Snowy landscapes and comforting spaces

Hello friends!

Even though it has been snowy and freezing cold in our garden with not much happening…..img_3739 img_3740

….I’d like to share these warming thoughts from our school garden partners/sponsors. The Sage Garden Project works with gardens all across the county and state. The stated purpose of my blog is to make a case for school gardens from every conceivable angle and here’s yet another:

Your School’s Garden As A Healing Place
Thoughts, Experiences, and Ideas from the Sage Garden Project Staff

It would be disingenuous to publish a newsletter full of recipes and growing tips without speaking to the anguish and upset that many of our students are experiencing currently. The schools we support range from those filled with families serving in the military to those filled with immigrants from Mexico and others with large populations specifically from the Middle East. More than ever, we hope that the Sage Garden Project provides a common ground – where students do not compete, but rather work together, learn together, and ultimately, break bread together. More than ever, it is our hope that school gardens can be a respite, a place of solace, of peace, rest, and beauty. We have often found our sensitive students wishing to sit in a quiet spot in the garden in order to escape the chaos of the recess playground. Perhaps now would be the perfect time to create a calm corner of your garden that is a special spot, welcome to all quiet comers. Some schools have special “I could use a friend” benches, some have “time-out” spots. Whatever you choose to anoint your spot, consider stocking it with books, art supplies, and suggestions of garden projects that interested students could take up, and get their minds off their problems in the process. Let’s work toward making our gardens places to nurture our children’s whole selves, in addition to feeding their bellies.

Garden Fashion: Say yes to the t-shirt

I know what you’re thinking…cool season vegetables and microscope work and educational outcomes are all very well and good, but what are garden educators wearing this season?

It’s a slow news week in the garden, so let’s take a peek into my garden-forward wardrobe:

This tee represents the genre of conference souvenir.  You’ll remember I loved my time at the Edible Schoolyard, so I love remembering it with this rooster.


Related to the conference shirt is the “organizations I support” look.


Ripped from Friday Night Lights, this tee makes people think I am a football fan.  Which I am not.  But I loved that show, and I love this sentiment.


Found on an internet search for gardening shirts.  I couldn’t resist adding one more take on the “keep calm” craze.


Is there a day when we don’t need to remember this?  A gift from a friend purchased at Sherry Horton’s gorgeous Julian shop, E. Barrett General Store.


My husband went to Peru and brought back a t-shirt with a drawing of a stuffed pepper, a local delicacy apparently.  True love.


Purchased on the clearance table at the Monticello gift shop.  I guess I’m one of the few that couldn’t resist a drawing of an eggplant— the most beautiful plant, according to Jefferson.


Another trip tee—this one from the Washington Mall during cherry blossom season.


Local food t-shirts work well in the garden.


Let’s not forget the event t-shirt—my go-to baseball-style shirt for our annual Food Day celebrations.


Naturally, I have a couple school spirit numbers:


And I’ve saved my favorite for last:  a Tracey Allen original.  This is “Choose Kindness.”  See her lovely designs here!



In closing, I should mention that any of the above shirts can be paired with jeans and tennis shoes.  Or a funky skirt and sandals.  Hats optional, minimal accessories. The options are endless in the world of garden fashion!


Early morning wonders

Beginning to tidy up the garden for this weekend’s tour, I opened the small cedar hutch and found myself looking directly at this:


I immediately closed the door and ran to get my favorite fifth grade entomologist out of class.


The swallowtail must have been drying its wings because it was perfectly still, allowing us to move the box to which it was attached and put it under a tree.


Avery and I spent a good ten minutes taking pictures and video, making observations just inches away, and marveling together.  It was wonder-full.

Here’s another wonderful thing: I knew her teacher would allow me to take her out for ten minutes, missing a bit of class time, for this teachable moment.  Thanks Mrs. Croman.

What’s worthy of a 100th post? Compost!

The glories of compost….much ink has been spilled on this everyday miracle.  Scraps of food that transform into “black gold” with leaves, water, air, time, and microbial mechanics. It’s poetry pay dirt, and it happens under our noses.

Our compost system at school is a passive system.  In other words, we don’t get around to turning it very often and only harvest it about twice a year.  Nonetheless, the magic still happens.

Garden Ambassador turning the bin with a pitchfork at recess:


Fourth grade students sifted the bottom layer of the bin into the wheelbarrow using stacked plant trays.


Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: the fruit and vegetable leftovers from Julian Elementary, ready for our next planting!


Gardening: so complicated, so easy

Two weeks ago the topic in Master Gardeners was temperate fruit trees.  As we reviewed all of the things that can negatively affect fruit set, I had this overwhelming thought:

How does anything grow at all when there are so many things that can go wrong?

Really, a gardener could get freaked out looking into all of the variables that allow a healthy plant to grow.  Consider the odds against fruiting—abscission of bud and flowers, weather, competition, disease, insect pests, shade, improper pruning…..

But then this is also true:  you can buy a tomato plant, put it in soil, water it regularly and you will probably get a tomato.  And you will most likely be blind to all of the things that conspired together to make things go right.

I find that a lot of gardening—life itself?—is about holding these two things in tension.

1)  It’s complicated.  Lots of things can go wrong, and lots of things can go right.  As we meet hard stuff with courage and persistence and faith, we ought to meet the good stuff with some deep gratitude. I will truly never look at fruits and vegetables the same way again because everything I have learned has taught me that they are nothing short of miracles.

2) It’s simple.  I think it’s important to slow down and demystify things so that we don’t get overwhelmed and paralyzed by them—things like gardening and scratch cooking and raising children and car maintenance.  We ought not to overcomplicate things.  We try, learn, experiment, fail, succeed, and ultimately, make progress.  At the end of the day, we’ll probably have grown something good.

Exhibit A: a wisteria vine growing up our pergola:

And here’s the wisteria vine we planted six feet away, same soil, same orientation, same watering and care.

Yep, nothing there.  It died, and I have no idea why. See? Complicated.

But then there’s this: artichokes.

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries

Photo courtesy of Marisa McFedries










The upside of zone 7

Although I live in San Diego County, I live in the mountains at 4,200 feet.  I wouldn’t trade life in our little town, but I admit that I am prone to other zone envy.  Thinking about my gardening brethren “down the hill” growing lemons…and avocados…and year-round vegetables…and those gorgeous ornamentals that love the coastal fog……well, it sometime makes me a little jealous.

But here is one of the advantages of zone 7:

Winter!  And winter in gardens generally means there’s nothing to do for a while.  Last week we had unseasonably warm weather.  And much like the apricot tree which broke dormancy because the weird high temperatures seemed to tell it to do so, I too was fighting the irrational feeling that it wasn’t really winter and I should be gardening now.  

Snow settles it, telling me:  rest for a little bit.  Spring will be here soon enough.

That is, if it weren’t for….

Indoor projects! (Cedar garden hutch awaiting assembly in my garage!)