Archive | April, 2011

Potatoes and Pole Beans Take Off

21 Apr

First graders have really been busy in the garden these last few weeks.  One of the first things the first graders do on every visit to the garden is Observation Time.  First, they read the temperature.  Next, they spend some time observing changes in the garden…and right now, the changes are happening fast.  These students have seen bluebonnets sprout, flower, get pollinated and now grow seeds, all in the last few weeks.  Insects are really coming out now so the students get to see bees, caterpillars, spiders and more.  We saw our first black swallowtail caterpillar in the garden this week as well, along with two baby caterpillars, happily munching on fennel. 

Did all of the parents out there know that the first graders know how to grow potatoes?  Each class has a potato tower in which they have 4-5 potato plants growing.  Every week, a few students are the potato crew, watering the plants gently. But in the last few weeks, we have seen some phenomenal growth so we are now busy mounding mulch around our potato stems to encourage the formation of the potatoes.   

While the potato crew waters, other students make observations, checking to see if we need to add mulch or this week, noticing new flowers on some of the potato plants. 
In addition to all of these other great things to watch in the garden, we have been keeping an eye on our zinnia and pole bean seeds that we planted.  Well, the beans have sprouted and boy, are they growing fast.  So we have started charts to record their growth, turning our weekly measurements into a bar chart that shows us easily which weeks have the fastest growth. We will keep adding to the bar charts until our last week in the garden, only four weeks away!


Passion flower in the Titan Gardens

16 Apr
We were thrilled and so grateful earlier this year when the Sustainable Food Center gave us a grant to add a trellis to our garden.  Our intention was to increase our butterfly habitat by growing passion vine on the trellis which is a favorite food of the gulf fritillary caterpillar.  That’s him below, getting ready to turn into a chrysallis in my garden last fall. 

These guys LOVE passion vine and they’ll munch it as long as there is plant left and then turn into a chrysallis right in the same area.  Our hope is to showcase this wonderful cycle at all stages in the garden for the students to observe.  Well, our passion vine has been growing…fast.  The first graders have been marking off the growth with me on the trellis and I’d say we are gaining 6-8″ every WEEK in height!  And while this is pretty cool to see, the passion vine has another cool attribute, it’s flower.

 People who see it for the first time say it is like no other flower they have ever seen.  I was lucky enough to be out in the garden with some students watering last Monday when our first flower on the new passion vine bloomed.  I hope to see many more. 

Kindergarten class gives their ladybugs a new home

16 Apr

Ms. Lohman’s kindergarten class brought their ladybugs from their in-class habitat out on Friday and gave them a new home among our plants in the Titan Garden.  They watched as the bugs scurried around and explored their new habitat.  Thanks for giving us lots of new friends in the garden!

Kindergarten lets the bugs out of jail

12 Apr

Over the past few weeks, many of the kindergarten classes have been visiting the Titan Gardens  with their parent volunteer garden buddies to learn more about seeds and ladybugs.  The seed lesson began with discussion about what a seed needed to grow.  Then each child was given a popsicle stick to write their name on and either a corn, sunflower or bean to plant.  The sticks were to mark their seed locations so they could watch them grow. I checked last week and many of the seeds have already sprouted.

The second lesson focused on ladybugs.  Did you know there are 5,000 varieties of ladybugs, with over 400 varieties in the US?  The students talked about what they eat, that they flap their wings 85 times per second and their life cycle.  We also discussed how WE like ladybugs in our garden not only because they are pretty but also because they are beneficial to the plants as aphid eaters.    But enough of the lesson…the real action began when the kids enjoyed a Ladybug Jailbreak.

With 3 sacks of purchased ladybugs (about 6,000 bugs) we began the fun and quickly learned that :
1.)  6,000 ladybugs is a lot of ladybugs
2.)  Once the ladybug bag was open, our chances of continuing our educational discussion rapidly fell to zero.

But the kids had a GREAT time.  There were ladybugs crawling all over everyone as we dispensed them straight from the bag into a sea of outstretched little cupped hands. End of the day, all seeds were planted, all ladybugs were paroled, and everyone was happy. Thanks to the Kindergarten Garden Buddies for organizing and teaching!