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Ready for a new school year!

23 Aug

The new school year begins on Monday and we are excited to have the Titan Garden looking beautiful.  I was up visiting today and ran into one of our awesome volunteer families who were ending their week of care.  They let mw know that all looked well in the garden and they had been enjoying their steady tomato harvest all week.

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We got a chance to look at a bug party happening on the fennel. Ladybugs in all stages of development, mealybug destroyers, aphids.  It was a lot of fun to see.  

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To so many of us with home gardens, it is all about keeping things pruned and looking perfect.  But in a school garden, every change in a plant is a learning opportunity.  Bug infestations are fascinating.  Flowers fading and going to seed are a lesson in the cycle of life.  Drought is a chance to learn about how different plants deal with lack of water.  

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I know this year in the garden will bring so many moments for the kids to connect with their environment and we re so thankful for our volunteers and teachers that help us make those connections possible. 

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Sneak peak at a swallowtail

24 Oct

One of the most fascinating roles you can take in the garden is that of an observer.  To stumble upon life progressing in a garden habitat and be able to just watch it happen is…awesome.  DSC00388

DSC00391 We have a recent influx of black swallowtail caterpillars on our fennel plants.  It started with a few but has now ballooned to over 30+ caterpillars munching away on the plants, happily growing bigger and bigger.  The black swallowtail caterpillar moves through 4-5 instars, the name for stages of development, before entering into the pupa stage and changing into butterflies. During each instar, the caterpillar molts its exoskeleton, which begins to change its appearance.

We have watched them go through their 1st and 2nd instar phases where they are orange and black with small white bands around the middle and little spikes.

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Third instar they begin developing different color patterns with white, black and yellow. Polka dots, stripes.   The spikes start to minimize. . 

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After that they just get bigger and more beautiful as they go through their third, fourth and fifth (final) instar.  After that, they will attach themselves in a safe place with their silk string and begin to  molt into a chrysalis where they will remain until ready to emerge as a butterfly. 

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It is truly a special experience to be able to share this with the students at our school and for them to feel the connection that they built the habitat that now supports such a beautiful life cycle.  They’ll never look at another butterfly the same way again.