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Entries in Homepage (8)


Cooking with Compost

Lasagna has always been a favorite dish here at the garden, what’s not to the love about the layers of ooey gooey goodness?  We love lasagna SO much that we even decided to create our very own lasagna garden! It may sound a little strange, but lasagna gardening incorporates some of the same ideas as baking lasagna at home.

Now imagine your favorite lasagna- layers of creamy ricotta cheese wedged between wholesome, hearty lasagna noodles drenched in rich marinara sauce and topped off with delicious cheese.  Now replace those tasty noodles with cardboard, that decadent ricotta cheese with compost and that thick marinara sauce with soil and you’ve got a recipe for a lasagna garden! 


A lasagna garden is a no-dig gardening technique that uses layers of newspaper or cardboard, compost, brown materials, soil, and manure to produce a nutrient rich mixture that is perfect for growing. Over time these compostable ingredients will break down and produce a healthy living environment for worms and maturing plants.  Here’s one recipe for a lasagna garden…

What you will need…

Foods Scrapes or Compost


Newspaper or Cardboard

Brown materials (dried leaves, straw, sawdust, hay)

Organic Soil


Step 1

Pick the perfect location for your lasagna garden- a location with plenty of sun!  Now lay down your sheets of cardboard or newspaper and gently dampen.   The newspaper or cardboard will smother weeds and grass and will also create a nice cool place to attract earthworms.

Step 2

Lay down a thick layer (2-3 inches) of alfalfa- this will help retain moisture in your garden.

Step 3

Layer 4-8 inches of compost or organic material- use your hands to spread the layers evenly

Step 4

Alternate layers of brown materials and compost or green materials  (If planting in spring or summer during warm weather- intersperse topsoil between the layers of compost.  This will ensure a proper medium for planting)

Step 5

With your layers of green and brown materials in place, finish your lasagna garden with a final layer (3-4 inches) offinished compost or topsoil.

Step 6

Now plant directly in your new Lasagna garden! If you are using cardboard be sure to cut an "x" in the cardboard where you are planting so the roots can make it through to the earth below.

The best thing about lasagna is how simple ingredients and flavors work together to create a complex and flavorful dish.  A lasagna garden is very similar in that the various layers of compost and soil combine to form a nutritious environment for your plants to grow and thrive! 


Cooking with Nasturtium

In our garden classroom, we are always looking for ways to minimize waste and recycle resources back into the garden. For example, if our cooking class has food scraps left over, our way of recycling them is to feed them to the worms to turn into rich compost for our garden beds. But what if we don't have worms at home? Are there recipes we can cook that utilize the entire ingredient and don't leave scraps? Why, yes!

Nasturtiums are one of our favorite things growing in the garden! They don't need much attention to thrive and yet they still provide the garden with vibrant reds, oranges, yellows and greens. In addition to being beautiful, both nasturtium flowers AND leaves are edible! You can add the nasturtium's peppery flavor to many things, but one of the tastiest ways to eat nasturtiums is in pesto! This pesto can be a spread in sandwiches, used as a sauce for your pasta, a marinade on chicken or fish, or a fun addition to your breakfast eggs!
 Try to pick the smaller, dark green leaves for this as they have the biggest peppery flavor.
Nasturtium Pesto
2 cups packed nasturtium leaves, plus a handful of nasturtium flowers
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
juice of 1/2 large lemon
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Put everything but the salt and pepper into a food processor and mix until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!
**Note: You can freeze this pesto for future use...that is if you have any leftover



Learning from the ground up!

Decomposers, compost, worms, OH MY!  Fresh from our Vermiculture Bin to your computer screen, we bring you news of our hardest workers in the garden: the Red Wiggler Worms. 

These worms eat all the food scraps from our cooking classes and turn them into rich, beautiful, and nutritious soil!  These red worms are known as Natures Wonder Worker because they eat their body weight in compost almost daily!  Without them, all our food waste would go straight to the landfill and all those nutrients would be lost. 

So in honor of our Red Wiggler Worms’ dedication to the garden, we celebrated a worm appreciation month full of compost sorting races, worm biographies, even taking turns to feed the worms by hand!  The students were not afraid of getting their hands dirty when inspecting the “cool” and “cute” worms in our compost bin.  Students learned the importance of giving the worms a well balanced diet of plants, sticks, food scraps, and paper.  They also learned the valuable role compost plays in putting nutrients back into the soil in our raised beds. There is so much to learn and discover in the ground under our feet!  With the help of decomposers like our worm and Rollie Pollie friends, we are able to grow beautiful vegetables to eat in our cooking classes. 

Let’s give three cheers for the bugs under our feet who truly dedicate their lives to improve the world around them!!


Shoo (White)Fly, Don't Bother Me. 

The whitefly has come for a visit and as much as we welcome all living creatures into the garden, this little creature has overstayed its welcome. 

Whitefly, it's your time to skeedaddle.

Whiteflies are what some may call a "pest". And they are! They love to nest in all the nooks and crannies of our beloved Kale. They're actually starting to nest in all of our brassicas! The cauliflower leaves have a silvery powder on them, the brocolli heads are spotted. It's not looking pretty. 

Whiteflies have this way of sucking the life out of your plant and they tend to gross the kids out when we're cooking. Bugs are definitely not in our recipes! In small doses, the whitefly isn't that detrimental to the plant but when they take over, they take over. 

The technical name for these pesky pests is Cabbage Whitefly, Aleyrodes Brassier. Pretty, no? These small white-winged insects live on the underside of leaves, and fly up in clouds when disturbed. Adult whiteflies are structurally similar in appearance to aphids, but are covered in mealy grey hairs and have white wings.

The young whitefly, known as 'scales', stay on the leaves. The flies themselves don't cause severe damage, but the sticky honeydew or sugary excretions they produce can disfigure the plants. This is not so much to do with the honeydew itself but the sooty or black molds which grow on the honeydew. The sooty molds will spoil flower buds, e.g. on Brussels sprouts, and will prevent leaves from photosynthesizing. We certainly don't want that, do we?

Don't fret, we're fighting this battle and doing it au natural (aka: the natural way!) Say goodbye to the fly! 

We've come up with a little solution and a riddle!

What do vampires and whiteflies have in common?


Yeah, you got it. Garlic!! They despise garlic. It's like the relationship Superman has with Kryptonite. When they get together, it's not a pretty sight. But sometimes, that's how it has to be. Do we want whiteflies to be enjoying our kale or do we want the kids at 24th Street Elementary enjoying it? Enough said, right? 

We've been testing our simple recipe out and are looking forward to the results. Beautiful, whitefly free kale! 

Try it yourself and see how it goes.  

Garlic Foliar Spray:


 1 head of garlic

1 bunch of green onions

Hot water 


Chop up garlic and green onions.

Steep in hot water.

Strain into a spray bottle.

Spritz your plants, don't forget the underside of the leaves!

Prepare to smell for the rest of the day.  


You’ve Got Kale! 

Often, in seemingly season-less Southern California, it can be easy to overlook the fact that different types of fruits and vegetables thrive during different seasons. Even in our perpetually moderate climate, the concept of seasonality is important to keep in mind when it comes to planning your garden. Here at the 24th Street Elementary School when we ask our students, “What’s growing in our winter garden right now?” they unequivocally respond, “KALE!” and frequently can even identify the varieties that we have:

KALE! What is it good for? Absolutely everything!

In cooking class, the kids have been gathering around a blender to make their now famous Superfood Smoothie. Earlier this month, Chef Chris taught the 3rd graders how to write a recipe; a corollary to their science class curriculum on mixtures. Chef Chris had the students write down each ingredient and its amount and draw a picture of what should be done to it before entering the blender.

Superfood Smoothie
2 leaves kale
1 banana
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1 cup berries (in this case, blueberries)
1 cup rice or almond milk

Kale, we learned, is one of the best foods for you, with more nutrients per calorie than most other foods. Once we added all the ingredients, the kids took turns blending using our exciting environmentally friendly bike blender. This interactive blender is a favorite among the kids, who love using their own energy to blend their smoothies. Each student took a turn as the others cheered them on: “Go Jamie, go Jamie, GO JAMIE!”

After the blending was done, the kids were full of smoothie and questions! “Where can I get kale?” was a common one, so we talked about the leafy greens section of farmers markets and supermarkets. When another student pointed out that they didn’t sell kale where he shopped, we talked about how other kinds of leafy green vegetables like spinach or chard could be a healthy substitute. “I’m going to tell my mom to make this for me at home!” exclaimed one student, while another wrote “I <3 Kale” in her notebook. Even one student, who didn’t like the smoothie, was convinced after trying a piece of raw kale…and then another, and another. Suddenly a huge group of children gathered, asking to try the raw kale, and they loved it! Whether it’s in a smoothie, a salad, or baked into chips with our solar oven, the kids are loving the kale from our wintry garden, and it loves them.