Veggie Bytes Volume 11 Issue 2 | Special Edition April-July 2020

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Gardening (in School or at Home) is Fun and Educational!

Thanks to the COVID -19 restrictions, many of us are finding ourselves trying to be both a full time professional and a full time teacher. We are thankful to all educators who are doing their best to bring us education via online classrooms, videos and even social media education such as Facebook story times! As a mom and as a professional gardener, I thought I would share these great environmental based gardening lessons The Nature Conservancy has published. What a wonderful time, when parents are able to spend more one on one time with children and teachers are looking for great online resources than ever to introduce the Nature Lab series. Nature Labs are lesson plans correlated to common core standards. Each lesson has a video for students, a full lesson plan and sometimes-supplemental information for educators. The lessons are broken down into categories for grades K-5th; 6th-8th; and 9th-12th plus virtual fieldtrips!

Parents and Teachers, you have to check out The Nature Conservancy website. I am planning to use it with my family, and I hope you will share with your students.

Nature Lab: Rain Garden Lesson

The Nature Conservancy lesson that I really like is called “How Water Works in your Garden.” It is under the K-5th grade category and explains how soil moves through our ecosystems and how we as individual citizens can help protect our watershed by planting rain gardens. Check out the video: Nature Works - To Make Clean Water. Again, the full lesson can be found on The Nature Conservancy - Elementary Lesson Plans website.

So watch the video and the start planting! Louisiana is full of major watersheds. Protecting our watersheds is very important, as we really want to protect our state and the water moving through it into the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, for us, we get a lot of rain (on average 60 inches a year) and water plants or rain garden plants do well here. Therefore, if this video has inspired you as it has me, here are some great plants that can easily be sourced in Louisiana that will thrive in your rain garden.

Materials Needed to Plant a Rain Garden:

  • A spot where rain runs off a roof.
  • A bag of gravel or pebbles
  • Plants that do not mind staying a little wet such as Louisiana Iris, Canna Lilies, and many of the ornamental grasses like Muhly grass, Miscanthus grass and Pennisetum.

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Louisiana Iris

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Canna Lilies

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Muhly grass

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Miscanthus grass



Really though you can add any flowers and plants to a rain garden. The important thing to do is allow the water to slowly penetrate back into the soil, and not rush off with pollutants, nutrients and trash into our sewer systems.

Vegetables to Plant


Direct Seed into the Garden

Snap beans, butter beans, radish, collard greens, and cucumbers

Transplant into the Garden

Sweet potato slips, tomato, cucumber, pepper, squash, and eggplant


Direct Seed into the Garden

Snap, Lima, and butter beans, bush/pole beans, collards, okra, southern peas, pumpkins, winter squash, sweet corn, and watermelons

Transplant into the Garden

Sweet potatoes


Direct Seed into the Garden

Pumpkins, collards, okra, and southern peas

Transplant into the Garden

Sweet potatoes and tomatoes


Direct Seed into the Garden

Collards, okra, pumpkins (no later than first week of July), and watermelons

Transplant into the Garden

Tomato transplants (heat set varieties)

Start Seeds in Classroom

Broccoli, bell pepper, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower

How to Care for a School Garden, When You Are Not There?

The school garden is such a wonderful learning tool; we hate to lose it while following social distancing protocol and limiting time together due to COVID-19.

If you are still allowed to visit school, you have two options to keep the garden from being an out of control mess when you return.

  1. Plant the garden with vegetable crops that are more low maintenance than others. Good examples are southern peas (think black-eyed peas, purple hull and Crowder peas), lima beans, okra and sweet corn. Flowers that can help include cosmos, sunflowers, and zinnias. All of the above will fill in the garden quickly now that temperatures have started to rise. You’ll need to apply some pre-plant fertilizer ( things like 13-13-13, cottonseed meal, slow release fertilizer- really whatever you have on hand) will work fine. Use the rates labeled on the bag. Then water in the fertilizer well, and direct seed all crops above. Plant them thick so that they shade out the weeds as much as possible.These crops will still be going when we return to school, hopefully in a month, or maybe (fingers crossed this is not true) a little longer.
  2. If you want to completely eliminate worrying about the garden, simply go to school and take out all plants. Then place black visqueen over the entire garden. Hold it in place with bricks, cinder blocks or other heavy objects. This will block the sun and prevent weeds from growing until you can return and plant.

Here is a Cute Scene…

While Pre-K students at St. Aloysius are away, teachers and their pets check the potatoes to make sure they are growing fine.

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Irish Potatoes Growing at School or in Your Yard?

If they are blooming as in the picture above, make sure you add some fertilizer now. The blooms are good indicators that your potatoes are starting to form. Half a cup of 13-13-13 per 10ft row is plenty…. Growing them in containers like the St. Aloysius students? Just add a few tablespoons of 13-13-13 to each container or again, whatever fertilizers you have on hand … liquid fertilizers, calcium nitrate, fish emulsion they all work, just follow directions on the label.

Okra Likes It Hot

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Okra is a tough heat tolerant vegetable that loves the hot humid weather of summer. They do not bat an eye when temperatures soar over 90°F. The best time to plant okra seeds is in April-July. A popular and widely available variety is ‘Clemson Spineless’. Soaking okra seeds overnight is a common practice. Although it is not necessary to soak seeds, doing so improves germination and helps all seeds come up about the same time. Plant okra seeds 2-3 times as deep as the seeds are wide and thin plants to about a foot apart. Because okra keeps growing until cold weather arrives, expect them to grow about 6 feet tall. Okra is a member of the mallow family and will have a flower that looks like a hibiscus. If pollinated, the flower will yield okra pods. Pick the pods when they are young and tender, about three-4 inches long. If left on the plant, the pods will keep growing turning tough and stringy.

No matter the garden size, big or small…It is important to continue going outside and connecting with nature. Below, Charlotte Fontenot (Pre-K) is caring for the seeds that just germinated in her “Fairy Garden.”

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LSU AgCenter Growing Gardens!

Kathryn “Kiki” Fontenot, PhD
163 JC Miller Hall
Baton Rouge, LA 70803

Mary Sexton, MS|
161 JC Miller Hall
Baton Rouge, LA 70803

William Richardson LSU Vice President for Agriculture

Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Stations, Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service, LSU College of Agriculture

The LSU AgCenter is a statewide campus of the LSU system and provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. Visit us at the LSU AgCenter Website.

5/11/2021 8:02:30 PM
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