Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Gardens at DC Public Schools!

This year, through a partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Safeway, City Blossoms has been building school gardens all over the city! Recently we built a circular veggie garden at Tyler Elementary in Capitol Hill; and last weekend we built the Golden Ratio garden at Anne Beers Elementary School. Both builds were a huge success thanks to teachers, parents, neighbors, and of course KIDS who worked so hard to paint, dig, haul compost, and plant their gardens on beautiful Saturdays. Just in case you want to be part of this planting party, we have two more builds coming up!
Saturday, October 30 at Shaed Elementary School (301 Douglas Street NE) from 10-2
Saturday, November 6 at King Elementary School (3200 6th st SE) from 10-1

It really feels amazing to change a blank space into fantastic green spaces where kids and grown-ups can share experiences, learn about growing food and play with friends and neighbors - all in one Saturday morning! If you are interested in joining us please email Lola B at

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gross and Cool - Soldier Flies

Yesterday we were walking around Marion Street Intergenerational Garden, checking on plants and compost, and I was quite revolted to see about 400 of these things furiously crawling up the insides of our compost cans. Luckily, Zachary from Clagett Farm was on hand to drop some knowledge on me - these are soldier fly larvae! And believe it or not, they are not as bad as they look. According to some research, soldier flies are big helpers in the compost bin, and they can withstand the heat a bit better than earthworms (who we still want to hang around). This site I found, Black Soldier Fly Blog, is dedicated to promoting soldier fly composting. As a part-time entomology buff, I was happy to get to know these hard working little buggers and I hope they will continue being our neighbors at Marion Street.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Basil Bonanza

The Biggest Basil Potluck Ever! Come and pick some basil and prep a delicious dish for neighbors and friends of Marion Street Garden. Pick the basil Monday, August 23 4-7pm or Wednesday, August 25 4-6:30 and then eat with everyone from 6:30 to 8:30 on August 25th. We are looking forward to lots of new recipes using basil in ways never imagined, as well as a really good pesto or two. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Lola at

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More reflections on gardening with children by Kevin and David

This summer our SYEP interns have gotten a LOT of practice working with young children and learning how best to communicate information about gardening and community to young minds. The lesson this week involved the interns reading stories to small groups of children and then checking for comprehension by having the children draw pictures of their understanding of the book. Here are some more reflections from our beginning teachers - enjoy!

Kevin Smith -
Today I realized that it is extremely hard to get the kids' full attention. This time around it was very difficult to explain my lesson because the kids' minds were everywhere. They were watching other kids play and were just looking around everywhere. What was also different about this time was the kids' understanding of the book I read. The kids were aware of the fruits in the book and were able to tell the difference between them.

David Holmes - It wasn't similar to last week - it was kind of better. The kids paid attention more, and I think every week that gets better. They draw very well and paid closer attention to what they were drawing this time. I think I made the story/learning activity a better and more fun experience for them by using their language/ way of talking about the things that they like.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reflections by David, Hazle and Kevin

Today our SYEP interns read a bunch of books to the Harvard Street Pre-K Incentive Program kids in the garden. Soon we will be introducing large garden libraries at all of our Early Childhood locations that introduce themes like farm-to-table, insects, math in the garden, recipes, and bringing in beauty with flowers. Some of the books David, Hazle and Kevin read today were the "Plants Parts Series" by Vijaya Bodach:
Roots, Leaves, and Flowers.

Below they have written responses to their experiences working one-on-one with the kids and figuring out how best to tell a story.

Kevin Smith -
Today was a learning experience for me. The children were very respectful and were willing to listen to me read. I enjoyed gaining a new connection with the children. The most difficult part of the lesson was having to explain myself more than one time. For the children to understand, I had to break down my words in children's terms. Overall my experience was great because I became closer with the kids by understanding them more.

Hazle Crawford -
What could I do better? Ask more questions to the kdis.
What did I like? I liked the fact that the kids were fantastic and enthusiastic with smelling and drawing plants.
What was successful? Everything was successful as a group we did excellent and accomplished our jobs.
What was difficult? The difficult part was at the end when a little boy was acting shy.
But overall I would give today's class a "B+".

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teas-ing your Tastebuds

Today's New York Times has an article on making your own tea using herbs and wild plants from your garden, front porch, back yard, wherever you find them. After reading this article I thought, why not just stop by a City Blossoms garden for some of these ingredients? Some of the tasty tea herbs we grow (on purpose) are:
Pineapple Mint
Chocolate Mint
Lemon Verbena
Lemon Balm
And more! Just ask! Besides that, we can help you identify some of the wild "weeds" in this article, such as burdock, plantain, dandelion, and mullein. One of our best locations to see all of these growing vigorously is Marion Street Intergenerational Garden. Monday and Wednesday nights we are there 4-7; come stop by to volunteer, ask questions, hang out or pick some herbs!
Also check out herbal tea advice from You Grow Girl

Macaroni Caprese!

We like to shake things up a little bit here at City Blossoms. Well, actually, we just like to figure out weird ways to get kids to eat all of the tasty delicious food in the garden without freaking out and staying in their picky-appetite shells. So instead of a traditional Insalata Caprese today, we decided to go for something a little more familiar, and made sort of a Macaroni Caprese. We used whole wheat macaroni (semi familiar) and added the traditional caprese ingredients: tomato (familiar), basil (umm sorta familiar...), and fresh mozzarella (what the heck?!). Tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper, this is an easy and cool pasta salad to prep on a day when even our eyelids are sweating. And judging from these pics, it's pretty tasty, too!

Pictures of this week

Beet Painting! Who knew beets could be so much fun? We were thinking long and hard about what raw recipes we could make with beets - alongside pre-K no less - and were coming up short. Beets are just one of those tricky begetables that are fun to grow. So we figured, beet paint, why not? Kids shredded raw beets to make the paint (with a little added water), then used the paint to write out "beet" and make pretty designs. We love to play with food!

These young gentlemen decided to show some swiss chard who's boss. Swiss chard is usually best when cooked or massaged in a raw salad, however these two (and several other kids at Marion) were digging it in it's pure, raw state. Maybe they know something I don't.

This week we had a lovely outing at the USDA People's Garden with our young SYEP interns. More details to come about that trip...let me just warn you - it was HOT!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thank you Jack Johnson and All At Once!

We at City Blossoms want to give a shout out to Jack Johnson's All At Once campaign that supported us and many other local and national non-profits this summer. Last night, Rebecca and I went to host a table at Jack Johnson's concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion, and we met a ton of lovely people who helped us make some gorgeous signs for Marion Street Garden (pics soon to come). Thanks to the generosity of All At Once, we were able to match all of the donations from our recent fundraiser to support programming at all of our locations. Check out to find out more about the campaign, how to get involved with some of their projects and support non-profits like City Blossoms!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cool as a Cucumber

Today children from New Community For Children came to Marion Street Garden in the megaheat and explored the flavor potential of cucumbers with us. Cucumbers are a fantastic food to grow in the garden because they can be prepared in a wide variety of simple, no-cook recipes right there in the garden that are light and refreshing. We are lucky that no cucumber beetles have been spotted in our beds yet, but our eyes are open!
The kids tasted some of the fresh cucumbers from the garden and compared the flavor, texture, color, and smell with pickles from a jar. Some kids learned for the first time that pickles are made from cucumbers! Next, we all worked together to prepare some fresh garden pickles using cucumbers, chive and dill (picked from the garden), a lemon (not picked from the garden), a bit of water, and salt. These were a big hit! Many kids asked for seconds, thirds, and fourths. We hope that the cucumber vines keep producing so we can experiment with other flavor combinations next week. Some of the recipes we are excited to try out are:
Cucumber-Radish Salsa
Cucumber Tomato Quinoa Salad
Cucumber-Mint Raita

Chances are, if the kids are making the recipes, there will be no leftovers!
Do you have any good cuke recipes? Send them our way!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Advice from David Holmes

Our SYEP staffperson David Holmes wrote this up today to give some advice to those out there who may be considering gardening with City Blossoms:

This a little something I like to call working in the garden.
Well during the summer I worked with City Blossoms. It was cool and all but, sometimes I just didn’t want to get all dirty. So, if you are someone like me and you don’t like to get messy but, you want to work in the garden with friends/family/employees. Just follow these steps!

step 1: find out who you will be doing it with

step 2: see how messy the work site is

step 3: depending on how messy it is that is how you choose your clothing
regardless it’s gonna get messy because you have to water and trust me it’s gonna get muddy

step 4: also dress according to the weather

step 5: well I guess you should be all set and ready to go, just make sure you do a lot of watering

from: your friendly neighborhood gardening boy “David Holmes”

We think David might have a real future with City Blossoms! He definitely is getting the hang of it despite early doubts. We look forward to having him share more of his opinions and advice with us over the rest of the summer.

Welcome to New City Blossoms Staff!

Hello Everyone,
This summer we have been very lucky to have 4 Summer Youth Employment Program staff join City Blossoms and help us lead classes all over the city! David, Hazle, Sabrina and Kevin are all DC teens who are enthusiastic to work with kids and learn more about creating gardens, even when it means getting a little dirty and hot (especially with DC's blazing summer!). Over the next several weeks, our staff will be creating posts to tell about their experiences and ideas about gardening, making fresh food, exploring outdoors art and connecting with neighbors at all of the City Blossoms spaces. Here are some of the first observations below - enjoy!

In the past few weeks working with City Blossoms has been a real pleasure. I have learned about all types of plants, and herbs that could be cooked. I also learned how to be a role model to kids that are younger than me and teach them how to be gardeners and excelllent cooks. The most interesting class was when we cooked pasta salad with carrots, onions, parmesan cheese, squash, lemon, and oil with the kids today at NCFC. My favorite part of working with City Blossoms is that I get to work with some smart kids that are in the pre-k and upper classes. My least favorite part about working with City Blossoms is that I have to work in the sun under the heat. If I could teach a class I would like to teach about science, and plants and how plants really came about to the world, and how the world uses them for food.
- Hazle Crawford

An Interview with David Holmes

What have you done in the past week with City Blossoms?
I have been working with all kids in the garden and make recipes with them. Also we I have been watering all plants.

What did you find interesting?
I find working with the kids most interesting.

What was your least favorite part about working with City Blossoms?
My least favorite is getting dirty but, you got to do what you have to do.

If you could teach a class, what would you like to teach about?
Well kids like City Blossoms a lot because of the water and growing plants, I mean I guess gardening and /or math.

Hi my name is Sabrina and as I’ve been working for City Blossoms for a couple of weeks we have experienced many things as we all have worked in various gardens. For example, we have worked with lots of kids that are different ages, which is great because its a whole new experience for me as a high school student. It's been so great teaching them things about gardening and as I do that, I am also learning myself by my co-workers teaching new things every day. Every time at work I learn new things which makes me feel great because I can go home and do the same - not just at home but with other students as myself. Today we helped teach class to some high school kids. I was sort of scared and ready at the same time but I felt great working with kids my age. It seems as though we understand each other better as we teach class amongst kids our age. What was it like me being a high school student and facilitating a class of high school student? It was an amazing experience because we all understood each other very well and got to know things about each other as we helped them wash the ingredients, mix them, and try it. I felt so excited, helpful, and awesome!! It's something I'm not gonna forget. I know I'll go further as my teacher teaches me and I teach others. So this means i still got a lot to learn and experience more things!!(laughing)
- Sabrina Molina

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wonderful Wiggly Worms!

We're back in garden class after an extended snowy break!

Our youngest students (kindergarten and pre-K) have been learning all about the creepy-crawly inhabitants of our gardens: bees, ants, grasshoppers, ladybugs, and now worms.

Worms are fascinating creatures. They aerate the soil and transform waste into fabulous fertilizer. In our lessons, we observed worms and learned about the parts of their bodies through an active dance. Many of the kids were brave enough to hold the worms in their hands! Each student had the opportunity to sculpt worms out of Play-Doh and examine a worm habitat. We also discussed what materials worms can and can't safely digest. We're going to be placing worm bins in each of our three preschools so that the kids can witness firsthand the miracle of worms. Most of the kids loved the worm unit, so the bins should be a very exciting addition to their learning environment as well as an eco-friendly way of recycling classroom food waste.

Pre-K kids observe worms and learn about the parts of a worm's body (anterior, posterior, mouth).

Students practice fine motor skills by sculpting worms out of Play-Doh.

It's a worm party!

Observing our portable worm habitat (we can't wait until each school has its own real worm bin!).

Pre-K kids learn that apples, newspaper, and leaves make excellent worm food. (Please don't feed the worms ice cream or markers.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lovely Ladybugs . . .

Winter weather might keep us indoors, but we're still having lots of garden-related fun! This past week, our pre-K classes completed a unit on ladybugs. They learned that ladybugs play an important role in the garden by eating aphids, which eat the plants. We read a few ladybug-focused books (including Eric Carle's The Grouchy Ladybug - everyone's favorite!) and practiced math skills by counting ladybugs and their spots. We also made some super ladybug hats which the kids didn't want to take off!

Pre-K kids paint their ladybug hats.

Adding detail with spots, googly eyes, and pipe cleaner antennae . . .

Two pre-K students show off their lovely ladybugs.

A pre-kindergardener is transformed into a ladybug, no pupa involved.

Watch out, aphids: we've got a roomful of ladybugs ready for lunch!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy New Year!

City Blossoms is gearing up for what promises to be our busiest year yet! We're in the process of expanding our garden classes at local schools, breaking ground for a new community garden in Shaw, and planning for the upcoming RootingDC conference in February. We'll keep you posted on all our projects!

Our fourth graders at DC Bilingual Public Charter School have been learning about herbs. They have participated enthusiastically in growing, harvesting, drying, and learning about the various uses (culinary, medicinal, etc.) of these fabulous plants. To celebrate the New Year, some of our students paused to reflect on their herbal activities of 2009 and their garden hopes for 2010:

“I loved when we took the herbs and hung them up to dry. I liked doing jobs like taking the leaves off the stems. My favorite was when we made the Tummy Soother tea. My stomach was really hurting that day, and it made me feel better. Before garden class, I never knew that lemon balm and other herbs were really herbs – I thought they were just normal plants that you can’t eat.

I hope that we get to plant flowers and herbs in our garden." -Kessya

“My favorite activity for the herbs was anything with eating because I’m always hungry! I also liked cutting the herbs and cutting them off the stems. The mint tea was my favorite to drink. Before garden class, I didn’t know that mint came in so many flavors.

I hope we get to make mint ice cream!” -Alex

“I love the herbs, because after growing them, we get to eat them and do things with them! We made tea, and we also made cream cheese with chives, which is my favorite herb.

I hope that we can make pizza in the oven with the herbs we grew.” -Julissa

“I like that we learn how to take care of plants and trees – they’re important because they give us oxygen and we can’t have food without plants. My favorite was when we made tea, because the tea was so good! My favorite herb is cebollitas [chives] because it tastes so funny in your mouth.

I hope we get to make pizza with the herbs!” -Marilyn

Fourth graders at DC Bilingual remove dried oregano leaves from the stems.

Students carefully cut dried lemongrass leaves into small pieces for use in cooking.

Fourth graders used the herbs they harvested to brew two kinds of herbal tea.

Our tea connoisseurs sampled both Tummy Soother tea and Relax tea. (They concluded that Tummy Soother, with its spearmint and ginger flavors, was the general favorite.)

They also enjoyed preparing and eating Swiss chard wraps seasoned with their favorite herbs - yum!