Category: Health

Eat the Desert: Elderberry

Written by: Emma Jones

Elderberry is a plant closely rooted to human development. With several varieties found across the globe, many communities have used its flowers and berries for medicinal and culinary purposes for hundreds of years. Though there are many types of Elderberry, the one that grows especially well in the Southwest is the Mexican Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana). Reaching 15 feet tall in maturity, it can be used in residential or commercial design as a shrub or tree. With its beautiful cream colored flowers in spring and summer and it???s dark purple fruit in fall, Mexican Elderberry can become a valuable addition to any space.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the fruit and flowers of the Elderberry provide numerous health benefits. The berries are high in nutrients and antioxidants which help reduce inflammation, reduce damage from oxidative stress, and protect the body against free radicals from pollution. Multiple studies have also shown that Elderberry flower infusions and berry extracts aid in helping the body fight against influenza virus and soothe symptoms. Elderberry extract lozenges were found to reduce symptoms like headaches, fever, body aches, and congestion in 24 hours of consuming. Repeated doses of Elderberry syrup boosted symptom recovery in 2-4 days. These remedies can be used as a natural alternative to other commercial medicines available to treat influenza and the common cold.

In food, Elderberry can be used in jellies, pies, and homemade wine. It is important to note that before consuming, berries should be cooked to help the body digest them better. Here at the gardens we look forward to turning our Elderberries into syrup and the flowers in homemade loose leaf tea! If you don???t have an Elderberry tree in your backyard, look into local foraging laws in your area to determine if harvesting Elderberry in public spaces is a viable option for you. Whether it???s in medicine or food, Elderberry is definitely a multipurpose beauty!


Emma Jones is a student at Utah State University studying Conservation and Restoration Ecology with a double minor in Sustainable Systems and Sociology. Beans and rice speak to her soul and she attempts yoga on a regular basis.


Homegrown Gourmet: Garden Snails

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

If you are a farmer or gardener, you have likely encountered snails, and they can sometimes be a problem. Snail infestations often need to be controlled in one way or another, often meaning said snails will die, perhaps from some Sluggo or simply removing them by hand. But, if you have to deal with a snail problem anyway, why waste such a tasty food product? You may recognize escargot as a delicacy, but you may not know that it can be made with your common garden snail. The only real difference is that snails used to make typical escargot have stronger shells, making them easier to process. If, however, you’re interested in using your own snails as food, the method below is tried and true. Just note that you may also not want to use garden snails if you think there is a risk of them having encountered pesticides, for example those used in a neighbors yard.


First gather your garden snails. It would be good if you identify your snails and make sure they are safe to eat before cooking. Any non-poisonous snail should theoretically be fine, but garden snails are preferable.

Starve snails in a clean container or series of containers for two days. Provide constant water, but no food. This will allow the snails to clean out their systems. Depending on how many you stuff into one container, containers may need to be cleaned once or twice to ensure sanitary conditions. Do not use chemical cleaners. Soap is fine so long as the containers are properly rinsed and no residue is left over. Make sure most of the container is dry to keep sanitary, preferably with a water tray or two.

Now you are ready to prepare your snails. Put snails in a container of room-temperature water so that they come out of their shells.

Heat a pot of water until it is at full boil (this will ensure snails die instantly and as humanely as possible). You may need to boil several batches to ensure snails hit full boiling water, as adding snails will likely make the water cool down drastically. Boil for three minutes, then remove snails and place on a plate.

Wait for snails to cool before shelling. It is best to have a container nearby to put empty shells. Using a fork gently poke snails and remove from shells. If boiled properly, snails should come out smoothly.

Nest, you will need to clean your snails of remaining mucus. Put snails in relatively light vinegar-water solution for thirty minutes.?? After this, put in normal water for another thirty minutes to dissipate vinegar.

Congratulations, your snails are finally ready to freeze/cook. You may want to take a nap.


Written by Vilheim Piwowarek, resident entomologist of the DOT Garden. As an insect enthusiast and insectivore, he is very passionate about understanding insect roles in the Garden, alternative pest management, undercutting insect-related misconceptions, and staring at insects for hours at a time. He is starting his Senior year high school.

Cricket Flour Cookies

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

Many of us Westerners find the very idea of eating insects distasteful but we’re in the minority. Insects are eaten in 80% of the worlds countries and for good reason. Insects are numerous, can be easily raised humanely with a small carbon footprint, and are high in protein & low in fat. One can even make flour out of ground up crickets and use it to create all sorts of baked goods that have an extra health benefit. Here is a recipe for some tasty cricket cookies, made with flour you can buy (or perhaps make yourself if you have access to truckloads of crickets or grasshoppers).

Cricket Cookies Recipe


3 cups cricket flour/normal flour mix (or 2?? cups normal flour and ?? cup pure cricket flour)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 sticks softened butter

?? cup sugar

?? cup brown sugar

1 tsp almond extract

2 eggs

Optional: 1 cup chocolate chips or topping


Preheat oven to 375??F.

In a bowl, mix the flour(s), baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, add the sugar, butter, and almond extract. Start beating this, then slowly add eggs. Add flour mix and beat until fully combined. You can add chocolate chips/other now or when you set the mix on a pan.

Spoon out the mix onto a standard baking pan. You can size cookies how you like, but one spoon should be sufficient. Also note the bigger you make your cookies the longer they will take to cook. Cook cookies in oven for about 9-10 minutes.


Written by Vilheim Piwowarek, resident entomologist of the DOT Garden. As an insect enthusiast and insectivore, he is very passionate about understanding insect roles in the Garden, alternative pest management, undercutting insect-related misconceptions, and staring at insects for hours at a time. He is starting his Senior year high school.

Growing & Processing Garlic

Written by: Diego Moore

Garlic is amazing! Along with being delicious to eat and great to cook with, it also has many benefits other than its tasty insides. For example, eating garlic can reduce your cholesterol. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are also contained in garlic. Potassium, iron, vitamin C, and calcium are just a few of the nutrients that you benefit from when consuming garlic. Additionally, If you cut the cloves of garlic in half and directly apply to your skin, it can help get rid of acne and cold sores. ??In fact, garlic has been used as a health aid since ancient times.

In the garden this summer, I helped harvest and clean garlic. The type of garlic that we harvested in mid-June is called Spanish Roja. To harvest, we loosened the ground around the garlic so it could be pulled out of the ground. We were very cautious to not dig into the vegetable with our shovels. We then carefully placed the garlic in a pile. If we tossed the garlic too vigorously on the ground, it could bruise. Once all the garlic was harvested, it was placed on racks to be dried.

In addition to the process of harvesting the garlic, we also had to clean it. After a few weeks of drying on a rack we began cleaning another type of garlic called Tashkent Violet Streak. To clean the garlic we cut off the stems about an inch from the garlic itself. Then we peeled off the outer wrapper of the garlic which was covered in dirt. Finally, we trimmed the roots as far up as we could without hurting the garlic. When all of the cleaning was done the garlic was set on the drying rack once more. These vegetables were now ready to go to be sorted into seed stock and food for the CSA.


I had no idea that harvesting garlic was such an intricate process. I have learned that farmers take time to provide quality food to our families. I definitely have more appreciation for the farmers that deliver the food to our tables.


Diego Moore is a rising sophomore at Albuquerque Academy. Self-proclaimed lover of puppies, kittens, rainbows, and Lucky Charms, Diego also has a passion for music and plays guitar in a band through School of Rock here in Albuquerque.


International Visitors to the DOT Garden

On Thursday, we had international visitors in the DOT Garden. Sarah Montgomery, Director of The Garden???s Edge, a local non-profit, brought two farmers that she works with in Rabinal, Guatemala. These farmers, Maria Elena and Julian, showed us how they process amaranth, a grain that is critical to their community ??? in addition to being yummy and super healthy!

Two 7th graders harvesting amaranth at last year's harvest Festival.
Two 7th graders harvesting amaranth at last year’s harvest Festival.

In the DOT Garden, we have grown amaranth because it is a drought-hardy, healthy, and beautiful plant. However, the tiny seeds can be very hard to separate from the rest of the plant after harvesting.

Maria Elena and Julian have a lot of practice winnowing the tiny seeds from the chaffe for both seed saving and food production, and they shared their skills with 8-9 and 6th grade Environmental Club students, as well as a few of our volunteers and friends.

We learned a few important tricks about amaranth:

  • It is much better to harvest amaranth when it is fresh ??? not dried, as it gets prickly when it dries. When it is fresh you can use your hands to get most of the seeds out of the flowers. If you do dry, you have to do the ???amaranth dance??? to loosen the seeds (our students ended up having fun with the amaranth dance, although Maria Elena cautioned us that they never do this in Guatemala because then you shouldn???t use it for food).
Students doing the Amaranth Dance to separate seeds from dried amaranth.
Students doing the Amaranth Dance to separate seeds from dried amaranth.
  • You can easily winnow the seeds from the lighter bits of plant using wind or a fan, which Julian was an expert at! Hopefully our 7th graders can do it as gracefully for Harvest Festival on October 2nd.
Julian showing us how to winnow amaranth.
Julian showing us how to winnow amaranth.
  • Amaranth can be used in many ways! You can put the seeds in just about anything, but it is best when popped, which Maria Elena showed us how to do ??? over high heat and with no oil. All of our students were excited to try the popped amaranth, which was ???like miniscule popcorn!??? The popped amaranth can be used in cereal bars, on ice cream, or, it seemed, in just about anything. The seeds can be cooked for morning cereal or ground into flour!
6th grade students tasting popped amaranth while Maria Elena demonstrated the popping process.
6th grade students tasting the popped amaranth while Maria Elena demonstrated the popping process.
  • Amaranth is incredibly healthy. It is high in protein and contains complete amino acids. Maria Elena tells us that amaranth aids memory and cognitive function (a nice brain boost for our students in the middle of the day!). In Guatemala, they use amaranth for healthy snacks, especially for pregnant women and young children, in order to prevent childhood malnutrition.

Sarah???s story of working in Guatemala is a wonderful one, and we encourage you to check it out on their website. Working with farmers like Julian and Maria Elena, Sarah helped start a farmer???s collective in Rabinal called Qachuu Aloom ???Mother Earth??? Association. They work especially with women, many of whom were widowed over the course of Guatemala???s long civil war. Over the years, they have gone from collecting a few heirloom seeds to hundreds of gardens, a scholarship program for young girls, a micro-lending program, and the most recent addition, a maternal health and nutrition program that also trains young people to conduct health assessments on the young children in their community! It is a very impressive organization and we were so lucky to have them share their time with us!

"The Beautiful Underground; Bulbs, Roots, and Tubers"

Travis and the Armenian Cucumber
Travis and the Armenian Cucumber

~ By Greta Long, Student of Sustainable Food Systems

In February, I attended the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference.??The annual event??serves to unite the region’s??agricultural producers and researchers under a single roof, encouraging participants to share farming experiences and expertise. Each of the seminar’s that I attended at the conference was incredibly informative. However, one??presentation in particular served to not only educate me, but to also entertain and inspire me: Lorenzo Candelaria’s??“The Beautiful Underground: Bulbs, Roots & Tubers.”

In less than two hours, the Cornelio Candelario Organics team??managed to thoroughly describe the history,??nutritional value and growing conditions of nine different root vegetables: garlic, onion, radish, turnip, beetroot, carrot, potato, sweet potato, and jerusalem artichoke!

Jerusalem Artichoke


Each crop was introduced by Travis McKenzie, who provided the scientific name and its translation in multiple foreign??languages.??This element of the presentation served to engage the??audience quite effectively, as the vast majority of individuals in the room spoke more than one language. Following Travis’??introduction was a detailed historical account of the featured root vegetable.??Emma Apodaca (the team’s high school intern) was responsible for delivering this information, summarizing??the unique geographical origins, medicinal uses, and nutrients found within the featured vegetable. This component??of the presentation portrayed??the featured vegetable in historical context,??highlighting its benefit to mankind over the span of countless generations.??Subsequently, Lorenzo Candelaria??offered advice in regard to the growing instructions and conditions of the featured vegetable.??The combination of Lorenzo’s scientific knowledge and personal farming??experiences seem to contribute to his remarkable success in the world??of agriculture.??The final contribution to each crop description??was a recipe containing the respective root vegetable, presented by Dora Pacias (Lorenzo’s wife).??Based on the title of the workshop, I walked into the conference room expecting a presentation that would simply present the logistics of growing bulbs, roots, and tubers.??To my pleasant surprise, the seminar left me with a??knowledge of root vegetables that isn’t only applicable??as a gardener, but as a multi-lingual speaker, historian, and cook as well!

Urban Foraging and the Prickly Pear

Food can be found in places we don’t expect. ??The arroyo that runs by my house in a suburb of Albuquerque offers up plump prickly pear tunas every fall, urging me to get out the tongs.???? It takes time and patience to harvest and process these magenta marvels, but the delicate flavor is well worth the effort.

Our DOT Garden Team has been harvesting and making prickly pear juice for several years. Below are some of our tips and hints for a glochid-free, wonderful experience! ~Karen Bentrup

Scouting for Prickly Pears

  • Wild-crafting can be really fun and wonderful but these fruits are generally smaller in size.
  • Residential, no-spray cactus are terrific since they usually have received some irrigation, are larger, and generally more accessible.
  • Many home-owners are willing to share. Ask permission first and then say thank you with a jar of their fruit???s jelly!
Lloyd and Karen Harvesting with Tongs


  • A ripe tuna is full magenta, no green on the fruit at the stem end.
  • Definitely use metal tongs for removing fruit. Clasp the fruit the long way and then gently twist. Pops right off. Sometimes you need to tug a bit even if ripe.
  • Drop into large sturdy buckets. No bags.
  • Wear gloves, long sleeved shirt, long pants, closed toe shoes, and for the really safety conscious – sunglasses.
  • Watch where you are standing, leaning and reaching – there are many spines on cactuses.
  • Glochids – these are tiny hair-like short spines clumped together in what look like little round patches all over the fruit. WOW – these hurt.
More Tunas than we know how to deal with!


  • There are many ways to process the fruit – burning off glochids, scrubbing with heavy duty brushes, rubbing with thick leather, putting whole fruit into Vitamix!! – all can work. It all depends on what you are doing and where.
  • Our processing tips are for the home or school processing site for juicing.
  • After harvesting, put prickly pears in a big shallow pan or tub and scrub with long handled scrub brushes. Dump onto rinse area and rinse with water. This helps to reduce glochids. Removes bird poop and mouse droppings too!
Caitlyn using NEW, CLEAN toilet scrubbers!
Final Rinse with Clean Water
  • Cutting – we used large low-sided trays, held fruit with tongs or metal forks and cut and scooped this way. We liked it better than wearing one heavy duty leather glove.
Scooping the Flesh from the Skin
  • For best jelly – taste and appearance – use only the insides of the fruits. NOT the skins. Cut large fruit down the long axis, using an ice cream scoop, scoop out the pulp and seeds. Put in big pot. Add tiny splash of water to make sure there is liquid in bottom of pot. Bring to quiet boil, simmer and process for 10-15mins max.
Ready to Cook
  • For juicing – use whole fruits just cut in half and/or the skins left from scooping out the insides. Add enough water to not quite cover the fruit.
  • Strain thru fine mesh strainer. It’s worth $20-30 for a really good double layer, fine mesh strainer. You can also strain thru an old t-shirt and then its tie-dyed! Or use cheese cloth.


Low Sugar Prickly Pear Jelly Recipe

  • We did double batches and it worked fine.
  • We did an experiment with Pomona Pectin which relies on a different set of chemical reactions and used Agave. Make sure this powder is completely 100% dissolved before adding to juice or it will be very lumpy.


4 cups prickly pear juice (requires around four pounds of fruit)
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 package low sugar pectin


  • Pour four cups of the prickly pear juice into a pot and add a half cup of lemon juice.
  • If juice has been refrigerated, bring it up to warm temp BEFORE adding the next dry ingredients.
  • Mix a quarter cup of the sugar and a box of low/no sugar pectin and add to the juice. Sprinkle in slowly while friend stirs.
  • Bring the mixture to a full boil (a rolling boil).
  • Add the remaining sugar slowly and bring back to a full boil.
  • Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. May need to reduce temp a bit or move off and on the burner so it doesn’t boil over.
  • For the next 2 steps, work rapidly so the mixture does not cool and thicken while you are ladling into jars.
  • At end of 1 minute, take off the heat. Using a flat large spoon and skim off the foam.
  • Glass jars should be tempered in really hot water. The sink works well and you can add boiling water periodically to keep them really hot. Put your ladle or metal measuring cup in this hot bath so it???s hot too when you start ladling jelly.
  • Pour into jars.
  • Wipe to remove excess jelly.
  • Set on cooling racks.
  • If applying lids and rings, finger tighten at this point.

Then you can either let the jars cool and refrigerate OR following your favorite canning recipe.

More about the prickly pear


Family: Cactaceae (Cactus family)
Latin name:????Opuntia spp.
Tohono O???odham Name:?????? I:ibhai
Spanish Names:


There are 12 varieties of fruiting Opuntia cactus. Opuntia engelmannii (Englemann???s Prickly Pear) is native to the Sonoran Desert, and likely can found very near your house. Opuntia ficus indica is a larger, cultivated prickly pear that is often thornless and therefore easily harvested. Englemann???s Prickly Pear has pinkish flower buds that open to yellow flowers. The immature fruit is green and matures to red, pink, or magenta. Pads are paddle-shaped and slightly larger than an adult???s outspread hand. Mature pads are green with medium to long spines.

Thanks to Tom, Alia and Barbara MacFarlane for allowing us to harvest their fruit!

For More Recipes see: Edible Prickly Pear–Recipes for Juice

For More Info: Desert Harvesters

Eating on The Wild Side

???The New World of Phytonutrient Farming: Good for Our Health and the Environment???

Wild Blueberries score HIGH on the Phytonutrient Scale
Wild Blueberries score HIGH on the Phytonutrient Scale

Last spring, I read??Jo Robinson???s book, ???Eating on the Wild Side???. I was attracted to this book for the science of how plants provide our bodies with chemicals that can help us fight off many diseases that bombard us with increasing frequency. In my second year of cancer survival, this book has had a special significance for me.

This November, Jo Robinson spoke at the Quivera Conference my students and I attended in Albuquerque. Her talk reminded me to keep seeking out all those purple and dark green veggies and fruits that will help me keep my good health.

(Source: USDA)
(Source: USDA)

Here is some of what I learned from Jo’s presentation and book:

What are phytonutrients? Phytonutrients are compounds that plants produce for self-protection against drought, predators, fungus, UV rays, disease, and insects.

How do I know if a plant has high phytonutrient content? Color of the plant is a good indicator of high phytonutrient presence. Generally, though not always, the darker the color, the more purple, red or green, the higher the phytonutrient content.


To preserve energy, plants only make these chemicals when they are needed. For example, plants will produce a chemical sunscreen against UV radiation, but this chemical will be not produced in the morning, and only ramped up towards high noon, when the sun???s rays are most harmful to the plant. In addition, fruits on the upper branches and outside perimeter of a tree have a higher phytonutrient content than those found on the inner branches. These fruits are much darker red. The common iceberg lettuce found in the grocery store, presented to the consumer with its outer protective leaves (much darker in color) stripped away, are pale and low in phytonutrient content.

How many of these chemicals have plants manufactured? Scientists have identified over 8 thousand phytonutrients including lycopene (tomato), anthocyanins (purple), lutein, allicin (garlic), quercetin ( onion) and revesterol ( wine, chocolate).

Why the heck should we care? Eating a diet rich in phytochemicals can reduce the risk of all kinds of human disease. Phytochemicals protect our bodies from from free radicals ??? which cause damage to cells. These chemicals are antioxidants which provide an extra electron to the free radical, so that the free radical does not need to rob our cells of their electrons.

Science is finding that phytochemicals can calm inflammation, lower high blood pressure, reduce LDL and boost HDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of blood clots, improve memory, reduce the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, improve liver function, strengthen the immune system, improve the appearance of aging skin, and even increase athletic performance (drink beet juice instead of gatoraid). Scientists have found that drinking concord grape juice (1.5 cups per day) actually stabilizes blood sugar. A study showed that people who consumed diets high in phytochemicals live 30 % longer.

When and why did we strip phytochemicals from our diet???Four Hundred generations ago, we stopped being hunters and gatherers and began planting our first gardens ??? we cherry picked the wild plants to grow in our gardens,. We chose the plants we liked the most, ones that would provide as much energy as possible ??? sugary and starchy plants ??? and we avoided the bitter plants because they usually had toxins.

See a cool graphic that shows the nutritional differences in food:??

How can we bring back plants with higher phytonutrient content back into our diet? Choosing the right varieties of vegetables and fruits is key. There can be a 1000 fold difference in phytochemical content between different varieties. A searchable database for this information can be found on the web. fruit, vegetable or root with a purple color is best. Try the purple purvian potato. Consider a purple carrot instead of an orange one, the purple one has a 17 fold increase in phytochemical content.

Why does growing phytonutrient rich plants make farming more sustainable for our land? Phytonutrient content of the veggie depends on the soil. The healthier the soil, the higher the phytonutrients found in the plants. French fingerling potaotoes which are high in phytonutrients were found to have no insect damage compared to nearby potatoes that had little phytonutrients and therefore did not need to have insecticide applications. Remember that phytonutrients are produced by plants to fend off the bugs.

What are some fruits and vegetables that have high PN content? Liberty apple, bramley apple, reined reinette, golden russet, indian blood peaches, wild treasure blackberries.

Eat the Red Ones
Eat the Red Ones

Our DOT garden team will dedicate ourselves to teaching about and growing foods that will keep our community healthy.

For more information and help finding phytonutrient rich foods, visit or

Why kale is so awesome!


Growing Up Organic

Garden Classroom a la Francais!

The North American Association of Environmental Education held its annual conference in Ottawa this year. I was fortunate to attend the conference as a representative of the Community Climate Change Fellowship. As part of the conference, I went on a field trip to three Ottawa school gardens, led by Alissa, the founder of Growing Up Organic, a unique non-profit that helps to build, support and provide curriculum and workshops to over 42 school gardens throughout Ottawa.

When I signed up for the field trip, I had been hoping to visit BIG school gardens, gardens with a mission, vision and size as BIG as the dream of the DOT garden, so I was initially a bit disappointed to learn that we would be visiting small gardens. But I soon discovered that I could learn a lot from simple, comfortable and yes, very small school gardens.

Garden Harvest

Alissa explained to us that the school gardens were, by design, small, comfortable, and easy to use. By starting small, the hope was to invite and not intimidate teachers to begin using the gardens to teach all subjects from music to language arts to science and math.

Growing Up Organic believes that it is important to get the students involved in all parts of the garden in the beginning ??? construction of the beds and the compost bins and soil making all the way to the seeding, growing, harvest and of course EATING.

Garden Lesson in French











At the Devonshire School, which is a French immersion school, the students were encouraged to answer important questions like ??? Why is it important to work in the garden????. The answer of course was ??? So that we can eat the veggies???. Stephen Skoutajan, a teacher at Devonshire, believes that after 5 years with the garden, the school has developed a culture of local food where little understanding or value of this had existed before. Stephen recommends that we all ask our students to share 10 healthy recipes with 10 other students ??? just as Jamie Oliver says.

At the Joan of Arc Academy for girls, the young passionate principal, Derek Rhodenizer, is pioneering a bigger garden at his school, but has also started small with a series of tiered gardens based on the principles of permaculture and hugelkultur. Tiered gardens provide for micro-climates which allow for plants with different water and temperature needs to support each other ??? true interdependence.

Tiered Garden provides Microclimates
Tiered Garden provides Microclimates

Derek has also created a wonderful garden project that not only teaches students about horticulture, but also provides them an opportunity to grow food that will help alleviate hunger in the community. By growing potatoes in an intensive way, Derek and his students grew 750 pounds that were donated to the local food bank. My students and I hope to partner with Wilson Middle school this spring to emulate Derek???s Potato Project.

creating the potato garden out of recycled olive bins and hockey sticks!
creating the potato garden out of recycled olive bins and hockey sticks!











At Connaught Public School, I learned about the Jerusalem artichoke, a native plant to North America that can be grown in our garden to help feed people suffering from diabetes.

Jerusalem Artichoke
Jerusalem Artichoke
Jeruselum Artichoke









Connaught students shared with us the pesto that they had made from pea sprouts grown in their tucked away school garden. This seemed serendipitous, as I had been planning to harvest our garden???s basil to make our own pesto the week I returned from Ottawa!

Life Lab

Why do you have to be careful about telling a secret in a cornfield? Because the corn have ears.??

Gardens teach deeper learning, patience and inquiry.

But engaging young people in gardening requires knowledge, garden skill and people management.?? Imagine trying to teach twenty 7 year-olds outside, while they run in all directions, some joyful, some fearful, and some just plain loopy.?? I shudder at the thought and I have been teaching for 18 years now.

I am fortunate in my outdoor teaching experience, as I teach respectful, eager middle-school and high-school students, who understand (most of them anyway) how to act when a bee lands near, or how to maneuver a wheel barrow without tipping the mulch in the wrong place (well, OK some of them do???.).

As a teacher, my heroes are people like Mary Irwin, a distinguished garden teacher at Wilson Middle School and Julie Hirshfield, Farm Camp teacher and director for Los Ranchos Farm Camp.?? These veteran garden teachers have so much to teach me, in garden skill and outdoor classroom management.?? ??Wanting to be like them is why I signed up last weekend for the APS Growing Gardens workshop.

Teachers at the APS Growing Garden Workshop

Thanks to the McCune Foundation, a Presbyterian grant and EEANM support, the APS Growing Gardens workshop brought in a garden teacher from LIFE LAB ??? a California organization dedicated to teaching all subjects through the lens of the garden, ,?? as well as provided us all with a free LIFE LAB garden curriculum book.

A Must Have Book
A Must Have Book

The workshop also offered experts from the NMSU extension office, veteran garden teachers like Mary Irwin and Helen Horn and networking opportunities with other garden teachers.

Some of the nuggets that I took away from the workshop include;

Garden Teaching Books and Websites;

Teaching Tips

  • Before Going outside, start with expectations
  • Respect all living things ??? what does this look like?
  • Walk, don???t run (or you will miss the magic)
  • Take time to observe
  • Always ask what you can and cannot eat
  • Proper tool use and handling
  • Low and slow watering
  • Clearly define process, order and pathways
  • Agree on symbol for gathering
  • Listen to others
  • Number your garden zones
  • Journals ??? use the back of the book for thinking and reflecting, writing prompts stapled in back are helpful.
  • Team roles; research manager, watering manager etc.
  • Set up stations to help manage numbers ??? each station might have hand lens
  • Employ different senses; Taste testing events, scent canisters
  • Determine if anyone has allergies to plants or insects

Garden Tips:

  • Keyhole garden design allows students to gain easy access to all parts of garden bed
  • Can use empty glass bottles for raised beds
  • Can use old skies to build a shade structure
  • Chicken wire does not work for keeping out gophers ??? use hardware cloth instead
  • Vertical wall garden adds dimension and beauty
  • Don???t use tires without painting them first ??? toxins can leach into the soil and then into the plants
  • Old rubber boots work well for planters ??? put wholes in the toes for drainage.
  • Use water meters!?? Cheap and easy gauge.
  • Make bug nets out of old pillow cases
  • Naturally occurring root disease in tomatoes ??? virtislium ??? can treat with solarizing the soil with black plastic
  • New pest coming to NM ??? drosphilia species that attacks berries!


Dress up Like a Plant!
Dress up Like a Plant!