wjfarm

Posts Tagged ‘native species’

Pumpkin Harvest Day 2013

In Events, Kids on the Farm on November 2, 2013 at 8:36 am

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The “pumpkin patch” pre-invasion!

Every year the culmination of the year’s growing season is our Harvest Day parade when the whole school celebrates the last day of October. As the school parades around our community in fancy dress, the Pre-School and Pre-Kindergarten classes peel off and make their way to the Farm to harvest pumpkins.

Throughout the growing season (seeds planted July 14th, pumpkins cut form the vine October 21st to cure ~ see Inside the Numbers for a few more details) our youngest students have been following the progress of their pumpkins from the first flowers (an important concept introduced at that time is dioecy where members of the Cucurbitaceae family have both male and female flowers), pollination (our Farm’s honeybees and native bumblebee species always oblige with frequent visits to pumpkin flowers as instruction is ongoing), how the female flowers ovaries swell up to become future fruit, and the importance of beta-carotene in a balanced diet (“different colors on your dinner plate”) and whilst the botany of farm crops can become rather complex, “sowing the seeds” of certain biological concepts in young minds helps build a strong foundation for their science knowledge.

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Members of the Cucurbitaceae are dioecious, having both male and female flowers

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One of our native pollinators (there are about 4,000 species of native bee in North America) searching for pollen and nectar

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First fruits (technically a botanical “berry”)~ with successful pollination and fertilization, the ovary on the female flower starts to swell and the petals fall

In addition, supported by a few well-chosen books, the pumpkin crop allows us to also introduce a number of other natural history concepts (Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown ~ “root”, “shoot”, “seedling”) and to continue to develop community values (Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper ~ teamwork, friendship, and the fact that pumpkins are not just for carving at Hallowe’en but bona-fide edible crops that provide nutrition too!)

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Pumpkin SOup

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But in the end, the day’s main event created some of their strongest memories!

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“Just a little Raingarden…” sang Pooh

In Improvements on May 27, 2013 at 8:55 am

Harvesting up to 1,200 gallons of rain water from the roof of our outdoor classroom requires a measure of responsibility when storing more rainwater than is needed, or when some needs to be evacuated to avoid freeze damage in Winter, so we constructed a raingarden to ensure that excess water was not allowed to enter the storm water system (an already overburdened system, especially as the Farm is also located in the Combined Sewer System) but would re-enter the water cycle naturally through ground percolation and transpiration through the leaves of plants sited to “drink up” occasional floods. The species of plants selected are native to the mid-Atlantic to not only require little maintenance once established (ie. no excess watering, able to withstand periods of occasional flooding alternated with dry spells, requiring no use of fertilizer to grow healthily) but to also provide support for our native insect biodiversity.

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1. after planting the red maple yesterday, the workhorse of this little project, it was time to start…

 

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2. a few more river rocks (gathered from the Anacostia River) to form the drainage channel for the cistern…

 

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3. the first native perennials ready to go ~ Eupatorium dubium (Eastern Joe-Pye weed), Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ (switchgrass), and Carex muskingumensis (Muskingum sedge)

 

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4. first the sedges…

 

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5. then the grasses…

 

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6. then finishing with the Joe-Pye weed

 

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7. so now we come to “the rock” ~ I’m sure we can fit it in somewhere!

 

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8. a perfect fit

 

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2 hours after the first big storm (June 2nd/3rd), and all seems well!