Edible Peace Patch Blogs

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Gardens as Gateway to our Souls

As I reflect on the arch like nature of the photograph I took while in the Lakewood Garden I think about how gardens can serve as a window to our souls. Gardens can serve as a soothing relaxing place to escape the rigors or daily life. A place to just be, exist, and feel safe and comforted - not trampled on. Our soul or psyche is no different. Often the deepest longing of the soul is to be accepted and loved just as is, weeds and all. As we learn how to nurture and tend the garden let us not forget to tend and nurture ourselves, our psyche. For just as gardens need tending, loving, and constant care, so does our soul. Let the garden serve as the gateway or lens into the essential feeding of our souls.

February 26, 2015      Laura Clarke

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Garden Workday

On Saturday November 15th, volunteers gathered at Lakewood Elementary school to tackle some large projects in the garden.  A special thank you to the Junior League of St. Petersburg for lending a helping hand this service day!

It was a lovely morning to work in the garden and we were all kept busy with a variety of different tasks.  Weeds were pulled, dying plants were removed to make room for new seeds and seedlings, and fresh soil from the compost pile was sifted onto the beds.  While weeding, we found a large cricket peeking out from under the mustard greens.

The smallest snake found in Florida also made an appearance!  It's believe that these little snakes were brought to the United States from Southeast Asia in potted plants.  They are similar in size and shape to an earthworm, with the main distinguishing feature being their lack segmentation.

Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

In addition to cleaning up the beds, another large task accomplished was the painting of signs to mark the location of the wide variety of plants found in the garden.  Okra, bok choy, rapini, onion, margiolds, beets, brussel sprouts, chives, kale, corn, basil...


As the service day wound down, it was evident how much effort had been put in by all the volunteers.  Even in such a short amount of time the garden looked completely rejuvenated - it will be exciting to watch the newly planted seeds grow over the next couple weeks!

- Colleen

Friday, November 7, 2014

Volunteering in the garden has been quite the learning experience. I have never been around first graders before, so actually teaching them has been challenging! My partners and I have strategized many times on how to keep the kids attention but today, we learned, freeing up the reigns makes for the best learning. The kids play scientist as they ‘walk’ around the garden observing. They love seeing how much the green beans, papayas, and their seedlings were growing. And they always have time to hunt for the friendly bugs of the garden. When things got a little crazy, the journals are a handy tool to get them to regroup and draw pictures of what they observed and write the questions they have. At the end of the lesson, I had my group draw pictures of themselves as superheroes working in the garden and share with the group. Seeing one boy, who at the beginning did not want to participate, stand up proudly to show himself flying over the garden in his special watering suit to help the plants grow was such a cool moment. Volunteering with these kids has not been clean or organized. Instead, it has turned out to be so much fun and the best morning in the kid’s and my week. Check out the kids' favorite garden things below!

Andrea and her scientists

Garden is so beautiful and full of life

The seedlings the kids planted are growing!!!!

The forbidden papaya tree.

The kids loved trying the green beans

Favorite activity- catching these bugs under the rocks

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lakewood Elementary Service Day!


Join us in spending the morning in our Lakewood Elementary schoolyard garden. The Junior League of St. Pete will be lending a big helping hand for this Service Day!
Saturday November 15th 2014 9AM-1PM
We take this time to catch up on garden maintenance and to finish larger projects so that our gardens are ready for the students who come out weekly to learn and explore.
Morning refreshments are provided.
Bring along your family, friends, and your gardening tools!
p.s. Bring along your compost-ables to donate to our compost bins(veggie and fruit scraps, oak leaves, coffee grounds, tea bags, BUT NO MEAT or DAIRY, please)!
Visit peacepatch.org for more info about our project.
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
Keep an eye out for the addition of November and December service days!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Meditations on Weeding

It was a beautiful day out in the Lakewood garden, but sadly our class was unable to attend. So, the five of us took advantage of the peace and decided to focus our energies on weeding the beds. Honestly, it is a shame I did not think to take before and after photos, because the transformation was impressive. I also get a little ping in my heart when I acknowledge the fact that by next week at least half our tenacious efforts will have disappeared under those even more tenacious weeds.

I have always found the action of weeding to be quite meditative, and I'm finding more and more how symbolically significant the action can be as well. We spend our time pulling out those seemingly endless seas of sedge and torpedo grass only to find the next week that they have returned in full force. A garden is ever in transition, constantly growing both the desirable and undesirable (although at times it feels like those tiny tomatoes will never be able to overcome those weeds). However, as gardeners, it is our duty to get out there every day and care for the plants and the space we have designated for them, no matter how daunting those weeds may appear. It is difficult to then not make the mental jump and see this ongoing process as a metaphor for our day-in, day-out battles we each face throughout life. We just have to keep chugging along, pulling away at those stubborn weeds, and hope we remember to look up and appreciate the flowers.

Get out there and start your weeding!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

First Time For Everything

Thursday October 9, 2014

As a social worker and mental health counselor my mind is usually focused on the human condition, not the world of plants. There is something perhaps metaphorical or analogous about seemingly endless life lessons that a garden provides or makes explicit for us. A garden strikes me as a potent ground zero for new beginnings or 'firsts.' For example today marked the first time for me as an official Edible Peace Patch volunteer. Additionally it was also my first time being in a position of teaching children. And ironically, the children I was teaching were first graders! It was also my first time teaching anyone about gardens, seeds, nature, much less teaching outdoors.

The children were excited, eager, and yes, energetic!! As I taught them the lesson plan    "The Magic of Seeds" and what seeds need ( water, sunlight, nutrients, soil) and "The Potential of Seeds" (my own spin on this lesson)  I could not help but notice the sparking energy of the many 'firsts' crackling around me. In simultaneous fashion there was the budding 'first' of a new fall season at Lakewood Elementary School Garden, the buzzing 'first' of intrepid schoolchildren embarking on the first year of what I hope will be a rich and rewarding relationship with learning and the bemusing 'first' cropping up in my own life as well. I can still experience new firsts in my life, even at age 50. How rejuvenating! We are never to old to learn and grow.

May the newness and regenerative powers of first times and new beginnings stay with us always. The garden shows us the way.

Laura Clarke

Friday, May 23, 2014

Edible Peace Patch Featured Plant No 1: Powerhouse Papaya

Welcome to the first posting in a series I'll call the 
Edible Peace Patch Featured Plant. 
The first featured plant is one that can be found in many of our schoolyard gardens and is a consistent favorite among the children: 
Carica papaya

C. papaya is a plant-like tree that grows to be 5-10 meters (16 to 30 feet) tall. The leaves are deeply palmately lobed with 7 lobes and grow to be almost 2 ft long. It's leaves drop easily, leaving the characteristic leaf scars along the truck. The flowers are a waxy white and have 5 petals. The fruit is usually between 6 and 18 inches long, has rosy or yellow flesh, and dozens of slimy black seeds in the center. The fruit is ripe when it is soft to the touch and has an orange hue. 

Female flowers of the papaya. Papayas are naturally dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female trees. However, they can change gender quickly depending on environmental factors. This one's a female tree...for now.

Male flowers of the papaya. This ones the male, so pollen will be taken from these flowers to the female flowers, which will then develop into papaya fruits.

Growing conditions:
Papayas grow in frost-free climates, need lots of sunlight, water and nutrient-rich soil. They grow easily from seed, but don't transplant well. If you want to plant one from seed, try making a modified hugelkultur bed like those in our gardens and planting the seeds directly into the ground. Thin the weaker trees out as they grow. For more info on how to grow papayas, check this permaculture site out.
Below is a papaya at our Maximo peace patch:

The papaya plant's original home range stretches from southern Mexico into northern South America, but it is now grown in tropical regions around the world. The papaya ranks 3rd in total tropical fruit production worldwide (15.36% of the market) behind mango and pineapple (another favorite of our students).

What's so special?
For one, the tree's rapid, measurable growth makes it a go-to when discussing the plant life cycle with students. It's easy to find a plant with flowers, unripe, and ripe fruit all on the same tree. This also comes in handy when we teach the children about the parts of the plant, the role of flowers, and pollination.

Papayas are particularly nutritious, too. Besides being high in fiber and minerals, it is a wonderful source of the B vitamins and antioxidants including carotenes, vitamin C, and flavonoids. It's also a great source of the digestive enzyme papain, a molecule that's been isolated and used industrially for brewing, meat tenderizing, pharmaceuticals, and beauty products. That's right, ladies, you can slather mashed papaya on your face for an easy, rejuvenating facial.

You can eat the ripe fruit alone, in salads, or smoothies. The unripe fruit can be eaten raw (like in Thai papaya salad) or cooked. The young leaves can be steamed and eaten like spinach, and some cultures use the flowers in their cuisine. The seeds can be eaten, too, and are sometimes used as a substitute for black peper.

Personal notes: The high enzyme content makes papaya fruits ripen rather quickly, so grab a fresh papaya only if you're prepared to use it in less than a week. Also, I'll be honest, the fruit smells slightly like feet to me, and I've found the only way I can really enjoy eating papaya raw (besides in smoothies) is by smothering fresh slices in lime or lemon juice and sprinkling with salt.

I hope you've learned a little something about this powerhouse fruit growing in our gardens. 
Stay tuned for the Featured Plant No 2: Pineapple!

Garden Program Coordinator