Little Green Thumbs

Ready, Set, Grow Indoors!

Snow has arrived in Edmonton, but our Little Green Thumbs gardeners are getting ready to plant seeds with three events to start the year.

New Gardening Supplies

57 classrooms have all they need for another indoor food growing adventure. Teachers picked up their supplies from The Root Seller, a local garden centre that stocks all we need for our gardens.

IMG_9796 copy.jpg

Kick-Off Event at Arch Greenhouse

We had a fabulous day at Arch Greenhouse, learning about the garden centre’s social entreprise and the special programs for adults with developmental disabilities. We also had a tour of the greenhouse, filled at this time with lovely poinsettias.

Teachers also learned how a local company grows crickets that are then processed into a high protein flour for use in food products. We are looking forward to having Camola Foods visit some of our classrooms later in the season and inspire students to learn about cricket farming as another way to produce food.

We concluded the day with a short hands-on activity where teachers learned about growing microgreens in class or at home. They each planted a container with radish seed or a mix of microgreens seeds.

A huge Thank You to our volunteers, helping with setup, food and cleanup! We are also grateful for some great door prizes donated by Apache Seeds.

New Teacher Training

Becoming a Little Green Thumbs gardener takes some time and a willingness to learn about the requirements of plants grown indoors. Around 20 teachers took over a garden this year and came to a training session, learning about light safety, grow box setup and planning the indoor garden. We wish them well on this hands-on growing and learning adventure.

We hope our Little Green Thumbs classes are now off to a great indoor gardening year!

Claudia Bolli, Little Green Thumbs

Little Green Thumbs Kick-Off to a new gardening year

We celebrated the start of another indoor growing season with close to 20 Little Green Thumbs teachers and volunteers. Our fun evening started with a tour of Northlands Urban Farm where we got to see hardy kale, collards and some flowering plants still going strong after some early season snow. It was too cold for the honeybees to fly, and so it was easy to take a close peek at the hive through a viewing window. 

Patty Milligan, our tour leader with Northlands, also encouraged us to feed the chickens and shared what students are very excited about when coming to the farm – holding an egg recently laid by one of the colourful hens! Our tour also included a taste test of edible Tangerine Gem Marigolds, and farmer Suzanne made a compelling case for us to taste Electric Daisies, aka toothache plant or buzz buttons. This flower in the aster family is a medicinal plant that creates a tingle on the tongue and is a favorite of some of the youth visiting the farm.

Our second part of the evening was a cooking demo and dinner at Highlands School with Chef Daniel Huber, a strong and busy supporter and volunteer with YEG Leftovers. This organization rescues leftover food from restaurants, grocery stores and food producers. The food is cooked in commercial kitchens and made available to Edmontonians in need. Daniel shared the story of YEG Leftovers and his efforts to encourage young people to cook for themselves with your teachers.

At the same time, a delicious veggie curry simmered on the stove. After a short while, we got to enjoy a wonderful shared meal in the school’s food lab. Our participants appreciated the opportunity of a preview to the indoor gardening season and to share conversation with like-minded Little Green Thumbs teachers eager to grow food plants with their students.

Claudia Bolli, Little Green Thumbs

Indoor Gardens off to a great start

Our fantastic Little Green Thumbs teachers have all picked up their free gardening supplies, and many have started seeds with their excited students.

Also, over 25 teachers took advantage of indoor gardening training, learning about safety, garden box setup and growing a variety of crops, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, pole beans, lettuce, kale, and Swiss Chard. Some great herbs that thrive indoors are basil and lemon balm. The students and teachers will have the dilemma of choice!

At St. Francis of Assisi School, the students will be experimenting with a container of transplanted strawberry plants. Are the indoor conditions suitable for the berry plants to produce fruit? That and many other questions provide a wealth of inquiry opportunities for our Little Green Thumbs gardeners. 

We look forward to learning about the gardening adventures of our 56 indoor gardens in the next few months!

Claudia Bolli, Little Green Thumbs

Learning about the Joys and Challenges of Food Production in Alberta

We were very fortunate to connect a few of our Little Green Thumbs classes with producers in the Edmonton area (see other blog posts) in the last couple of months. The children were very attentive and had many great questions and stories for the farmers. In turn, we were so pleased with personal stories the farmers shared with the children.

Trudy and Kirk Harrold explained the importance of being good stewards of the land that has been in their family since 1907, for 4 generations. The farm is near Elk Island Park and they are passionate about creating healthy soil, protecting soil from overuse and also reserving spaces for wildlife. They see how healthy the land is by how well the wild animals are doing on their land. The family is proud of the food they produce for Albertans while working hard to protect the land and environment. Kirk and Trudy brought samples of grains they grow, such as wheat, barley, oats, canola, and peas. Photos from the farm showed the crops, animals and wildlife they care for. Last fall, the Harrold family is one of many farming families in Alberta unable to bring in a large portion of their crops. They are hoping for a better season to come and we thank them for learning more about farming.

IMG_0670 copy.jpg

“What’s the best part of your job?” was a question Ben Stocks was happy to answer. Stocks Greenhouses near Sherwood Park produces tulips, other flowers and veggies for the market. Ben loves working outside, having lots of freedom and producing flowers and vegetables that people want to buy. He is noticing a resurgence in locally grown food. Cucumbers are becoming more popular again for pickling, and his sweet corn and other veggies are always snapped up quickly at the market. The children learned how he plants tulip bulbs in the winter and keeps the bulbs cold for several months before they start growing in the greenhouse. Once the flowers are almost ready to open, they are picked, loaded up on the truck and taken to the market. Ben really enjoys the moments when the flowers are at their prime and ready to be received by happy customers.

“What’s the worst part of your job?” asked the children. Many crops, including watermelon, are grown under a plastic tunnel or in a greenhouse. The strong spring and fall wind can sometimes rip and damage the roof of these structures. Wondering what the weather might bring is one of many challenges of farming. We also learned that growing tulips in the field was very difficult before Ben’s family got dog Maggie. Hungry deer would mow down all the tulips until Maggie got the job of chasing the deer away.

Little Green Thumbs classes have a unique opportunity to get a taste for growing plants right in their classroom. In a few years, perhaps some of these children will be part of the emerging trend of young families giving agriculture a try, growing food crops, raising animals, keeping bees, or growing flowers or other agricultural products for our local markets. 

Claudia Bolli, Little Green Thumbs

A Bee in My Bonnet

Bees are very important for the pollination of many plants, including fruit, berries, vegetables and other crops. Some of our Little Green Thumbs indoor garden classes learned about bees and honey production from beekeeper and educator Patty Milligan.

IMG_0511 copy.JPG

The students explored different stations where they had an opportunity to touch, see and smell objects related to beekeeping. There was a bee box with frames of comb and queen boxes to explore. The children had fun putting on a hat and veil, then pump the bellows of the smoker that’s used to calm the bees.

With gleeful smiles, a couple of students rubbed their hands in a box with dried pollen, only to realize that the yellow powder was stuck until they got permission to go wash it off. There was also a box with propolis, a special compound bees collect from tree buds to fill cracks in the hive and sanitize the interior of their home.

The students had many interesting questions about the life of bees and what it’s like to be a beekeeper. Some of the questions were: “What do the drones do? How long does the queen live? Why are bees important? Do they die after they sting?”

In a time when both wild and domesticated bees are suffering from population decline due to habitat loss and pollution, learning about their life and role in food production is timely for our young gardeners.

Patty enjoys sharing her expertise with school groups and can be reached through her facebook page

Claudia Bolli, Little Green Thumbs, Sustainable Food Edmonton

Indoor Transplanting Time

Just before the holidays, the Centennial School kindergarten students were keen to help transplant some tender veggie plants they had started from seed a few weeks earlier.
To make sure the plants were going to thrive during the Christmas break, our volunteer Isha spent a couple of hours with the children, helping them with the delicate job of transplanting tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and lettuce into the grow boxes. With a bit of adjustment to the light’s height and increasing the timer, we’re hoping the plants will grow nicely from seedling to mature plant in the next few months.

January 26 update: Check out the prolific growth of this indoor garden in the gallery below. The beans are touching the ceiling and the tiny tomatoes transplanted on Dec 20 are now large, healthy plants!

Ladybugs to the Rescue in the Little Green Thumbs garden

Indoor gardening has wonderful educational benefits for students. We have fabulous teachers that use the Little Green Thumbs indoor garden to explore topics of nutrition, science, math, language, art and much more. Many teachers experiment with various growing methods and find solutions when challenges come along.

Sometimes a pest becomes an issue in indoor gardens. Eggs of aphids, fungus gnats, thrips or other pesky critters may hitch a ride with equipment, potting mix or houseplants.

At Morinville High School, the urban agriculture class had a hard time with green peach aphids. Here is a note about the learning that happened this last semester, and a photo of the ladybugs that helped to control the pests:

“We learned a lot more about biological pest controls. We had aphid problems and bought parasitic wasps and ladybugs to battle them. It worked really well. We had both insects complete their life cycles in the class and we observed the eggs, larvae etc."

To find out what else the students learn in this class, visit https://youtu.be/DDXQOKt3B8E