Archive | April, 2012

Butterflies in the garden

30 Apr

We have been seeing a lot of butterflies in the Titan Garden lately.  I hope all of you can get a chance to stop by with your families to see some of our new garden friends.  Here is a little primer for those who want to know specific species that you might see. 

Tiger swallowtail:

Giant swallowtail:

Gulf fritillary:



Pipevine swallowtail: 

Red admiral:


New item in the Titan Garden

30 Apr
 There is something mysterious cropping up in the Titan Garden.

It suddenly appeared the other day…

Can you guess what it is?
We will have to keep an eye on it- I suspect it may change before we see it in it’s final form!

Compost builders, bug explorers, 1st grade gardeners extraordinaire…

15 Apr

This week, we have a guest blog post from Ms. Jessica Phillips, 1st grade teacher at River Place Elementary. Ms. Phillips was one of the first teachers to make the Titan Garden a part of her class’ schedule and she is now in her second year of bringing her students out to the garden.  And we’ve discovered some things about Ms. Phillips too, like she is NOT afraid of bugs-even Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches (see picture below).  So here is Ms. Phillips guest blog post, and thank you to all of our wonderful teachers who make the Titan Garden a learning experience for their students. 

“Ms. Phillips, look, it’s what The Garden Lady was talking about.” One of my students said this to me at recess after a morning garden lesson about seeds. She held in her hand a collection of small flattened spheres with spines all over them meant to annoyingly hook onto whatever clothing or fur that happened to pass their way. Sticker burrs are what I usually call these gems, annoying is what I call them when picking them from my socks. They’ve developed a genius way to spread themselves far and wide and my first-graders are getting it. 

They’re also getting a lot more. How plants grow, plant parts, and what plants need to live are all topics that just barely skim the surface of the opportunities available in the River Place Garden all thanks to Bonnie Martin, who is not very contrary but rather diligent, dedicated, and darn good at what she has made of a little bit of earth. Botany, geometry, measurement, science, social studies, teamwork, appreciation and understanding of nature, conservation, poetry, graphing, temperature, building, making contributions, observing the world around you, and patience come closer to describing what my students and I have learned this year, thus far. She’s also the one we have lovingly come to call The Garden Lady.

Sometimes with our beloved Garden Lady as a guide, sometimes on our own, we have graphed plant growth, measured the area of a flower bed, practiced fractions using the herb wheel, learned how to use a thermometer, built a compost bin, learned exactly how the Indians helped the Pilgrims, learned about rainwater collection, and observed weather and changes in the environment from the tops of the trees to the itty bitty bugs on the ground that only a first-grader could find. And this is just to name a very few of the adventures we have had. 

We planted and watered and waited and watered and waited some more for an entire salad bowl to grow which we then carefully harvested and ate ferociously.  We are truly, truly blessed to have the garden, The Garden Lady, and her master assistants that never mind all my inquiries. My students look forward to time in this outdoor classroom with eager hearts and minds as do I. So, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Martin, quite the garden Spartan, how doesyour garden grow? With love, care, time, and patience and much, much more, I know. For that, my students and I are thankful and we can’t wait to see you in the garden. 

Ms. Phillips and her students using teamwork to construct new compost bins for the Titan Garden.

Compost construction!

10 Apr

While kindergarten has been watching and caring for their composting worms, the 1st grade recently gave the garden another garden gift- two compost bins.  We liked the plan for these bins as they allowed a clear view of the composting process and allow rainwater to get in, and give access to the bottom to shovel out finished compost.


The bin is constructed with landscape timbers cut to even sizes and rebar coming up through the corners to hold it all together. 

The whole bin sits on concrete blocks to raise it up for access underneath.

The 1st graders really had to work as a team to get pieces on in the right order as well as lower the timbers at the same time on each end, as they would get stuck if one side went faster. 

Most importantly, we had to review the importance of working safe even with so many people involved. 

Finally, the bins are complete and we could add our bags of leaves that have been waiting for weeks for a place to go.

We discussed what kinds of insects can live in a compost bin and help all of the materials to break down naturally and why it is so fantastic to use composting in the garden for healthy plants as well as good use of our natural resources instead of sending grass and leaves to the landfill.  These students did an amazing job putting everything together and we look forward to using our homemade compost in the garden.

5th graders spend time in the garden

10 Apr

Recently, about 30 of our 5th graders spent some time working in the garden helping get it ready for the change in seasons.  No, the weather has not really changed that dramatically from winter to spring, but it was coming up on warm season vegetable time so we needed to add compost to the vegetable beds and get them ready for planting.  And the 5th graders were just the helpers the garden needed.


There was lots of weeding to be done and the once they knew what to look for, the students were some of the best weeders I have ever seen. 


We gave the veggie beds a fresh helping of compost so our warm season vegetables would have plenty of organic matter for nutrition.


And everything around the garden got a great dose of water.  All of this Garden TLC has gotten our garden off to a strong start for the spring and good prep for the hot weather in the summer.  Thanks to all of those students who participated and we hope to have you out in the garden as often as we can!

Kinder monkeys in the garden!

5 Apr

This week, we are happy to have a guest blogger, Ms. Stone, a kindergarten teacher at River Place Elementary. Her class has been gardening in the Titan Garden every week and working hard to keep it growing strong and beautiful.

Hi, my name is Ashley Stone, and I teach Kindergarten here at River Place Elementary. My students looooove Thursdays here at school, and the main reason is Thursday is Garden Day with Miss Bonnie!!! To tell you the truth, I’m a huge fan myself. We have learned so many cool and interesting things in the Titan Garden and we though it might be nice to share some of our favorites.

Most of the girls, Kara, Claire, Sydney and Tallie, adore the flower gardens, especially now that Spring has come and they are blooming in all different colors! Emma thinks they are “very pretty!” Hannah particularly likes the Snap Dragons because their mouths open and roar! Hayden and Alistair are fond of the wildflowers that are blooming all over the place. They love the Bluebonnets most of all because “they are our State Flower!” Carson loves to look at and feel the different kinds of leaves. My favorite is the lambs ear… they are sooo soft! One time Miss Bonnie even let each of us have one!!!

Although the flowers are delightful, the lettuce and veggies really attract Jaden’s attention. Travis has had so much fun planting new plants! Our first garden lesson entailed learning about plants needs and then we got to actually plant some! We have looooved watching our snow peas grow and curl as the vines climb the trellises.

Every time we are in the garden we just happen to notice some very special additions to garden life. “There’s so many cool bugs,” shared Sienna. Jett and Tucker think today’s caterpillars are awesome, especially when they get to see tomorrow’s butterflies! “Every time I sniff the flowers, I find a bee! I love bees!” exclaims DJ. Rex appreciates all the “different kinds of insects,” because our garden is just full of life!

Allayah and I love how we start each garden visit with a look around at all the new things that have happened since the last time we were there! Another special part of garden time is seeing who is volunteering each week! Rylie and Caitlin love having visitors… especially when Caitlin’s Mimi or Mommy comes! We love our volunteers and know that the garden wouldn’t be nearly as AWESOME without them!!!

Miss Stone and her Monkeys are huge fans and cannot wait until next Thursday!

You Can’t Go Wrong with Worms

3 Apr

Kindergarteners at River Place Elementary have been making big things happen in their Titan Garden.  Planting snow peas, weeding, planting squash, watering plants… But lately we have been focused on small things- specifically worms.  The students have been learning about different animals in their Animals 2×2 science unit including worms. 

Out in the garden, we were thrilled to talk about how much good worms do for us in the dirt – aerating and helping dead plant materials decompose.  So we thought it would be fun to REALLY see worms in action by starting our own vermicomposting bin.


The students discussed what worms need to keep them healthy and happy- air, a place to live and food.  Then we talked about how we can create all of those things in our vermicomposting bin.  The students did a great job listening but we all knew they were waiting for the big moment when we got to transfer about 2000 redworms into our worm bin which was donated by the Cole family (thanks!)  We made sure they had lots of newspaper bedding and a good supply of food. 


Each kindergarten class will have a week where they take responsibility for feeding the worms by gathering the right kinds of food in a special bin that they bring out to the garden on their day.  So far, the worms are happy and healthy eating good stuff like banana peels, lettuce, and eggshells.