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February Garden Update

As the camas begins to crown in the Northern garden bioswale and reminds us that cultural foods still remain, the daylilies stick their fingers as high as a stretched human hand as the mustard greens are as large as a squirrel’s nest while our Oregon grape shows signs of budding, it is the middle of Winter!

The last month has been busy with students' dirty hands and parents planting while we prepare for the coming of the vitamin-D-life-giving sun (even though he’s been showing his face from time-to-time). Deb and Carol, along with countless parent-volunteers and students have invested time, blood and money helping to see the completion of the outdoor learning space. Thank you to all who have lent a hand (or shovel).

An exciting addition to the syllabus is the collaboration between Mr. Diltz’s 7th grade tech class and our garden program. The class is entitled Permaculture. Permaculture has 12 principles, and each class will be themed with a principle. Our first principle and class, “Observe and Interact”. We spent time in the garden, which for some, was their first this year. What do you hear, smell, see, feel etc?. Of course there was the ebb and flow of attention and the debate of Katy Perry vs. Selena Gomez was, at times, unyielding. The problem and gift of this class is their attachment to the computer and their phones. However, in Permaculture the problem is sometimes the solution. With their interest in tech and coding, Mr. Diltz and I are excited to get them working on planting algorithms, 3D design of future planting spaces and internet research. The next theme and principle was “catch and store energy” -we tackled the multi-shelved fluorescent light seed-starting operation.

A new fruit-bearing addition has made its way into our edible garden thanks to a community member-friend of Carol Senna. We learned about this new plant called a Hardy Kiwi, who hails from the north eastern asian regions - basically a vine bearing kiwis able to produce in our climate, hence hardy. Ms. Johnston’s 4/5 class was able to plant the kiwi in front of the cob bench classroom. The vine will eventually climb around the posts of the classroom, helping to regulate the temperature, making the cob benches more pleasant in hot weather. In addition to planting a male Kiwi, we had to plant an additional one - a female. The female was planted not too far away since, as we found out, fruit is not produced until the male pollinates the female.

In some classes, we used Felco pruners for the first time to prune the male kiwi. Very sharp, very fun.

With the continual help of De-Pave and Carol Senna’s design, the bioswales are nearly complete. Sedges, grasses and shrubs, OH MY! In some of our classes we learned the importance of watershed restoration. What watershed are we in? Is the water that comes off the school’s roof healthy to drink? Healthy to feed the garden? We learned the importance of having rain swales and the mix of soil and sand to help purify water. Some students found sea shells in the bioswale making us ponder the whereabouts of the growing medium.

A no-brainer is the new addition of the tool cleaning brush that hangs from the front of the tool shed. Students are now asked to have a simple stop-gap measure before storing tools back in the shed after use. A pattern that is emerging in some students is the enjoyment of being the person who cleans all the tools; Woohoo! I tend to believe the the patience and love put into our tools greatly increases our abundance in the garden. We’ll see - kids will be kids.

The monstrous Amaranth planted last year has been bundled up for a few months. Ms.McKinney’s 2nd grade was able to learn the minimalist art of making a folded seed packet. We learned about the Amaranth and sorted the seeds into everyone’s seed packet. We learned to store it in the dark, and wait until spring to plant.

Ms. Mahon’s 1st grade spent their last class in the garden this week. We also made seed packets, played in the outdoor space but, sadly didn’t say our goodbyes. I couldn’t do it, I should have. The class will now be filled by Ms. Tapfer’s 1st grade. More kids in the garden!!

With the SUN programs, our Garden Chefs class have been cooking outside! We made sweet potatoes with coconut oil, fava bean leaves, mustard leaves and kale. We also made quinoa the other day, the first for most of the students, and curry! Our Garden Fun class with the youngers after-school has been based on an epically competitive worm-finding class. Each worm is a point and the more worms found, the happier they get - worms are placed in the raised beds. The takeaway, hopefully, is the importance of having/finding worms in our soils.

Regarding garden improvements, our community recently came together to build 3 willow structures in the circular gravel nodes west of the large black oak trees. The 100 willow coppice were harvested by Carol, Heather and me in Boring, Oregon and were used to create huts that will come to life as they root.

While our garden is waiting for spring growth, I was able to attend the Oregon FARM TO SCHOOL SUMMIT in Silverton, Oregon. It was super informative. “Serving Diverse Student Populations and Addressing Social Justice”, "Field Trips: Best Practices for Educators”, “Re-Envisioning Volunteerism”, “Middle School Lessons in the Garden”, and "Culturally Appropriate Gardens for a Diverse Background” were the classes I participated in. Oregon is rocking it, and so is Sabin. Slow and small solutions is my biggest takeaway.

Speaking of Spring, please join me at our Garden Work Party this Sunday, February 28th, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. We will be creating space for our new 3 sisters garden plot (a Native American gardening method for planting corn, beans and squash together), as well as weeding, pruning, building and repairing in the garden. Please sign up at or just show up!

Finally, you may have heard or seen the ideas of having a summer garden camp here at Sabin. Some of us are putting energy into this, and as soon as we know, you all will know! For further information you can go to for an idea of what we’ll offer and sign-up if you’re interested.

Here’s to an abundant last part of Winter!


Sabin Garden Educator


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