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School Gardening Program

Additional information

The Fresno County Master Gardeners have been working with a few of Fresno Unified schools helping start gardening/science programs. Currently we are working with 4 sites, Slater Elementary, Sequoia Middle School, Manchester Gate, and Baird Elementary School. A weekly email is sent out to requesting teachers from the Master Gardeners, sharing gardening tips and science techniques that have been successful in the classroom. If you would like additional information please contact the Fresno County Master Gardeners helpline.

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slater

Most school sites are evaluating what growing areas are available to them. The MG are recommending the 'Square Foot Gardening program' that can be modified to be used with a group or team of students in as little as a 2 foot by 2 foot area or as large as a 4 foot by 4 foot area. Attached is the pdf from the UNARC on square foot gardening. More information can be obtained at 'squarefootgardening.com'.
There are many gardening curriculum programs available for all ages. One we are using with our teachers is 'GrowLab.com'. It breaks down the activities by grade level. K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 and can easily be adapted to the California standards. Please contact the Master Gardener's website for more information.
About Master Gardener John

A little bit about myself.

I am a retired secondary teacher. I started my career teaching vocational agriculture in the Salinas Valley in 1981. While there I was short two teaching periods and to fill my contract I approached the Monterey County Special Ed Director and asked her if she would be willing to fund two periods of an Adaptive Horticulture class. She said yes and that is how I began my career with special needs students and gardening.

Being a valley boy from Hanford I missed the valley heat (go figure). I applied for a position in Clovis Unified in 1985 and was hired because of my vocational background. The school greenhouse was being used for storage so my special needs students and I cleaned up the greenhouse and started producing bedding plants that we sold to the school district for site beautification. We made $600 that first year and paid for a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

After teaching for 34 years I retired in 2015 and in 2017 became a Master Gardener. I love teaching gardening techniques to anyone that will listen. I hope I can share my experiences with you so you are successful, and most of all that the children are successful. They are the future. Thanks, John

Microgreens

 
microgreens

 
Let me introduce you to microgreens. Microgreens are seeds you start in trays. They are ready in 10 to 20 days to be eaten. I will attach some literature and seed sources.
 
Just about any vegetable can be grown as a microgreens. This is similar to growing alfalfa sprouts, but the variety is huge. For example, the fastest are radish seeds, but you can grow raw sunflower seeds that have a nutty taste, garbanzo seeds that are sweet, mung beans, corn sprouts and all kinds of stuff.. Radishes are super fast and ready to eat in about 7 days. You just cut the top growing part and mix with a salad, they have a peppery taste
 
If you watch YouTube videos most of the growing medium is potting soil. I use coconut husk because I don't have to deal with grit getting into my teeth and after I just compost the used husk. I ordered mine online from Walmart.
 
In the videos you will see large amounts of seed being sprouted in large trays. I suggest you go to YouTube and watch the segment of 'This Old House' on microgreens. The person doing the project uses smaller containers. I used the plastic clam shells from the kids' salads at school. You can also use the plastic clam shells that hold strawberries.
 
You can order microgreens on-line, but they are expensive. I suggest starting at  Winco and hitting the bulk bins. You can buy raw sunflower, mung beans, garbanzo seed, raw peas, and maybe some other stuff. If you want radishes, HomeDepot sells large packets of one ounce. For each small plastic clam shell you need about one teaspoon.
 
After you grow and consume the microgreens you can start again. It's fun, quick, and inexpensive.
 
 

Fall School Gardens

September 19, 2021

Good day everyone. Hope your gardens are progressing, the weather has been great. Perennial root growth really takes off in the fall, preparing for spring blooms.

Just a note on growing seasons. The fall is time for any root, stem, or leaf vegetable. I always like to do radishes with the kids because it has a very short growing season, about one month. Carrots and beats are always fun. Any leaf veggie is great, Swiss chard, leaf lettuce (don’t do head, does not do well in the valley), and spinach.

red hen
If you have the space and want to relate your garden to a children’s story, the ‘Little Red Hen’ is a great one. Just before the first rain (if it does rain), prepare a bed and plant wheat (from Winco bulk bins). Wheat is a dry farming product and you don’t have to water it (if it rains). You can take measurements over the growing season. In the spring when it dries you can harvest the wheat spikes, thresh the seeds, and grind them in a mill or blender. Don’t make rolls directly from the fresh ground seeds, you need to mix it with white flour. Our stomachs are not accustomed to that much bran. I did this with 3rd graders and they ate up the bread rolls with honey. Great story on work ethics.

Next week we will talk about micro-greens.

First plant project

I hope I can give you some fun things to do. I'm going to start with cilantro or coriander.

 
Cilantro is a winter crop that needs to be planted this time of year. It is used by many cultures in dressings, salads and salsas.
cilantro seeds
 
Don't buy seed packs, they are expensive. Go to the grocery store and in the spice aisle find coriander/cilantro seeds. They are plentiful and cheap. 
 
Now each round bead is made up of 4 seeds. Have the kids place them between a piece of paper and press down to crack them. Take the broken pieces and plant them on top of your soil. Dust them lightly with some potting soil, water and place them in a sunny place.
 
Now, cilantro has a deep root so you will need to use a one gallon black pot to start your plants. It does not transplant well. You can leave the pots outside, they love the cool weather. Keep them moist.
 
If you want you can try growing cilantro in a garden bed. You just have to make sure it is clear of weeds and dust the seeds lightly. Don't plant them too deep because they will not make it to the surface.
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Cilantro will last all winter if you just pick off the leaves. I allow it to grow into the spring because I love the flower. It is an umbelliferae flower and attracts beneficial insects. Also if you let it go to seed you will have seeds for the next fall planting.
 
 

Square Foot Gardening

Good morning everyone, hope all is well. I'm sending you the square foot garden newsletter. You can receive their monthly newsletter at squarefootgardening.com . It has lots of ideas and suggestions.

Most school sites are evaluating what growing areas are available to them. The MG are recommending the 'Square Foot Gardening program' that can be modified to be used with a group or team of students in as little as a 2 foot by 2 foot area or as large as a 4 foot by 4 foot area. Attached is the pdf from the UNARC on square foot gardening. 
There are many gardening curriculum programs available for all ages. One we are using with our teachers is 'GrowLab.com'. It breaks down the activities by grade level. K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 and can easily be adapted to the California standards. Please contact the Master Gardener's website for more information
Thinking about your programs, a frame of 4 ft by 4 ft is large with 16 squares. You may consider 3 ft by 3 ft which would give you 9 squares to work with. Good luck and have fun.