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.
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.
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.
Snap beans, butter beans, radish, collard greens, and cucumbers
Sweet potato slips, tomato, cucumber, pepper, squash, and eggplant
Snap, Lima, and butter beans, bush/pole beans, collards, okra, southern peas, pumpkins, winter squash, sweet corn, and watermelons
Pumpkins, collards, okra, and southern peas
Sweet potatoes and tomatoes
Collards, okra, pumpkins (no later than first week of July), and watermelons
Tomato transplants (heat set varieties)
Broccoli, bell pepper, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower
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.
While Pre-K students at St. Aloysius are away, teachers and their pets check the potatoes to make sure they are growing fine.
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 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.”
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.