Composting, Rain Barrels & Sails, Oh My!

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. — Alfred Austin

It has been roughly a month since the last blog post and oh what a month it has been! The end of April brought us the start of composting at CRA. Two new compost bins were installed in the garden and students began their efforts collecting food scraps on campus and adding them to the bins. We will be making our own soil!

Rain barrels have been installed and the middle schoolers are working hard using their project based learning skills to get the water from the rain barrels to the garden in order to provide much needed water to the garden and the plants within it.

And thanks to the many families that save their box tops! Their efforts raised over $1100 for the sails that were installed in the garden last week! These sails will provide much needed shade in our learning garden. Also thanks to the members of the garden committee that came out on a Saturday to see that they were installed!

And last but not least…the garden has exploded with growth in the last month! The garden is giving the students the opportunity to connect with the natural environment, improves the attitudes towards fruits and vegetables, provides real life problem solving opportunities, the chance to learn about key science concepts, and additionally gives the students another forum in which to learn and practice math skills. What an amazing teacher the garden is for our students!

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Transformations

Spring is a time for many transformations, the temperature begins to rise, trees that lost their leaves during the winter begin to blossom and grow, the hours of daylight increase and the days get longer. Transformations can be seen in the CRA Discover Garden as well. The planter boxes are being switched out, seedlings are sprouting in the green house, the students are learning and growing as much as the plants they tend. What a glorious time to be a part of the CRA Discover Garden!
On behalf of the CRA Community we would like to express gratitude to the following  individuals and families:
Thank you to the
Hersons for donating the materials for the new wood planting beds
McDermots for buying the plants for planting
Haydens for donating time and resources to improve the garden irrigation
Tina Kachini for creating whimsical garden signage
Lyndsey McCraw for leading our parent team of volunteers this year
Cynthia Price for sharing her knowledge and passion
It takes a village.
Pictures from the “Worker Bee Day”
Greenhouse Seedlings
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The new wooden raised beds
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Spring has sprung!

Spring is here and exciting things have been taking place in the garden! The children and the garden committee are working hard to prepare for the growing season and make updates to the patch. One of the goals this year was to replace all the stone garden beds with redwood plank beds. Progress is being made on this goal and most of the beds have now been switched out. This change has created more space in the walkways and within the garden beds themselves. It also gives the garden a cleaner look and has given the garden committee the chance to put in weed and critter barriers. Check out the changes for yourself when you get a chance.

The garden committee began a regular watering schedule in the greenhouse this week. They are nurturing and tending to seeds that the students have planted for the growing season. Check back regularly in the coming months as we will be posting updates and images with information on the latest happenings!

Enjoy some images from the sky that were taken back in November of 2017.

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Beautification

We have had some crazy weather this winter, filled with rain and rainbows and along with it came a messy, weedy, water swept little garden patch at CRA. All the pretty growing beds were no longer surrounded by clean pathways. To make it look beautiful again and to prevent further weeds and wash away would take a little miracle. This came to CRA through both a very generous donation of 10,000 pounds of gravel and lots of sweat and muscle from scholars, faculty, and parent volunteers.

Before 10,000 pounds of gravel + sweat and muscle

We are extremely thankful for Gary Herson at HPD Custom Home Remodeling along with Home Depot Santa Ana for donating 10,000 pounds of gravel to transform our little patch back to the beautiful garden we all love. And so the gravel arrived…

But before the gravel could be laid down between the beds clean up was needed. Kinder, 5th and 6th grades put in lots of sweat to clean up the patch to ready it for the gravel to make it beautiful again. And let us not forget the parent volunteers who are always a huge help in making all these transformations possible. And so in 3 short days, they worked away to transform the patch…

Time had arrived for the 10,000 pounds of gravel and this is what it looked like…
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And then it was time for gravel to fill the pathways between the beds! With some milk cartons converted to shovels, a lot of little helpers, and parent volunteers the gravel was moved from a mountain to the pathways…

And now for the big reveal…

If you are in need of any home remodeling please consider supporting HPD Custom Home Remodeling who have been so generous in supporting our school. You can learn more about them at
hpdcontractors.com

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This coming month everyone will be busy little bees again as the second round of planting begins – so stay tuned.

Food and Water

In order for plants to grow, they need a little help! Just like humans, they require a healthy dose of nutrients and a good supply of water in order to reach their healthiest growth potential. 7th-graders got to experience both essential requirements for growth during their time in the patch. On a nice rainy day (water – check) they learned all about composting (nutrients – check). Led by Mark Hay, the 7th-graders were taught what it takes to make nutrient rich compost that is used to enhance the soil in the planting beds. They were joined by Cynthia Price, Eve Fein, and Ms. K. The rain did not deter the 7th-graders as they got their hands dirty while examining the different stages of composting. Enjoy the beautiful photos that captured the rainy day.

It’s a WRAP

A lettuce wrap that is! With an abundance of lettuce growing in the patch lets take a look at fun facts about lettuce and gain some nutritional knowledge about the second most popular fresh vegetable consumed in America.

Did you know, California produces 75% of the head lettuce for the United States? What is head lettuce you may ask? Well, it is the lettuce that grows to form a head, such as Iceberg or Butterhead lettuce. Other types of lettuce are Loose-leaf lettuce such as red leaf or green leaf and Romaine lettuce.

Before lettuce was cultivated on farms it was a weed in the Mediterranean basin where it was collected and used in traditional dishes for over 4500 years. Lettuce images have also been found engraved on Egyptian tombs a fun fact for 6th graders who have just finished learning about Egyptians. Lettuce came to the United States via Europe and since its humble beginnings, it has had a successful history as the star ingredient in many a salad.

Iceberg, the lettuce consumed most frequently in the USA got its name right here in California. Farmers used to ship the lettuce by railroads covered in a mountain of ice to keep it fresh, and so the name stuck. Even though iceberg lettuce has the highest consumption it cannot boast about nutritional value seeing it has one of the lowest of the lettuce family. But not to be discouraged, of the 19 different lettuce varieties plenty offer a power punch of nutrition. An easy way to help identify what lettuce has the most nutrients is by the color of the leaves. The darker the lettuce leaves the higher the nutritional value. Generally, lettuce has some fiber, a high water content, and depending on the color of the leaves an assortment of Vitamin A, K, and C, a small amount of calcium, protein, and Omega-3s.

And the most surprising fact about lettuce is that it is a member of the daisy family. That makes it a distant cousin to the glorious sunflower.

In our little patch, the second-graders have been busy harvesting and tasting the lettuce they have grown. I have to say it looks very impressive what they accomplished. Well done second grade!

Miss Cho’s class harvested an abundance of lettuce

Miss Ohlig’s class sampling lettuce they just harvested

Miss Klivan’s class in action harvesting their crop of lettuce

It is all about the WORMS!

Did someone say WORMS!  How about hundreds of worms?  Last week the 5th-grade students enjoyed their hands on garden experience learning about the benefits of worms in the garden beds. Mike and Mandy from Harvest To Home were our special guest volunteers and provided us with all the worms. www.harvesttohome.com Thank you also to all the parents that sent in eggshells and coffee grounds!

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The students started off by crumbling and crunching eggshells with their gloved hands and sprinkling them into the corners of the beds.  They then proceeded to take handfuls of coffee grinds and gently massaged these into the dirt.  Next came the exciting part of handling the red squirmy earthworms! The students covered the garden, placing hundreds of them throughout the garden beds.  We all learned that worms help to enrich the soil and that their excrement provides rich nutrients that support plant growth.  Feeding on the eggshells and coffee grinds helps the worms grow, reproduce, and thrive in the garden which helps to make the garden thrive.

Laura McDermott