and links to resources such as curriculum ideas that we hope you find helpful. http://www.teichgardensystems.socialgo.com/
As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.
Teich Garden Systems
|P.O. Box 706|
South Salem, New York 10590