Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Want to till some soil or lend a hand

We would love your help. To find out how you can help check out the monthly poster on the garden bulletin board in the main hallway and contact Kathy Garris.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Please Welcome New School Garden Coordinator, Kathy Garris

Dear Friends and Gardeners,

Please help us welcome our new school garden coordinator Kathy Garris. Kathy's children attend Vestal and she has been very proactive about volunteering in classrooms and with the Garden class this summer. She has many great ideas about uniting the community gardeners with school gardeners, and environmental stewardship.

We will truly miss our Americorps Garden coordinator Ms. Laura Benjamin, but we wish her well in her new endeavors.

Our next School Garden Committee Meeting will be October 17th, at 2:30-3:30 in room 110 of Vestal.

We welcome all parents and vestal community gardeners to this meeting. The primary focus of the meeting will be related to school gardening and outreach.

Thank you,
Mrs. Rowland

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Perfect Day for Pumpkin Planting

This past Wednesday Vestal Summer School students planted pumpkins. It takes 100 days for pumpkin seeds to grow into mature pumpkin plants, so we are hoping to have a bumper crop of wonderfully orange pumpkins just in time for Halloween.
We also have a batch of pumpkins that we planted earlier in the summer that should be ready for harvest at the beginning of the school year in September.
Keep an eye out for vines in the garden pathways and the bright blossoms and pumpkins to follow!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Gardening: Week 4

For our fourth and final week of summer gardening, students enjoyed art in the garden. Students were busy painting stepping stones and bird houses to help give the garden some unique Vestal personality. The bird houses also help to encourage more birds, insects and other critters to utilize the garden as their home. We were able to use plants from the garden as art supplies. Students learned about how plants can be used to make natural dyes. We collected brightly colored flowers and leaves and pounded them onto white cloth. The pigments from the plants stained the cloth, creating beautifully colored wash clothes.

During our snack time with OSU Nutrition Extension, students prepared an Asian Chicken Salad, using fresh lettuce from the garden and a variety of other vegetables including green onions, carrots, and cilantro.

Thanks to all who participated in summer gardening! Summer gardening at the Vestal Community Garden was a huge success and we are sad that the four weeks are up. Students learned about gardening, soil and compost, worms and insects, and art in the garden. They also harvested and tasted many new fresh vegetables and were able to take home bags of fresh veggies to share with family and friends. Now we are looking forward to the start of the school year in September, when all Vestal students will be back in the garden.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Gardening: Week 3

For our third week of summer gardening, students learned about worms and insects. We went on a "bug hunt", looking for worms, insects and other critters that live in the garden. A few students found 15 different types of critters living in our garden. It's amazing to know that our bountiful garden that supports a variety of insects including beneficial pollinators, was once just asphalt. Students also learned about insect body parts and made their own insects out of construction paper.
For snack with OSU Nutrition Extension, students made Dragon Flies and Butterflies using celery sticks, peanut butter, pretzels and raisins.
In preparation for an art project next week, students collected and pressed flowers.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer Gardening: Week 2

For our second week of summer gardening, we focused on soil and compost. Students made their own "compost pile" in a cup, learning about decomposition and what ingredients are needed to make compost for the garden. We also learned about the different components of soil and how different plants grow best in different types of soil. With the warm weather, students helped to water the school garden beds everyday. It is quite a task to water 22 garden beds! While we were watering, students discovered they can create small rainbows if they lightly spray water toward the bright sun.
During our snack time with OSU Nutrition Extension, students prepared Personalized Pasta Salad, using broccoli and snap peas fresh from the garden. On the last day of Week 2, students took home a big bag of lettuce to share with their families.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Gardening: Week 1

This past week the Vestal Community Garden held its first week of summer gardening camp. Students learned and reviewed gardening basics ranging from how to plant seeds to how to harvest and properly wash garden produce. Each student planned and planted his or her own garden plot and we look forward to a late fall harvest from the newly planted beds. Over the course of the week, students tasted varieties of lettuce, snap peas, radishes, onions, strawberries, and broccoli. It is so exciting to see kids eager to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. With the help of the OSU Nutrition Extension Program, we were also able to make "Popeye Power Smoothies" using spinach and kale from the garden.

Not only are students learning and growing in the garden, they are also helping with maintenance over the summer- weeding, watering and harvesting from the school garden beds. We look forward to the next week of camp which will focus on soil and compost.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Super Salad Eaters

Vestal students have been enjoying garden fresh salads to celebrate the end of the school year. It was a unique experience for students and teachers to eat fresh lettuce that they grew and prepared themselves. Many of our students are super salad eaters, asking for second and third helpings of fresh healthy veggies.

Our salads included all six parts of the plant: seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit. Take a look at the recipe below:

Six Plant Part Salad (courtesy of OSU Nutrition Extension)
Serves 4

1 Head of Romaine Lettuce
1 Bunch of Broccoli
1 Apple
1 Carrot
2 Ribs of Celery
1/4 cup Sunflower Seeds

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard

Direcitons: Wash and chop all vegetables into bite size pieces. Mix dressing in a small jar or container. Toss all vegetables and dressing in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Garden Get Together This Saturday!

Our final event of the school year is our
Garden Get Together this Saturday June 11th from 10 am- 12 pm.
Enjoy time in the garden and meet Vestal families and community gardeners.
There will be an art project for kids and you may bring a snack to share.
We hope to see you there!

Thank you to the fantastic community gardeners who helped out at the work party last Saturday. We spread the remaining wood chips, cleared out the unofficial compost pile, and weeded the native plant hedgerow. We could not have accomplished this without your hard work and dedication to the garden. Thanks again!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gardening Helps Our Students to Grow

Upstream Public Health and Farm to School just released a new study showing that garden-based education boosts academic achievement and test scores. You can take a look at the report here.

The Vestal Community Gardens provides students with hands-on outdoor learning opportunities. Over the past year we have seen how working outside of the traditional classroom and applying classroom concepts to real life projects has helped to improved Vestal students' academic and personal success. We are so excited that there is now official research to back-up the positive changes we see in our students.

Monday, May 9, 2011

June Events

We invite you to enjoy what the garden has to offer Vestal School. We encourage everyone to be a part of the garden and attending one of our June events is a great way to start.

Garden Work Party- Saturday June 4th 10 am- 12 pm

We will be getting the garden ready for the summer months.

No gardening experience needed. We will supply tools and snacks.

Garden Get Together-

SaturdayJune 11th 10 am- 12 pm

Enjoy time in the garden and meet Vestal families and community

gardeners. There will be an art project for kids and you may bring a

snack to share.

Questions? Contact Garden Coordinator Laura Benjamin at or 503-916-6437.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hooray for the Sun!

Thank you to all the wonderful Vestal parents and students who helped out at our Big Spring Planting this past Saturday April 30th. We painted our two new picnic benches, transplanted strawberries, and planted over 20 new plant starts. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was so nice to be outside spending time in the garden.

We are planning a June work party as our last garden event of the school year. Keep a look out for details to come soon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Big Spring Planting

Mark your calendars! The Vestal Community Garden's BIG SPRING PLANTING is Saturday April 30th from 10 am- 12 pm. We will be planting a variety of seeds and plant starts. There will be seeds for community gardeners and volunteers to take home. No gardening experience required. We will supply tools and snacks. We hope to see you there!

Earth Day

This Friday April 23 is Earth Day! Founded in 1970, Earth Day is a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for our natural environment. This coming weekend there are a variety of ways to get involved in Earth Day. Almost all the events are free and family friendly. Take a look here and here for lists of Portland area Earth Day festivities.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

It's officially spring and Vestal students are busy planting their spring gardens. Students are transplanting the snap peas, lettuce, and spinach that they started indoors when the weather was still too cold for outdoor planting. And as the weather warms up, we can plant radishes, carrots, eggplant, chard, and more lettuce and greens directly in the garden. Now we just have to be patient until May when we can begin eating and enjoying our fresh garden vegetables.

Mark your calendars!
Our next work party is Saturday April 30th from 10 am to 12 pm. We will be planting a variety of seeds and starts as part of our "Big Spring Planting". More information to come soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Check Out Kitchen Gardeners International

The Vestal Community Garden is proud to be featured on Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI). KGI works "to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance through the promotion of kitchen gardening, home cooking, and sustainable local food systems." We are proud to be featured on KGI's website and hope that our work at Vestal can be an inspiration for others passionate about gardening. You can take a look at our profile and video here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

One year ago...

...the Vestal Community Garden opened! It's hard to believe that the garden has only been up and running for one year. In the past 12 months we have:

-Provided hands-on outdoor learning opportunities to the 450 students at Vestal School, instilling environmental stewardship and healthy lifestyle habits.

-Increased parent and community member involvement at Vestal Sch
ool through garden classroom representative and work party volunteer opportunities.
- Turned an impervious area of black top into a bountiful garden that treats and retains storm water, improving our watershed health.

We look forward to the coming year and all it has in store. Thanks to everyone for helping to make our first year a success!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Super Saturday Work Party

Thanks to everyone who braved the cold to join our first work party of the year this past Saturday February 26th. Over 20 volunteers including community gardeners, community members, and Vestal parents helped to spread compost and mulch, weed all of the garden beds, and build a 3-bin compost system. Now the garden is ready for spring planting and Vestal students are eager to start growing their own vegetables.
We built our 3-bin compost system using recycled wood pallets and these great instructions from the South Whidbey Good Cheer Garden blog. This type of compost system is extremely inexpensive, easy to build, and can be taken apart and moved if needed.
Thanks again to all of our wonderful volunteers!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Plant Starts Thanks to Annie's

In preparation for our 2011 planting, several classes at Vestal have started seeds indoors. Seeds are planted in plastic flats and placed under grow lights. In March the plant starts can be moved out to the garden. Students researched a certain type of vegetable plant, including lettuce, cabbage, and arugula, learning how the plants grows best and how it can be used. Once the plant starts are ready to be planted outside, classes will exchange plant starts along with the research they have put together. Vestal students are sharing their gardening knowledge with one another and also helping to ensure that there is a variety of plant starts for the garden.

A special thanks to Annie's Homegrown for their generous contribution to our plant starts through their Grants for Gardens program.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Garden Party- Saturday February 26th

Join us on Saturday February 26th from 10am to Noon in the Vestal Community Garden to finish readying the garden for spring planting.

We will be spreading compost and woodchips, building a 3-bin compost system, and painting picnic tables. This is a great way to visit our site and learn about our plans for a bountiful year. No gardening experience needed. We will supply tools and snacks.

The Vestal Community Garden is located at 161 NE 82nd Avenue. Questions? Contact Laura Benjamin, Garden Coordinator at 503-916-6437 or

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Let it rain!

Thanks to a generous grant from Vision into Action, the Vestal Community Garden now has a rainwater catchment system. In the Northwest we are blessed with a lot of annual rainfall, but unfortunately most of it ends up going down the drain. By creating a rain water catchment system, we can use our stored water during the summer and drier months. Gutters and downspouts were installed on the tool shed roof. Rain will fall on the roof and into the gutters and collect in two 120 gallon barrels. We will use the collected water on the native plant hedgerow that separates the school and community garden plots. Our new rain water catchment system also provides Vestal School with great opportunities to measure rainfall and learn about watershed health.

If you would like to learn more about rain water catchment systems, take a look at the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability's website.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Take a Seat

We now have two new picnic tables thanks to Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc.
Students in the Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class built two picnic tables with attached benches, providing Vestal students and community gardeners with additional seating. With our new picnic tables, we can now seat an entire class in the garden, helping to make our garden a functional outdoor classroom.
Mr. Blanchard's 4th Grade class was able to talk to the women about their experiences and interest in the construction trades. We are so pleased to have our new picnic tables and that their construction provided students at Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. and Vestal School with learning opportunities.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sharing Our Success

The Vestal Community Garden was very proud to be a part of the 9th annual Urban Ecology and Conservation Symposium this past Monday January 24, 2011. The symposium brought together people from various universities, local governments, and non-profit organizations to present and share urban ecosystem research. The Vestal Community Garden partnered with Depave to illustrate how community groups can remove uneccesary asphalt to create an outdoor learning and community gathering space. It was a great opportunity to share our successes with people from all over the Pacific Northwest.

Keep an eye out for weekly blog updates coming in February!