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.