Stick Caterpillars and Burdock Burrs

So though every week of camp we go over the same basic principals of gardening, each day and each session has something new and exciting to discover. Today our garden topic was weeds, however we discovered so much more in the process!

On weed day we go over our common weeds chart and practice identifying them in the weed garden before going to yank some out in the children’s farm. Today we noticed a weed that was growing in the dinosaur garden (and a bunch of other places) that I hadn’t figured out the name of yet. Today we looked it up and realized it was burdock (or what I had previously nicknamed elephant ear weed.) The burdock was flowering and had burrs on it so we decided it needed to go before it spread seeds everywhere.

So we eventually yanked it out and in the process realized the burrs were sticking to us. Naturally the campers thought that was awesome and started collecting the burrs…

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Also in the process of pulling out the giant burdock we found a new and awesome caterpillar! It is a stick caterpillar and has amazing camouflage. If it weren’t bent you would never know it was alive!

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Awesome Little Gardeners

Since today was cool and sunny being out in the garden was wonderful! We were super productive today.

During free exploration time a bunch of the kids actually sifted ALL the almost finished compost and now we are ready to turn over the first bin and start a new bin!

Today’s topic was weeds and we learned to identify a bunch of weeds and even tasted some edible ones! I think the sourgrass was the most popular. The kids also became familiar with my LEAST favorite weed… pigweed. It is EVERYWHERE.

In the garden we practiced all the skills we’ve gone over so far including watering, hunting garden foes, and weeding. This bed was empty by the time we were finished! (That’s mostly pigweed, in case you were wondering!)

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Let’s Start at the Very Beginning…

… A very good place to start!

Normally on the weeks that we have the younger kids, I start them out with the very basics of gardening so they get a good understanding of a few key concepts.  One of those is watering.  The things I try to emphasize are:

-Where does a plant take up water? (Roots)  Where should we aim our watering can? (The ground, by the roots)

-Many plants don’t like their leaves wet and it can worsen disease.

-Water each plant for five seconds and move on to another plant (normally several kids hit one individual plant so they do get a good soak without drowning)

-On average, plants in our area need approximately one inch of water per week.  Every day we check the rain gauge and plan accordingly.

Here we are putting our skills into practice!

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Exciting Animal Day

So today we had two very exciting things happen during camp.  First, we found a toad (I know, this has happened before but it’s exciting every time!)  Then we starting going through our Kids Garden Guidebook to talk about garden friends and foes (since we saw Japanese beetles yesterday) and got to the garden friends.  This started a conversation about caterpillars, which led to a discussion about monarch butterflies.  We decided to go on a hunt for monarch butterfly eggs or caterpillars (since we recently just started seeing the butterflies).

We headed down towards the pond to check out the milkweed plants, but on the way stopped at the butterfly garden.  Granted, I have never found a monarch caterpillar in the three years I’ve been at Green Earth (we did once find a swallowtail caterpillar) so I didn’t have much hope for this hunt.  However, once we got to the butterfly garden THERE IT WAS! A monarch butterfly caterpillar munching on a milkweed leaf.

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We put him in a habitat with a bunch of milkweed leaves and we’re hoping he will eat and grow and turn into a chrysalis!

The rest of the day we spent hunting down garden foes, and then each pair of camp buddies “adopted” a garden bed to take care of for the week.  Tomorrow we will be focusing on weeds (and eating some!) so stay tuned for more pictures.

Flowers and Seeds

Today at camp we focused on flowers and seeds.  Because… as your kids should be able to recite to you “The reason for a flower is to manufacture SEEDS!”  We read the book The Reason for a Flower and then did some exploration.  We played a seed match game with some vegetable seeds, dissected tiger lilies and identified the stigma, style, anther, and stamen.  We also had a chance to look at the pollen under a microscope as well as the petals.

We cumulated our day with some garden time, hunting for garden foes, watering the plants, and preparing the soil to plant seeds.  We didn’t get a chance to put the seeds in the ground today, but we’ll do that tomorrow.  We will be planting a flower bed with zinnias and sunflowers so we will have beautiful flowers in the fall.

Dissecting flowers

It’s time to break out the Bath of Doom!

We’ve had a pretty busy week of camp so far.  After a bit of bad weather on Monday, the past two days have been cooperating and today was a beautiful sunny day to be in the garden!  This week we are really focusing on Gardening 101.  Each day we are focused on a different aspect of gardening since many of our campers haven’t been to the farm before.  Yesterday we focused on composting and weeding.  We all took turns sifting compost and also checked out the weeds in our “Weed Garden” then went to identify and remove them out in the field.  With all the warm weather and rain the past few weeks we had PLENTY to do!

We also discovered these little guys, that are not really weeds but look pretty cool… stinkpot mushrooms! They look kind of like orange paintbrushes dipped in chocolate.

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Today our garden time was focused on garden friends and foes.  We learned about ladybugs and how they help the garden as well as many other critters.  Yesterday we saw our first Japanese beetles of the season, which means it was time to break out the BATH OF DOOM.  The Bath of Doom is basically a jar of soapy water that we use to kill all the bad bugs we find (mostly Japanese beetles and squash bugs). We also went on the hunt for squash bug eggs under the leaves of all our squash plants, but luckily we haven’t seen any yet! We will keep our eyes peeled though, because we don’t want anything to happen to our beautiful squash plants!

We have also found two toads (also garden friends) over the past two days, one big and one very tiny.  It was hard to get pictures of them since they don’t hold still very well.  Here is a picture of some of our group hard at work.  More to come in the slideshow on Friday!

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