March Madness

It feels like spring is officially upon us! We have been busy in the Salazar Verde Garden, digging in the beds, turning over the compost piles, planting radishes, and transplanting in the hoophouse! Here are some photos from the past two weeks in the garden!

photo (8)3rd Graders carefully holding the worms they found

photo (10)Digging for worms in the compost pile. So many red wigglers!

photo (11)When you hold a worm, make sure you keep it in the shade and with some dirt. And if it starts to wiggle, carefully put it back in the compost pile!

photo (14)It’s time to start turning the beds over for spring planting!

photo (12)The spinach and lettuce is getting too big for their boxes in the greenhouse!

photo (13)So we transplanted them in the hoophouse at Salazar!

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Exploring the Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Garden Club on Friday, 25 kids signed up to play and learn outside in our garden! We talked about spring gardening, we went on a scavenger hunt, and we started turning some beds over for spring planting.

photo (5)Michael and the multi-colored bean seeds!

photo (6)Exploring the garden! What’s growing under all that mulch?

photo (7)Esmerelda and Nancy draw what they have discovered.

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Winter Gardening at Salazar

There is something particularly special about watching plants grow when it is oh so cold outside and snow sparkles on the mountaintops. There are plenty of plants that love colder weather and appreciate being planted early in the season. Already, the kale, mache, spinach and lettuce have all sprouted in the Salazar Hoophouse. The plastic and remay traps the heat and the straw mulch traps the moisture, allowing our plants to grow in the middle of February.

photo (3)Can you spy the tiny green sprouts? Can you tell that 2nd graders planted them?

We have also been lucky enough to receive blessings from the Aspen Community Magnet School staff to continue using their magnificent greenhouse!  Last year we grew enough starts in the greenhouse for 5 school gardens! This year we are starting our seeds early so we can have healthy seedlings ready for the spring. Already, our onions, kale, spinach and lettuce have sprouted, and our tomatoes are starting to warm up.  It really is a magical place in the winter time. Even at 8 in the morning on a sunny day it can already be 90 degrees inside!

photo (4)Baby spinach, kale and lettuce sprout up through our hand-mixed potting soil.

panoramaA panorama image of inside the Aspen Greenhouse.

Friday is the first day of Garden Club at Salazar! If the weather is nice, we will go outside and do some digging in the garden, and then plant sunflower sprouts for some windowsill growing and a little snack for next week! Even in the middle of winter (although this 60 degree weather hardly feels like winter) there is plenty of gardening to do!

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A new year, a new garden!

The year 2014 has been busy already for the Salazar Garden! With the help of a few garden angels (thank you! thank you!), Salazar was able to bring on a new Garden Teacher for the spring! Aviva comes to us from a year of teaching gardening at Amy Biehl Community School, and has already hit the ground running outdoors and in the classroom.

Although the cold January weather and winds might hinder your enthusiasm for gardening, there is plenty that can be grown in our sunny New Mexican winters! Last week, Ms. Mollie’s 1st grade class planted kale and mache in the hoophouse, and a group of 2nd graders in the afterschool program planted lettuce and spinach. The hoophouse is in desperate need of a new cover (the old one is tattered and worn), so we created mini-hoops  over the beds with remay and plastic to insulate our seeds and bring the soil temperatures up. Hopefully they will sprout soon! The shorter days and colder nights means germination takes longer than usual, but the hardy winter crops will be exciting to watch grow when so much of our city is iced over.

 

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Some broccoli and kale left over from a fall planting grow next to our sunflower statues.

Science is in the air at Salazar! Students in grade 3rd through 6th are busy getting their science fair projects up and running in time for the Salazar Science Fair on Thursday, February 20th! Many students are using plants in their experiments so maybe we’ll learn a thing or two for use outside. Do plants grow better with classical music playing or rock and roll? Will plants grow differently when they are watered with blue water or red? Does the type of soil affect plant growth?  Hope to see you there!

As the days continue to grow longer and the sun warms the frozen ground, check back here for updates on our hoophouse, our future asparagus bed, and all the great work Salazar students are doing in the garden!

 

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Sunflowers, Heliotropism, and the Rising Sun…

I am continually mystified by the wonderous nature of plants. Seriously, how cool are they? But what’s even cooler is discovering the science behind those seemingly magical moments in plant life. Take the sunflower, for example. The garden this year has literally erupted with the bright helianthus annuus and the abundance of such a tall and brilliant plant has me wondering about its potential.

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One certainly can make the assertion that the sunflower is a weed, a competitor for precious resources, blocking out sunlight in its upward flight, hoarding the already scarce water supply with its strangling roots, leaving little behind it an effort to develop that characteristic inflorescence yellow head atop a prickly, lanky stalk. So you ask, “why do we have so many growing here at school?”. Do they benefit the garden at all?

While it may not be a popular response among all gardeners, my answer is most certainly a yes. Less than seeing this golden bumper crop as a fierce stem-flexing competitor, we shall consider the tall beauty as more of a “companion” plant.

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Take for instance, this clever idea had by numerous Scarlet Runner Beans in need of a tall medium to stretch their lengthy vines – up the sunflower she goes! Each of the tiny red flowers, when pollinated, will grow into an edible, delicious, scarlet red bean.

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Given their placement throughout the garden, the numerous stalks and leaves provide protection from the gusty Southwestern winds and a bit of shady relief from the heat of the August Sun.

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And they are quite beautiful. If nothing else, the droves of sunflowers have caught the eyes of more daily Osage Ave commuters and passers-by with their brilliant yellow glow in the early morning light. And speaking of turning heads, did you know that sunflowers practice heliotropism in their early stages of growth? That is, the young flower heads face the rising sun and track it through the sky with a certain photosythetic obedience. But, as the flowers reach maturity they ultimately rest their faces to the East and remain in a steadfast gaze until the sun reaches lower on the horizon and the cool nights cause tiny yellow flowers to harden into seed.

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Personally (and I think I speak for the birds and the bees, too), these yellow giants have been delightful to say the least. While we may be a bit more adamant about regulating their growth next Spring, they’ve served a biological purpose here and have undoubtedly shaped the garden in a unique and fairytalesque kind of way. Thanks guys, take a bow!

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Growing & Grateful

Diligently performing their biological duties, green peppers hang from tiny stems and swell with a waxy sheen, stalks of corn shoot skyward displaying silky tassels full of small male flowers anxiously awaiting to begin their pollination dance, and plump tomatoes of all sizes dangle from their vines above bunches of marjoram and basil, taking on purple, yellow and red hues under the summer sun. The garden is growing and its maturation is thrilling.

As I walked through the garden today, noticing how many of those tiny starts have begun to bear fruit, I am reminded of where many of those vegetables came from.

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All of the garden’s kohlrabi (along with many herbs, flowers and other delectable veggies) are thanks to donations from Poki and Dominique and their lovely Gaia Gardens community farm off of the Arroyo Chamisa trail.

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These native Hatch Green Chilies were started from seed, donated by friends of Mollie Toll and Mary Brown – Liz Franzoy and her husband help run a chile farm in Southern New Mexico. Can’t wait to roast these babies in the horno!

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And these Winter Queen watermelons came from a box of donated seeds from the great gardeners at Plants of the Southwest. The melons from these plants will be used in a melon tasting run by Cooking with Kids this fall for Salazar’s K-2nd grade students.

They say gardening takes a community – thanks to all of those who’ve lent a hand!

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It’s Been A While…

Despite my absence here in the cyber-world, it is safe to say that the garden has not slowed in growth for a minute! Between the full heat of our holy Southwestern sun and the oh-so welcomed afternoon monsoon showers, the garden is green and vibrant.

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Thanks to an incredibly generous and enthusiastic group of summer volunteers, pesky weeds have been held at bay, raised beds have been seeded to the brim, and the anticipation of a full Fall harvest is building by the day. The garden has begun to take on a character unique to this season and all of those many hands which have helped shape it.

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Students will be returning next month to begin another school year at Salazar Elementary. As that first group of little ones wander onto campus, if they’re not too tempted by the jungle gym, they’ll make their way past the soccer field and over to the garden. I plan to be there on that first day, waiting to catch glimpse of the reactions, the looks on their faces when they see how their garden has grown over the summer. In this moment, the hard work will have been paid in full. See you then!

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