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Washington Youth Garden

Filtering by Tag: gardening

April Martin

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After being wowed by the sheer variety of produce springing out of our garden, I knew the second interview with Farmer Nadia would have to be about these edible wonders:

Farmer Nadia, what are three curious looking vegetables we can find in the garden and where are they from?

1.  We have some purple tomatoes donated by Practically Organic Farm in MD, purple string beans, purple basil and purple “Five Color Chinese Peppers.”

2.  Egyptian walking onions have these flowers at the top of their stems that are so heavy that they bend forward, touch the ground, re-seed, and re-root, thus walking across the garden

3.  Tomatillos look like little lanterns in a papery shell.  You use them to make salsa. Garden Assistant Heriberto makes a bomb diggity salsa with them!

Editor’s note:  I am also fascinated by the yellow zucchini, the sweet orange sungold cherry tomatoes and the normal colored, but oh-so-exotic pineapple plant. 

What is the most curious incident that has occurred lately in the garden?

Every night, there’s been a party in the corn maze and the partiers are not cleaning up after themselves.  When we report to work in the morning, there are corn cobs strewn everywhere.  I’m just not sure if the culprits are children hiding in the corn maze at night or animals…

Editor’s note 2:  The two raccoons and one squirrel we’ve managed to trap seem to indicate the latter, although maybe the children are just being extra sneaky.

That’s all for today, folks.  Thanks for visiting the Washington Youth Garden blog and come see all of these curious things with your own eyes!

SCA works with WYG

April Martin

It was a blazing hot week at the Washington Youth Garden, but that didn’t take away from the excitement the volunteers from Student Conservation Association (SCA) had.  "The garden is so beautiful, but it needs love,“ says one SCA member.  It takes a lot of tender love and care to maintain the different plots.  SCA helped by weeding, harvesting, and planting new plants.  "By working at the garden it helped teach me more about the environment and how things work. You really get in touch with all of your senses while being here,” another SCA member explains. They got to smell the different scents, taste the different plants, and see them expand or contract.  It was a fun first week and they are even more ready for the rest of the projects. 

Written by: Nandi (SCA crew member)

Interview with Farmer Nadia: Theme Gardens

April Martin

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Good afternoon, Farmer Nadia.  Today, I’d like to ask you about one of the amazing, kid-friendly features of our site, the theme gardens!

How did you decide which theme gardens to create this year?

The Pop Tart garden came from the lesson in Garden Science where we ask kids what percentage of Pop Tarts actually comes from strawberries.   The Pop Tart is actually made mostly of soy, wheat, corn and sugar (in our garden, the sugar cane plants).

Can you tell me what percentage of the Pop Tart IS made of strawberries?

Less than 2%.

Wow!  Now, I know you didn’t just plant a Pop Tart garden.  We have a MyPlate.gov garden, a corn maze, a cucumber tunneled melon patch and a lot more.  How do you come up with all of these great ideas?

Over the winter, there’s nothing to do but research and read about other gardens.

Are any of these just your own idea?

Original ideas are hard to come by these days.  It’s a wonderful process to research what others have been doing for hundreds of years, like one of my favorite theme gardens, the Three Sisters garden.

Wait, what is the Three Sisters garden?

The Three Sisters garden is a method of growing squash beans and corn all together in one small area.  They are called the three sisters because the three plants help each other grow.  The corn grows tall and straight and serves as a trellis for pole beans that grow vertically up the corn stalk.  The winter squash, like acorn or butternut, is a low growing vine that will serve as living mulch that shades the ground, keeping out weeds and keeping in moisture.  And I’m not done!  The beans, as part of the legume family, fix nitrogen into the soil, which is a very important nutrient for all plants, especially corn and squash, which are heavy feeders.

You’ve made this garden an inspiring and accessible place for children.  I’d like to conclude the beginning of our interview series by asking you for your own favorite childhood garden memory.

I don’t know if this counts, Charla.  I can’t really call this a garden, but there was a small grove of pine trees right outside of my baby sitters house where I spent many summers.  The floor of the pine grove was covered in pine needles and I would go into the pine grove, which was probably only 50’x50’.  But it was like my own secret place and I would climb up into the trees and get sap stuck all over my fingers and clothes.  It was just me and the pine trees and this special experience with nature.  In the youth garden, I find it really important to have shelters for kids, like the sunflower house or bean teepees or the cucumber tunnel or the corn maze, all of these plants that will envelop them and enclose them in edible forts.

Thank you for your time and all of your creative work!  I can’t wait until our next interview!

Companions in planting and learning

April Martin

WYG’s School Garden Coordinator Bethany Hanna Pokress taught Kindergarteners at Mary McLeod Bethune PCS about the benefits of companion planting by planting a Three Sisters garden in Bethune’s outdoor learning garden.

Students planted corn, bean and squash seeds in the three large containers at the entrance of the school. Stay tuned for photos and updates on our partner schools’ burgeoning garden beds!

You can read more about the Iroquois tradition of Three Sisters gardening here.