Friday, 1 June 2018

June already!

Students have been hard at work planting in their garden beds.  This year, students have worked in groups and have their very own garden beds to plant in.  Each group of students have chosen the types of veggies they would like in their own garden beds by using principles of companion planting and crop rotation.  It's been so awesome to see the different kinds of combinations of plants the students have decided to grow! 

Strawberries are here!
Peas growing up their student-made trellis

Bok choy!

Radishes! Many, many radishes!

We are also so excited about our grafted apple tree.  We planted this beautiful tree in October and it has started blossoming.  Each of the five branches have been grafted on to the main trunk and will be a different variety of apple!

The butterfly larvae that we received have formed their chrysalides and are now emerging as beautiful painted lady butterflies.  We can't wait to release them into the garden to help pollinate our plants!

Students have been working hard preparing for our first ever appearance at the Blackburn Hamlet Funfair on June 2nd.  We will be selling plants to the community and teaching them how to care for different types of plants.  The different vegetable seedlings we have available are kale, cucumbers, cantaloupe, tomatoes, peppers (bell & jalapeno), mustard greens, lettuce, bok choy, kohlrabi, spinach, arugula, parsley, etc. We also have different house plants, flowers and succulents for sale too!  It should be a lot of fun and great experience for our avid NJ gardeners!

A peek inside our greenhouse
Happy gardening!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Spring 2018 Horticulture class start up

So the 2018 Spring Horticulture class has begun and we have 18 enthusiastic students learning all about gardening - what a great way to spend the last 6 weeks of school!

There is so much going on and the students have been super busy with all sorts of things.  Some highlights are:

We have a wonderful courtyard in the center of our school and the students have been hard at work cleaning the area and rejuvenating the gardens there for our graduation ceremony.  We are also hopeful that if we make the courtyard more inviting, more students will also want to hang out there on a daily basis.

Cleaning up our Indigenous Healing Garden (weeding and re-planting each of the four sacred medicines).

Building new garden beds! Students have assembled and filled three brand new garden beds and have begun planting in them too! One of them will be our perennial asparagus bed (we're hopeful we can be harvesting crisp asparagus spears from this bed in the next couple of years and that we'll be able to harvest for the next 20 years)!

We have a bunch of flowers blossoming and it is such a beautiful thing! Geraniums, Hibiscus and Marigold flowers have filled the classroom and greenhouse with colour and happiness.


Students have worked extremely hard at gridding out our gardens into square feet.  We now have over 350 square feet of raised garden beds to grow delicious produce for our fellow NJ students and community!

We are so lucky to have already had a great harvest of radishes and we are looking forward to raspberries and peas too! The addition of our new 8' x 12' greenhouse has really helped us to start harvesting earlier than usual. Students have sowed multiple batches of delicious radishes and our first harvest was bountiful.  Students were so excited to snack on these fresh radishes in class and to take some home to their families. 

On Friday, we received our special delivery of new classmates! These are 30-35 butterfly larvae (caterpillars) and yes, each of them have been named!  Students worked diligently at mixing their food and preparing the new larva homes.  We are so excited to watch these little guys grow! Eventually each one will form a chrysalis and we can't wait to watch them emerge as beautiful painted lady butterflies!

These are just some of the things going on in the gardening class! We can't wait to update you again soon.

Thanks for reading, happy gardening!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Seed Starting

We started a ton of new seeds last week and are so excited to see them germinating! We are going to be participating in a seedling sale on June 2nd at the Blackburn Hamlet Funfair so we wanted to be sure to get some seedlings started.  We are also excited to get seedlings started for our garden beds at the school as well as for our brand new greenhouse!!!  We will be building three new garden beds this year again and we are so excited to have even more room to grow delicious, fresh crops for the students of Norman Johnston. 

Trays upon trays of seed starts (and this is only half of them)!
Plants include peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and cucumbers
as well as some flowers!

Marigolds! These will be great for our
seedling sale but also for companion
planting in our garden!
Some of the houseplants the students have been caring for and
propagating! Donations of plants (geraniums, hibiscus, purple queen,
spider, snake, and goldfish plants) from community members
Cheryl and Sarina have helped us so much!

Our tray of propagated succulents!
They're growing up so fast!

Some of our herbs are starting to germinate! Cilantro is
looking good!

We are so excited to update you on some photos of the greenhouse now that it is up and running! We have all sorts of plants growing in there as well!

Happy gardening!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Garden Tower

We were so lucky to receive this Garden Tower with lights from the Classroom Gardens Manager at the Ottawa Network for Education. 

This tower is different than our hydroponic towers in that it uses soil to grow all of the plants.  We filled the garden tower with potting soil and planted one of our seedlings (that we started in class in one of our three tiered greenhouses) in each of the spaces.  We were able to plant 50 plants in our garden tower! 

In the middle of our garden tower is a vermicomposting tube.  We took some of the worms from our Worm Factory 360 and rehoused them in the new garden tower.  The middle tube is where we will add kitchen scraps for our worms to eat.

There is a drawer at the bottom of the garden tower where any extra water will flow (compost tea) which can then be reused to water the tower.  This drawer is also the place where you can harvest any vermicompost that you would like. 

When we first started our garden tower
What our garden tower currently looks like!

We have been able to harvest so much fresh produce from our garden tower and we are excited to continue to plant and harvest from this garden throughout the remainder of the school year. We have had great success with tomatoes (on the top layer of the garden tower) as well as basil, arugula, parsley, beans, peas, spinach and even radishes! We are excited that this garden tower will compliment the tower gardens (hydroponics) where we grow most of our lettuces for the school.
One of the three tower gardens in the
horticulture classroom.
Each tower holds 28 plants which can be
harvested using the cut-and-come-again

Close up of one of the leaf lettuce plants
in one of our three tower gardens
(not to be confused with the garden tower)
We are so excited to have the garden tower (orange - soil based) to work in conjunction with our three tower gardens (hydroponic lettuce/greens) and the two three tiered indoor greenhouses. With these three systems working so well together, students are able to prepare healthy salads and vegetables for the school every week using fresh produce grown by students in the horticulture course.

Thanks for reading! Happy gardening :) 

Outdoor classroom and greenhouse construction!

At the end of October/early November, as the fall horticulture came to a close we reflected on all of the projects we successfully completed.

The outdoor classroom was a success! We got it all done before the frost came.  Students spent time digging up all the grass to create paths and a footprint for where the classroom would be located.  They then put down landscape fabric to prevent weeds from popping up and finished by laying down wood chips to act as the floor for the classroom.  Stumps and log seating were donated by a local tree removal company and things came together beautifully.  It was a lot of hard work but totally worth it!

Once work had completed on the outdoor classroom, students got to work digging for the new greenhouse! We learned so many construction skills while building the greenhouse and with all the hard work of the students, our new 8' x 12' greenhouse is built! It won't be used until late March/early April but will help to extend our short growing season by at least a few months!

It's covered in snow right now but we are so excited to get in the greenhouse and start our seedlings nice and early! With this addition, we can start serving all sorts of healthy foods for the students to enjoy much earlier in the spring.

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

October harvests!

Who would have thought we'd still have loads of fresh vegetables coming out of the garden in mid-October?  The garden is brimming with fresh produce to be harvested and the students at Norman Johnston are so happy with all the delicious meals made from these harvests!


We have so many photos to share and hope you enjoy them! It's been a whirlwind the past couple of weeks and we're so excited with how well the gardens are doing! 

Other items we'd love to update you on in future posts are
- our completed outdoor classroom
- how our frost blankets have protected our plants from dangerous frost
- the visit from the Federal Minister of Health
- Tower Garden hydroponic systems
- indoor greenhouses
- the building of our new outdoor greenhouse
- our soon to arrive vermicomposting Garden Tower
- our Worm Factory 360

Until next time, happy gardening!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Start-up Updates!

Wow, so much has happened in the last month! The students have been hard at work harvesting tons of produce from the gardens!

We've had celery, swiss chard, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, beans, potatoes, kohlrabi, beets, parsnips, carrots, crabapples, dill, oregano, parsley, sage, nasturtiums and sunflowers!

One of the first weeks of school, our students participated in the Harvest Moon Festival at Berrington Park in Orleans.  We had over 200 basil seedlings that we gave out to people who came to visit our booth at the festival.  We taught people how to transplant seedlings into their own little pots to take home.  We also had a square foot gardening workshop set up where we taught the public about how to implement square foot gardening in their own gardens! It was so cool to see all the people walking around the festival with their Norman Johnston basil seedlings in hand!


In our second week of classes, we took the students to check out MosaiCanada in Gatineau and were so blown away by the creativity and beauty of the displays. 


 Students worked hard at organizing NJ's first open house in which we were able to showcase all the hard work going on in the gardens! It was a huge success and we were so happy to invite the public in to see what goes on in our building.  It was wonderful to see parents, friends, grandparents, siblings and neighbours come to see all that we have to offer at Norman Johnston.

The big project currently going on in the horticulture course is the building of our very own Norman Johnston outdoor classroom. Students worked so hard at digging up all the sod to create a footprint of where the classroom will be located.  The students then laid down landscape fabric and are in the process of spreading out woodchips to create an accessible area for all students to come to learn and hang out.

We are thrilled with all of the projects and successes of the horticulture program and are so excited to continue sharing what we're up to! The next project we have planned is building an outdoor 8ft x 12ft greenhouse that will help to extend our growing season!

Happy gardening!