From soggy beginnings to harvesting, propagation, planting out, real life cockroaches and more!

Rain stops play

It was a slow start out in Alice’s Garden this spring as Dallas recorded its third wettest February since records began, 120 years ago. We missed a whole month of garden which delayed our plantings for the new season. Master Gardeners and Armstrong Eagles have worked SO hard to catch up and now we are back in business!

Harvesting

We had a LOT of fun harvesting, washing  and eating freshly pulled carrots and radishes which had survived over the winter. “Oh wow! I can see better already” said one enthusiastic carrot munching first grader – “they taste SO good”

We also cleared the beds of the broccoli and cabbages that hadn’t made it through the very cold snaps.

Propagation

Every year the Master Gardeners teach an excellent lesson on propagating our own plants – creating new baby plants from a bigger, mother plant,  which the kids always find fascinating. Ms. Pierce sent me this super picture of the Aloe Vera plant 4th grade propagated last Fall and  have been nurturing ever since on a sunny windowsill in their classroom. As you can see they have been doing a wonderful job!

Planting out potatoes, tomatoes, peas, lettuce, strawberries and planting sunflower seeds

Over the course of various Tuesdays in March, Armstrong Eagles were very busy planting seed potatoes, various seeds (lettuce, carrots, radish, peas) and transplants (strawberries, tomatoes and some melons).  We also planted 5 different varieties of sunflower seeds in the flowerbeds along the wall on St. John’s Drive, below the cafeteria. Each grade planted a different variety and color so by late spring/ early summer we should have a splendid display! We plan to harvest the sunflower heads in the Fall and save the seeds for next spring, reinforcing  life cycle lessons.

 

KIDS LOVE COMPOSTING!!!

I have to tell you that every time we get out in the garden, these kids LOVE to work the  compost pile. Digging, turning the earth over, mining for ‘black gold’ to help our plants grow by adding pure organic matter to help amend our heavy, black clay soil.

“Bug Ladies” are a huge creepy, crawly hit

For the second year running, we have been exceptionally fortunate to have Master Naturalists Judy Meagher and Elaine Ackley come spend the day at Armstrong to lead sessions on insects and to educate us all on just how beneficial insects can be to a garden and to our wider ecosystem as a whole. The kids absolutely love this experience though some draw the line at stroking a cockroach!

 

 

Ladybug release

Following on from our “Bug Lady” visit, children released lots of ladybugs into the raised vegetable beds to encourage them to eat any unwanted aphid visitors who might be damaging our crops.

 

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Winter news from Alice’s Garden

Armstrong’s very own “Project Mulberry”

I hope you are all enjoying “Project Mulberry”  as much as we are in our house,  for One School One Book week. Who remembers that we have our very own beautiful mulberry tree growing right next to Alice’s Garden?! Here are some pictures which were taken last spring of students enjoying picking mulberries fresh from the tree.. and another showing how it looks right now in the depths of winter. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have our own silkworm project right here at Armstrong? Let’s make it happen!

Frostweed

Ever wanted to know why our beautiful, butterfly attracting, native Texan plant (“the bluebonnet of winter”)  is actually called Frostweed — just look at this fantastic picture Mrs. Trotman took this week from our butterfly garden and you’ll see why……

When wintry weather brings the ice, the frostweed stems exude water which freeze into these crazy shapes!

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Butterflies, Bulbs and more

Last week saw us wrap up our final classes for this growing season out in Alice’s Garden.  Students have been working so hard and learning so much and we have been blessed with some lovely cool Fall weather.

Master Gardener, Miss Jana Beth, metamorphosized into a butterfly herself as she taught first graders all about the life cycle of the Monarch caterpillar!  Students learnt how fortunate we are to live here in Dallas, as we are right on the migration path of the Monarch butterfly as it flies south to Mexico for the colder months.  We have worked very hard at Armstrong, building up our butterfly garden with particular plants like milkweed and frostweed to specifically attract the Monarch butterflies so they will lay their eggs here.  We are now an officially recognized Monarch WaySation!

 

 

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Milkweed and resident Monarch caterpillar

 

 

As the temperature had dropped, we were a little disappointed to not see many monarch butterflies on our designated ‘butterfly’ lesson day,  (though we saw countless in previous weeks) but to everyone’s excitement, we saw a preying mantis making its home and (hopefully) laying eggs in our butterfly garden!

 

 

Soil and Bulbs

The last two weeks of classes saw younger students learning all about soil and just how difficult it is to grow things here in Texas because of its high clay content. Kindergarteners and 1st graders helped ready the flowerbeds for bulb planting by pulling out the pentas,  which have flowered so beautifully all summer long but will not make it past the first freeze. They then mulched and improved the soil with new compost:

 

2nd through 4th grade worked incredibly hard digging holes and planting tulip and daffodil bulbs all around Alice’s Garden itself and by the large flowerbed along St. John’s en route to the cafeteria.  We can’t wait to see what this colorful display will look like come the spring.

Harvest Time!

Of course, the most fun part of Alice’s Garden lesson time is getting to taste the produce fresh from the garden.  We harvested radishes, lettuce and spinach served up with a delicious splash of ranch dressing. Lots of remarks were made about the more aromatic, peppery lettuce that has grown well this year — some students loved it– others were definitely NOT so keen!

 

Fertilizing Fun!

All about fertilizer

This week in Alice’s Garden we have been learning all about fertilizer – what it’s made of and why we use it. Students put their knowledge to practical use by checking how their seedlings and plants were doing in their ‘class bed’ and fertilized accordingly with appropriate amounts. We also learnt how you feed and fertilize  AROUND the plant in order to catch the plant’s ‘drip line’ down to the roots. “It’s kinda like sprinkling sugar” was one description!

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checking and measuring growth of lettuce and cauliflower in order to fertilize

1,2,3… THROW those seed balls !

Students had a lot of fun throwing the dry, hard, seed balls they had made 2 weeks before in their garden lesson into the wildflower bed (near the cafeteria along Saint John’s Drive).  We will look forward to seeing their beautiful butterfly and insect attracting blooms next spring!

 

Planting Garlic

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We are trying to grow garlic in Alice’s Garden this year. The clove goes in the ground now and will not produce any foliage until next spring..  watch this space!

Can you dig it?!

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Have your kids wear their Alice’s Garden T shirt for their lesson day out in the garden…

More are available in the spirit store!

 

3rd Grade Cabbage Competition

 

 

Cabbage Patch kids

Third graders were excited to take home their very own cabbage plant (c/o Bonnie Plants) and container this week! Kids all over America are participating as this is a national competition.  They have the opportunity to grow the plant at home,  using all the skills they have learnt from their garden lessons at Armstrong – monitoring its growth and once fully grown – its weight. They can then submit a picture of their cabbage to their teacher who will then forward the ‘best cabbage in class’ to Bonnie’s Plants.   The winning cabbage will then be selected in a random statewide drawing by Bonnie’s Plants for a $1000 scholarship towards education and statewide recognition.

More info can be found here :

http://www.bonniecabbageprogram.com

3rd Grade Cabbage Competition

 

 

Welcome Back to Alice’s Garden!

Busy & fun start to Fall gardening program

All Armstrong classes have now paid one visit to Alice’s Garden where amongst other things,  we have been busy planting lettuces, spinach and cauliflower,  improving our soil and harvesting seeds to make seed balls from our wildflower beds.  We loved seeing our new Alice’s Garden T-shirts out in the garden!

 

Aloe Vera ‘Pups’ and  working the compost

 

Master Gardeners taught lessons on propagating Aloe Vera from ‘pups’ to 4th grade whilst others helped us work the compost pile which was full of self-seeded squash and the dredged nutsedge weed.

Butterfly Garden monitoring

Second graders had a blast counting countless monarch butterflies in our thriving, beautiful butterfly garden.

Shout out to Young Men’s Service League  (YMSL)

Back in August a fabulous group of young men & their moms helped us clear up and prepare the garden for our new growing season. We pulled back our protective coverings from the raised vegetable beds and found under one of them this incredible carpet of weeds which caused a lot of fascination and curiosity. Thankfully it was easy to pull up.  A big thank you from everyone at Alice’s Garden to the YMSL team for their help!

 

Finally.. a cute but not very welcome visitor ..

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Yes, this little bunny decided to show up and check out what 3rd graders were doing in the garden .. we have a strong suspicion that he or she had been nibbling at our spinach plants.. watch this space for updates!

 

Butterfly Lessons

There is not a doubt that the highlight of fall gardening was the butterfly lesson.  After many years of having a butterfly garden at Armstrong, but not many butterflies,  we have added the host plants to the existing nectar plants to have the full spectrum of plants necessary to have caterpillars, chrysalis’, and ultimately, the butterflies emerging. The students learned about milkweed and how important it is not to touch it, as some are allergic to the oils in it.

October 4th and October 11th