A school garden in the school pool

Photo credit: New Zealand Gardener

Andrew Farquhar/Contemporary Creative

Pupils at Wairakei School in Taupo tend the veges growing in their aquaponics system

How a Taupo primary school pool became a vegetable garden

by CHRISTINE RUSH

What do you get when you cross a former swimming pool, some keen pupils and a whole heap of goldfish? A highly productive aquaponics system.

Wairakei Primary School in Taupo has what is thought to be the only school aquaponics unit in New Zealand. Officially opened in May, it is the culmination of three years planning and fundraising, says teacher aide and Enviroschools leader Diana Fitzsimmons.

The school used to have outdoor gardens but due to the chilly climate and light pumice soil, nothing grew.

“Adding compost and nutrients didn’t help and they were costing a fortune,” says Diana.

At the same time the swimming pool was decommissioned. The pupils came up with ideas for the space: a skateboard park, flying fox, spongeball pit, trampoline or garden.

“They went through pros and cons and how they would run them, and came up with one with the most benefit for school and community: an aquaponics unit.”

Local businesses and tradesmen helped supply and fit the plumbing, equipment and electrics. The pool area is covered with a FlexiTunnel and needs little maintenance.

Read the full article: New Zealand Gardener

A Youth Garden Project

Photo credit: Food Tank

The Youth Garden Project serves about 870 students from their community through their field trips and after-school activities.
Youth Garden Project

Raising Excitement at the Youth Garden Project

The Youth Garden Project (YGP) covers one and a half acres leased from Grand County High School in Moab, Utah and offers hands-on learning opportunities for youth and community members. YGP advocates for more local and organically grown food as well as community involvement, beginning with the children. Additionally, YGP provides the local high school with fresh food for school lunches. By teaching students how to grow their own vegetables and fruits, YGP is cultivating excitement about food.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Delite Primus, Executive Director at The Youth Garden Project.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Delite Primus (DP): The Youth Garden Project sees education as a vital part of creating a better food system. We use our garden as an educational platform to teach others how to grow food using organic growing techniques. We also engage kids in the process of growing food which often leads to our youth trying new fruits and vegetables and becoming excited about what they are eating!

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

DP: In 2014, we began to work with the local high school to provide fresh salad greens for the school lunch salad bar. This connects students with the food being grown right next to their school, and often times middle school and high school students are themselves involved in growing the salad greens that they are later eating. We’ve begun to offer other vegetables, as they are available, and beginning in the Fall of 2015 hope to begin educating students about their food during the lunch period. This project is something we are proud of because it includes many aspects of our mission and is the start of changing food options for our local students.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

Read the full article: Food Tank

Primary school gardening competition

Photo of the lucky winners. Left to right they are: Lily-Grace Lamb, P2 at Gullane (2nd), Amber Weatherhead, P5 at Pencaitland (3rd) and Amy Duncan, P1 at Athelstaneford (1st). – http://cdn1.clydeandforthpress.co.uk/img/2015/07/03/lc2015630p01_dasd_v01.2.jpg14359320061445033109.jpg

Young wildlife lovers create spectacular gardens

A slugs and snails hotel, a ladybird wheelbarrow and a bug house were among the entries by local children to Merryhatton Garden Centre’s school gardening competition.

The competition, designed to encourage youngsters to try their hand at gardening, gave primary pupils the challenge of creating a miniature wildlife garden. Entrants were able to use any kind of container they liked, and could choose to use plants and garden materials, or to make their garden from craft supplies.

Open to all primary schools across East Lothian, entries came in from Musselburgh to Dunbar and from P1 to P7.

Merryhatton owner Helen MacDonald said: “We were amazed at the creativity displayed in every single entry we received. So much thought and attention to detail had clearly gone into every entry. Judging was an extremely difficult job. So much so, that as well as the three main prize winners, we’ve offered all entrants a voucher for a free ice cream sundae in our cafe in recognition of all their efforts!”

The first prize was awarded to Amber Duncan in P1 at Athelstaneford Primary School for her wildlife garden party. The judges were very impressed by her colourful garden and her attention to detail, particularly in view of her age. Amber won a £20 Merryhatton voucher for herself and a £100 voucher for her school to spend on gardening supplies.

Read the full article: East Lothian Courier

Children love your garden

Photo credit: New Haven Register

See how the kids grow as they ‘work’ in the family garden

By Lauren Knight

EXCERPT

Gardening is a lot of work — it’s muddy and messy, and sometimes pests or weather can destroy best laid plans. So why bother? The benefits of gardening for children are many. Children learn responsibility, cause-and-effect, and a greater understanding and appreciation for nature and its workings.

A child who gardens has a better understanding of where her food comes from and an appreciation of the process and work that goes into producing healthy food. A seed patiently nurtured and protected will grow and produce and give back, and all that hard work can boost a child’s confidence. Plus, gardening is excellent physical activity: There’s tilling the soil, carting fresh compost by wheelbarrow, seed-planting, then weeding and watering and maintenance of the garden.

Another benefit to gardening is obvious: nutrition. Our boys are hesitant to eat many vegetables placed on their plates at dinner time, but they willingly and happily munch on fresh cucumbers, berries, snap peas, peppers, mint, basil, and even raw kale leaves they have plucked from the garden themselves. Sun-warmed cherry tomatoes are sweet as candy; sugar snap peas split open to reveal tender peas within.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the discovery that our children would seek out the garden just to spend time there. There is so much life to explore! Crouched amid kale plants 3 feet high, they pick caterpillars off the leaves and collect them in small buckets. They gently scoop up ladybugs and earthworms to examine them. The occasional praying mantis brings shrieks of glee.

Read the full article: New Haven Register

The beauty and significance of a school garden

Photo credit: Inquirer.net

THIS vegetable garden at Bonuan Boquig Elementary School in Dagupan City, tended with the help of Grade V and VI pupils, shows visitors the ways of growing food in limited areas. WILLIE LOMIBAO/ CONTRIBUTOR

See the bottle towers along the building and the horizontal bottles (left)

This school garden responds to community’s food needs

by Gabriel Cardinoza, Yolanda Sotelo | Inquirer Northern Luzon

DAGUPAN CITY—The backyard of the Bonuan Boquig Elementary School here is a cornucopia of vegetables grown in discarded oil cans and plastic soda bottles, which are stacked neatly in rows or hang vertically from chicken wire fences. One of the fences is lined with pechay sprouting out of discarded rubber boots filled with soil.

The school’s main pathway leads to a vertical garden tower of recycled containers planted with tomatoes, eggplants and okra.

This poor man’s hydroponic and aquaponic garden, which is tended with the help of Grade V and VI pupils, exposes visitors to ways of growing food in areas without big farmlands.

The garden was built two years ago by school principal Manuel Ferrer, and was the school’s winning entry to the “Gulayan sa Paaralan” competition in this city. In November 2013, Ferrer embarked on a project to turn the empty spaces of the school yard into a vegetable garden.

I did this at the school where I was assigned before, and I wanted to show the students that it is possible to grow their own vegetables,” he said.

Ferrer was the principal for three and half years at Carael Elementary School here. That school’s garden also won the top prize of the Gulayan sa Paaralan contest for two successive years.

To city residents, the garden is a relaxing deviation. As soon as they see the tower garden set up in the 3-meter yard separating two school buildings, visitors immediately encounter 10 evenly spaced plastic drums, each pierced with neatly arranged holes from where romaine lettuce plants protrude for a taste of sun and air, and for easy harvesting.

At the top of the drums sit marigold shrubs, which are natural insect repellents.

Read the full article: Inquirer.net

Alleviating food crisis with small gardens

Photo credit: Eng. Taleb Brahim 2008-02

Vegetable production in the Sahara desert

Eng. Taleb Brahim in Smara refugee camp (S.W. Algeria)

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis

by Willem Van Cotthem

Drought is described as a very important environmental constraint, limiting plant growth and food production. The World Food Program (WFP) has recently indicated drought in Australia as one of the major factors for the difficulty to deliver food aid to millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Drought is seen as the force driving up wheat and rice prices, which contributes directly to food shortage, social unrest and disturbances at the global level. Therefore, mitigating drought and limiting water consumption seems to be essential factors for resolving the actual food crisis and to find long-term solutions to malnutrition, hunger and famine, particularly in the drylands.

Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

As the world’s population is growing by about 78 million people a year, it affects life on this earth in a very dramatic way. Droughts have caused a rise of food prices many times before, but the present situation is quite different, because it is based on specific trends and facts : the faster growing world population and a definite change in international food consumption trends and habits.

Promoted by Migeru


[editor’s note, by Migeru]

Some experts claim that “major investments to boost world food output will keep shortages down to the malnutrition level in some of the world’s poorer nations”, and that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields can create a lot of small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”.

It seems quite difficult to believe that “major investments to boost the food output” will be able to “keep the food shortages down to the malnutrition level”, wherever in this world. Indeed, the world’s most famous research institutes have already developed very effective technologies to boost food production in the most adverse conditions of serious drought and salinity. Yet, not one single organization has ever decided, up to now, to use “major investments” to apply such technologies in large-scale programs, which would most certainly change the food situation in the world’s poorest nations.

It seems also difficult to believe that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields” will be able to create “small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”. It is not by improving a farm’s infrastructure that one will manage drought. Although a number of technological solutions to boost farm yields have already been developed, only those tackling the drought problems are an option to create significant changes.

I do not believe that such changes can be realized at the level of large-scale farms. On the contrary, I am convinced that application of cost-effective, soil conditioning methods to enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and to boost biomass production in the drylands, is the best solution to help the poor rural people to avoid malnutrition and hunger, giving them a “fresh” start with a daily portion of “fresh vegetables”. These rural people, forming the group most affected by the food crisis, do not need to play a role in boosting the world’s food production. They simply need to produce enough food for their own family (“to fill their own hungry stomach”). Application of cost-effective technologies should therefore be programmed at the level of small-scale “family gardens” or “school gardens” and not at the scale of huge (industrial) farms, where return on investment is always the key factor for survival of the business.

Preferentially, major investments to boost the food output in the drylands should be employed to improve food production in family gardens and school gardens, in order to offer all rural people an opportunity to produce more and better food, vegetables and fruits, full of vitamins and mineral elements, mostly for their own family members or kids, partly for the local market.

Splendid examples of long-term combating food shortage with family gardens can be seen since 2006 in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria (UNICEF project). One can only hope that such a success story will soon be duplicated in many similar situations, where hungry people wait for similar innovative and well-conceived practices, with a remarkable return on investment, laying solid foundations for further sustainable development.

Recently, a number of initiatives have been taken to enhance urban gardening space, not only with allotment gardens, but also with “guerilla gardening” and transformation of open, underused spaces into small-scale garden plots for downtown dwellers, apartment dwellers and even for university students like those at the McGill University in Montreal. Many poor urban people are very keen on harvesting their own crops in such small gardens or applying container gardening on balconies, terraces, rooftops or other unused open spaces. Support for urban agriculture or urban gardening can be seen as a priority for decision-makers to reverse the world’s food crisis.

Food aid, be it with billions of dollars, can only be very effective if priority is given to local food production for the poor rural or urban people, who can not afford to buy the expensive commercial food products in shops or supermarkets. Small-scale family gardens, school gardens, allotment gardens and urban gardens in unused open spaces should be our strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis.

Article published in European Tribune

And now something for teachers and educators

Photo credit: WVC 2008-03

Gardening in the classroom

Recently, some interested people asked for my advice on container gardening techniques or methods that can easily be applied in the classroom.

Firstly, I would recommend to have all the pupils (students) in the class making at least 3 mini-greenhouses out of 2 transparent yogurt pots. Things will immediately be clear when checking my video on “Two yogurt pots make a mini-greenhouse”:

http://youtu.be/jk08MS1A-jc

Photo credit: WVC 2008-03 - Mini-greenhouses made of 2 yogurt pots
Photo credit: WVC 2008-03 – Mini-greenhouses made of 2 yogurt pots

Secondly, I would ask the pupils to set up at least 3 bottles with different vegetables or herbs. Almost any plant can be grown in a bottle. The method shown in the video (see link below) is simple, inexpensive and efficient. Students can apply this method for growing vegetables, herbs, ornamental plants etc. in smaller or bigger bottles. Let them adapt the size of the bottle to the dimensions of the plants they want to grow. Tree saplings grown in a bottle can be planted in their final location leaving the major part of the bottle around the root ball. This enhances the survival rate of the saplings.

Please check my video on “Growing plants in bottles”:

http://youtu.be/MJmo-zj5PxI

Photo credit: WVC 2007-02 - Vegetables and herbs growing in a bottle.
Photo credit: WVC 2007-02 – Vegetables and herbs growing in a bottle.

Thirdly, pupils can make one or more bottle towers. Check my video “Building a bottle tower for container gardening “:

http://youtu.be/-uDbjZ9roEQ

Photo credit: WVC 2011-08 - Bottle towers with herbs and vegetables
Photo credit: WVC 2011-08 – Bottle towers with herbs and vegetables

These techniques have a high educational value as the pupils are able to observe continuously plant growth in the classroom.

Success !