Monthly Archives: June 2014

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Garden caterpillars – friend or foe?

All gardeners need to be aware of common “pests” and how to deal with them.  Eric Carle was right – caterpillars are hungry! And they can do some serious damage to your crops.

A common pest of plants in the cabbage family (the Brassicas) is the Cabbageworm.  You’ve probably seen their adult form, the Cabbage White butterfly,  flitting around in your garden — they are those ubiquitous little white butterflies that emerge in the spring. We don’t endorse using chemicals so this post will focus on non-toxic ways to manage these critters.  One of the best lines of defense is vigilance.  Check for eggs on the undersides of the leaves often.  At that stage you can just gently squish them with your fingers.  The caterpillars are excellent at hiding and sometimes the first sign that you have them are leaves with holes.  They have excellent camouflage and tend to hide down near the stem.  I have found that little kids with eagle eyes are great at spotting these once you teach them what to look for.  You can manually remove them from the plants.  You can also use beneficial insects to keep pests at bay.

A cabbage worm on a young kohlrabi plant.  They are hard to spot!

A cabbage worm on a young kohlrabi plant. They are hard to spot!

This, on the other hand, is a caterpillar you might find growing on your school’s parsley or dill.

An early instar of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. The white patch on its back is defensive camouflage.  From a distance it appears like bird droppings.

An early instar of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.
The white patch on its back is defensive camouflage. From a distance it appears like bird droppings.

The Black Swallowtail butterfly larvae eat fennel, dill, and parsley as their host plants.  These can be removed from the plants (take the whole stem that it’s on) and raised in classrooms as part of life-cycle studies.  At Bradford we grow fennel just to attract them to our gardens!  Kids love watching the eggs hatch, and the caterpillars go through their various instars.  They make an interesting chrysalis, and can even be overwintered to emerge in the spring.  Of course, left on the plant they will do just as much crop damage as any other “pest”.  In farming parlance they are known as “Parsley Worms”.

Black Swallowtail - Formed chrysalis in October 2013 and emerged in May 2014.

Black Swallowtail – Formed chrysalis in October 2013 and emerged in May 2014.

 

I suppose one could also raise cabbage worms to become Cabbage White Butterflies, but since they are an introduced species (accidentally in the 1800’s), and considered a true agricultural pest I probably wouldn’t, but it could raise an interesting discussion with your students on why we covet some species yet shun others.

Check out this close-up video of a Swallowtail caterpillar exploring a stem of fennel:  swallowtailmovie

 

 

School Garden Webinar on 6/16

Sponsored by the Growing School Gardens Community on Edweb.net

Healthy Food + Healthy Ecosystems = Healthy Neighborhoods (A Summer Garden Program for Middle School Youth)

Monday, June 16th at 4pm ET

Presenters: Brad Pillen and Meg Giuliano, CitySprouts Garden Educators

Middle schoolers can get a lot out of the school garden experience, from growing food to learning about the science underlying the natural world. At CitySprouts summer youth program in Cambridge, MA, 100 young people ages 11-13 go through a month-long summer internship program at various schoolyard garden locations.

Middle school interns learn garden skills and how to care for their school garden – planting, weeding, watering and harvesting food for lunch. They go on field trips to hunger-relief organizations, grocery stores, and farms outside the city to get a bigger picture of their local food system. They also learn about the interdependent relationships that exist among parts of an ecosystem as they explore the compost, the garden soil and water catchment systems in the school garden.

In this webinar Brad Pillen and Meg Giuliano, two CitySprouts Garden Educators, will present about using school gardens in the summertime. They will share with us how CitySprouts connects and engages 6th-8th graders with STEM core ideas and food systems through their Out-of-School Time Service Learning Curriculum that connects to the new Next Generation-aligned standards for 6th grade ecosystems. Join Brad and Meg to learn more about summer garden programs for middle school youth.

Gardening at Northeast School

The students and teachers at Northeast School have been busy in their DIGS gardens this spring.

Mrs. Frank planted mint with the 3rd grade which they will brew for some tasty tea this week

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Mrs. Maliszewski’s  2nd grade students planted a variety of lettuces which they will eat in a salad.  Mrs. Enslin’s 2nd grade planted swiss chard, which looks (and tastes) fantastic.

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Mrs. Phillip’s and Mrs. Alday’s classes planted squash and green pepper.

digsNE2  Here, a student waters the newly planted squash.

And, last, but not least….. The new bed planted by the kindergarten classes.

NE kindergarten students plant in their new bed...... the "Kinder Garden".

NE kindergarten students plant in their new bed…… the “Kinder Garden”.

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