Garden Club – Harvest Celebration

by Angela Stanford

Garden Club Week 5 – Eating the Fruits of Our Labor

Today was the last session of Sycamore’s Spring Garden Club.   After the kids finished eating their lunches and fed their scraps to the red wigglers,  we headed over to check on the progress of our tomatoes and herbs.  Lo and behold, we found several blossoms replaced with little green tomatoes.  How exciting!

Fruits of our labor – first tomato

Since these little green tomatoes will take another month or two to produce enough fruit to make pizza and salad for 25 hungry fourth graders, (and we will be well into summer break by then) we supplemented the basil and bought some organic tomatoes to top the cheese pizza they enjoyed.  They also enjoyed eating “pizza poppers” by wrapping the chopped tomatoes with a basil leaf and popping into into their mouths.  Many kids were pleasantly surprised how delicious this simple little snack can be.  (Another version includes wrapping up a bit of fresh mozzarella and a cherry tomato with a basil leaf.)  Mmmmm!

two thumbs up for pizza made with garden fresh tomatoes and basil

While the kids were eating, we brainstormed other ways the kids could make pizza with basil and tomatoes at home.  For example, they could toast an english muffin, pita bread or piece of naan, spread pizza sauce on top and then top it with chopped tomatoes, shredded basil leaves and shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese and then pop it in the toaster oven or under the broiler (with help from a grown up, of course) and yum.  It’s pizza time!

Here is another quick and easy way to enjoy eating fresh garden produce on your pizza.

Arugula & Cherry Tomato Pizza with Feta Cheese

Pre-baked pizza crust or whole grain tortillas or Naan

olive oil

parmesan cheese

3 cups arugula –coarsely chopped from your garden

15-20 cherry tomatoes – halved from your garden

2 tsp lemon juice, fresh

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

pinch of kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Optional toppings:  pine nuts, olives, feta cheese, chopped fresh basil or other herbs from your garden

-Brush pre-paked pizza crust/tortilla/naan with olive oil.  Warm in oven or toaster oven according to package directions or 5-7 minutes depending on how crisp you want your crust.

-Cover with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 2 minutes until cheese is lightly brown.

-While cheese is melting, toss arugula, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and optional toppings together.

-Gently cover pizza with topping while crust is still warm.

-Serves 4 as a light lunch.  Enjoy!

4rth grade gardeners with Angela Stanford and Kim Lawrence enjoying their garden

A big shout out to Mr. Lawrence, Sycamore’s Science Specialist and my partner with this project to help kids learn about where there food comes from and how the choices they make about food affect their health and the health of the environment.

See you next session  Until then….


Garden Club Visits Backyard and Patio Garden

Week 4 – Backyard Garden Tour

This week during our lunchtime garden club, the 4th grade gardeners learned what food and paper items are great for composting.   Upon finishing their lunch, the kids fed their lunch scraps to red wiggler worms in our Worm Cafe outside the science lab and then took a field trip to my backyard garden to explore what is “springing up.”

Mrs. Lawrence & 4rth grade gardeners feed worms in worm cafe

As we entered the garden, I told the kids they were entering a “nursery” where many baby plants are growing and over the next 2-3 months will grow and yield a bountiful amount of fruits and vegetables bursting with color.    As we walked through the strawberry patch, we talked about how strawberries and the sugar snap peas growing next to them are already producing food in early Spring while the mung beans now showing their leaves will soon follow and the blueberries are not far behind them.

Angela explains how you can grow many foods in small spaces in your back yard, or in containers on your patio

As we passed the herbs in pots and the green tomato plants in their Earthboxes starting to climb their trelaces,  we talked about how every blossom now appearing will soon be replaced with a colorful tomato ripe for eating in a couple of months.

smelling fragrant lemon blossoms

The kids also got to smell the fragrant blossoms on the meyer lemon tree that will drop and turn into green bulbs that in early March turn into yellow producing the most delicious fruit!

Angela demos composting kitchen scraps into the Tumbleweed composter

Lastly, we visited the compost bin and loaded up my Tumbleweed compost bin with food scraps form my kitchen and gave it a spin!  Mrs. Lawrence and I then explained the differences between how the composter breaks down food by incorporating oxygen with the spinning to help the microbes break down the scraps and turn them into compost, where the worms in the Worm Cafe eat the food scraps and turn it into worm castings which also make excellent compost!

See you next week!

Garden Club Brings Wall to Life

Week 3 – Planting the Living Wall

living, vertical wall of color

What a fun time I had with the 4th grade gardeners and Mrs. Lawrence this week planting this vertical garden of live color outside the Multipurpose Room on the Sycamore Valley Elementary school campus.

“diapering the plants”

The smiles on the kids faces were priceless as they wrapped up their flowers and herbs into these black felt squares that we laughingly called “black diapers.”

ready to plant in living wall

The felt holds the roots securely together and holds in moisture when the plant is tucked into it’s pouch on the vertical wall.

tucking plants into pouches on the wall

The kids tucked their plants into the 48 felt pouches on the wall. All members of the club will take turns watering the living wall as well as the Earthboxes according to a schedule set up by Mrs. Lawrence, our 4th grade science teacher and my partner on this wonderful project.

School Garden – veggies, flowers, herbs & sign

After all the plants were tucked into their pouches on the wall, the kids reviewed the watering schedule set up by Mrs. Lawrence to know when each member is responsible for watering the Earthbox through the remainder of the school year.

The Living Wall units will also water the Earthboxes from the water that drips out of the bottom row of pouches. This is an excellent lesson of water conservation which Mrs. Lawrence and I will discuss at our next meeting.

Lastly, Mrs. Lawrence and I , with the help of Manuel our ever helpful custodial engineer, hung the Garden Club sign the kids made above the Living Wall .

A big shout out to Plants on Walls ( in San Francisco for their generous support with our Living Wall project.

No Garden Club next week.  In two weeks the kids will be touring my organic garden, learning about composting and enjoying a lunch on the lawn among the flowers and trees.

Sycamore Elementary Spring Garden Club

sprinkling water while preparing the Earthbox

On Thursday April 19th, science teacher Kim Lawrence joined me and 24 fourth graders at Sycamore Valley Elementary School to kick off the Spring session of our Garden Club that meets on Thursdays at lunchtime. We have 6 weeks of fun planned to teach these eager little gardeners about where their food comes from, the power food has to make them healthy and strong, and how to care for the earth to grow more nutritious food.

During our time together, we will be growing tomatoes & herbs in Earthboxes, learning about worm composting by feeding scraps from the kids lunches and planting a living wall to adorn our school with live art!

While the kids ate their lunches, I talked to them about the different parts of a plant and each of them shared examples of some of their favorite foods of these parts – root (carrot), stem (celery), leaf (spinach), blossom (cauliflower), fruit (strawberry), seeds (sunflower seeds).

adding soil to the Earthbox

After eating, we assembled the two Earthboxes that the fourth graders will plant tomatoes and herbs in next week. The kids then took turns filling the Earthbox with handfuls of organic soil, dolomite and organic fertilizer. In our last few minutes together, they learned about how the plants will get their water from a reservoir at the bottom of the box rather than from water sprinkled on top of the seeds. More on watering and developing a watering schedule in a couple of weeks!

making garden club sign

The kids finished up by decorating and signing their name to our Garden Club sign that will hang above the Living Wall we will be planting outside the MPR.

creativity displayed on school campus using recycled materials to celebrate Earth Day

To celebrate Earth Day this week, I couldn’t help but post this photo of all the terrific artwork displayed on the school grounds.  It really brought to life how colorful life can be when we teach our children how to honor and care of our Earth.

Next week – planting the pizza garden!