Welcome to our last Kitchen-Garden newsletter for 2022!
In order to provide shelter and safety for beneficial bugs to ‘set up home’, breed, pollinate, rest, and eat other pests, the children are constructing a bug hotel. In small teams, they are foraging for natural and recycled materials to design and arrange within the confines of an old car tire. It’s really interesting to watch how each team brainstorms to bring it all together in their own unique way. They are then using flowers from the garden to ‘embellish’ the hotel.
Strong growth in the garden
Our pumpkin vine has made its way over the arched trellis. There is a happy-looking pumpkin growing right at the top which may need some support while it grows larger over the Christmas period. This might look like some old pantyhose or a shirt tied underneath the pumpkin fruit to help support its weight.
One of our zucchinis got away from us and it was a whopper! It no longer reassembled the usual ‘zucchini’ look. It was pale and looked more like a slim pumpkin or some kind of ‘melon’. The children enjoyed the guessing game and cutting it open to save the seeds and see what it looked like inside.
Saving seeds and new plants
This term we have started to save some seeds from plants reaching the end of their natural life cycles such as Snow peas and Broccolini. Both of these plants are not suited to a super hot climate and prefer to grow during our mild winters. Both snow peas and broccolini grow their seeds inside a ‘pod’, which is why they are so fun for the children to open, revealing the seeds.
This can feel quite therapeutic and we have watched the children enjoy the process while we talk about plants that offer us seeds, and others that provide us seed within a fruit.
Two new mulberry trees were planted this term by Laci.D in 1M. These were propagated in spring using cuttings taken from my home garden. We plan to espalier the trees. This is a technique where the tree branches are trained to grow along a flat surface like a wall or trellis. This makes the fruit easy to access, saves space, controls the growth, allows good airflow through the branches, and it’s also considered an art form!
Blueberries were in absolute abundance this term. We have three blueberry bushes so all students had a chance to harvest and taste some fresh blueberries. They were a hit. Many students have never had the opportunity to harvest fresh fruit before, so this was quite special.
This term we reviewed many of the topics covered in our morning discussions.
Beneficial and harmful pests
These included the various ways we have attempted to discourage pests in the garden while inviting the beneficial insects in. Building netted structures to protect soft vegetables from the fruit fly. Making fruit-fly traps from recycled cream containers. Crafting faux moths from recycled milk containers to deter the cabbage moth. Using a soapy spray to stop the sucking action of the aphids on our orange trees. Building a bug hotel to provide a habitat for insects. Providing food and habitat by planting things like dill, zinnias, and other ‘umbel’ flowers or hairy-leaved plants and stems to encourage beneficial insects into the garden. Providing a water source for bugs.
The last point we covered was polyculture. We looked at how polyculture can aid us in minimizing the impact of detrimental bugs. We looked at photos of two different gardens. Garden one was planted with rows and rows of corn plants only. Garden two was diverse, interplanted with many different plant species, just like our school kitchen garden.
The children imagined being an insect whose favourite food was corn. Garden number one was like a buffet for them. Whilst in garden number two, it was much harder to locate their food source given all the different scents, textures, colours, and predators!
This is just one reason why diversity in a garden is so important.
We have started to look at the composting systems in our space. We currently have two ‘tumbling’ systems that have grabbed the children’s attention at various stages this year. The ‘spinning’ motion is quite enticing to them and they enjoy giving them a whirl. In order to understand how composting works, the children were provided with the ‘ingredients’ to construct a miniature compost within a glass jar.
Dry ingredients such as shredded paper, egg cartons, dry leaves, and small twigs are mixed with wet ingredients: grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps.
We add a small amount of water as we want the compost to be damp but not dripping. We can add a small amount of soil, as this gives the compost a boost of microorganisms/microbes (including bacteria) which is the most important factor in the breakdown of these materials.
We must leave space for ‘oxygen’ in a compost system. In the glass jar, this meant we didn’t overfill the jar, allowing space for the jar to be ‘spun’ and oxygen to become trapped in the spaces within it, just like the two tumbler systems in our garden space (these have air holes in the lid).
After spinning, (mixing the wet and dry ingredients) the jar must be left with the lid off. Bacteria need oxygen to sustain their life while they decompose (break down) materials within the compost.
We concluded by looking at various microscopic organisms in a video entitled: ‘How many living things are in a drop of dirty water?’ By Sci-Inspi on YouTube (fascinating).
I have felt very inspired by the amount of knowledge the children have been able to reflect back to us from our time in the garden these past six months. It has been a true pleasure and blessing to spend time with your lovely children in 2022.
Our rainbow chard (silverbeet) has been consistently throwing out its bright pink/red stems since spring began and we finally had the chance to utilize it in a recipe.
Please see our latest recipes below. May you enjoy it!
Parmesan Green beans with zucchini, garlic, and bacon.
Serves 30 ‘tastes’.
1 tsp olive oil or butter (dairy)
2 large handfuls of Green beans
2 zucchinis, zoodles!
3 bacon mid-rashers
1 tsp minced garlic
Half a cup of parmesan cheese (dairy)
Rice noodles, leftovers (optional)
Heat oil/butter in a frypan.
Cut beans and bacon into bite-sized pieces (1-2 cm).
Add to a frying pan on medium heat.
Add minced garlic to the pan, and stir through.
Spiralize zucchini and cook briefly before serving.
Add cooked rice noodles (optional)
Add a pinch of salt,
Remove beans from heat, and serve with parmesan cheese (dairy).
Check all allergens before serving.
Ginger and sultana couscous
Serves 30 ‘tastes’.
2 cups of dry couscous (wheat, gluten)
1 cup boiling water
1 handful of garlic chives, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
Large handful of chard stems and leaf, finely chopped
¼ cup of sultanas, roughly chopped
Half an orange, chopped into small segments (optional) (citrus allergen)
Dressing: (make in a jar)
3 tbsp lemon juice (citrus allergen)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ginger marmalade (note: refined sugars)
Place couscous in a heat-proof bowl and add boiling water, cover and stand for 5 min until water is absorbed. Use a fork to ‘fluff’ the grains.
Add all chopped ingredients to the couscous.
Use a glass jar to make the dressing. Add dressing ingredients & shake to combine.
Add dressing to couscous and mix gently to combine.
Extra note: Swiss Chard / Silverbeet/ Rainbow chard:
Potassium – Our bodies do not make potassium, so we need to eat foods that contain potassium such as bananas, chard, and milk! We lose potassium when we sweat. Potassium helps our bodies to maintain our water balance (hydration). It also helps our muscles to work properly.
Check all allergens before serving. Citrus, wheat, gluten (possibly dairy and egg in couscous). Serve warm or cold.
Have a wonderfully happy and safe Christmas,
Nicole Young, Kitchen Garden Coordinator.
You can see all the photos HERE without going into Pixevety.