Saturday, 19 August 2017

Summer Update

Hi all!

This summer has a been an amazing one in the NJ Gardens! We have had some amazing volunteers come to harvest some of the produce and blanch/freeze it for the students to use in September. The sunflowers are getting huge, the spaghetti squash is about ready to harvest and the kale has been growing non-stop! There will be a gardening course offered in September where the students will be busy at work harvesting all of the produce that is exploding from the gardens.  We are also looking forward to planting a crop of lettuce and radish in September for a quick harvest before the frost! 

An overall look at the garden beds overflowing with fresh produce! Our cute little helper, Murphy photo bombed
this shot!

Tomatoes when they were planted and what they
look like now! They've way outgrown their cage and
are about ready to produce a ton of tomatoes!
Carrots are ready to harvest any time now
and are poking their heads up through
the soil.
Sunflowers when they were planted by the daycare
students in May were 7 inches tall and are now
 7 feet tall!
Our onion harvest! Over 40 onions to
be used in Mark's cooking courses!

One of the many summer harvests
Another look at the gardens with the healing garden

A look at or herb bed.  The dill and arugula on the right
hand side are thriving! The sage, basil, oregano and parsley
are ready to be harvested as well!
Another one of the summer harvests

Our big raised bed with a new planting of kohl-rabi should be ready
for September.  Kale, swiss chard and carrots are ready to be harvested
as well.
Other side of the big raised bed boasts turnips, cabbage and another look
at the carrots.
The gardens have thrived this summer with all the rain and on days  where there wasn't enough rain we were thankful to have the awesome irrigation system set up to make sure our vegetables were happily watered. We hope everyone is having a wonderful summer and enjoying time outside!

Until next time,
Happy gardening!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

July garden update

Hi all, we hope you're enjoying the beautiful sunshine!

Just thought we'd put out a quick photo update on how our NJ garden is doing.
Our Indigenous Healing Garden is thriving! The sage
is growing so well (bottom) as well as the tobacco (upper right).
Throughout the garden are ornamental gourds (or at least that's
what we think they are)? We didn't plant these ones but thought
we'd let them grow to see what we get!
There is so much growing in our garden and we are so thrilled at how well it's been going!   

A collage shot of all the wonderful things growing in the garden!
From top left across we have: tomatoes, potatoes and spaghetti squash
all flowering, swiss chard (neon lights), beets, celery, kale, zucchini
and mustard greens.
Our blueberries (left) and raspberries (right) are just
about ready to be harvested and frozen! These will
go so well in smoothies for the students next school year.
Throughout the summer we have some dedicated volunteers that will be heading to the school to check on the garden and harvest any vegetables that are ready.  These volunteers have agreed to blanch and freeze the produce for the students to have in the fall.  

With the guidance and expertise of our absolutely amazing and innovative Foods teacher, Mark Frankish, the foods classes generally prepare meals for the whole school on a daily basis.   Having this extra produce on hand not only saves our small school money in grocery shopping but more importantly, engages our at risk youth.  This produce has been planted, cared for, harvested and cooked by our Norman Johnston students and this process teaches our students such valuable lessons in regards to sustainability, food security, and food preparation.

We had some student and teacher volunteers in after school
finished to help harvest, blanch and freeze even more produce
from the garden (kale, spinach, strawberries, mustard greens).
- see picture below
After the harvest they replanted the garden with more crops that
will be ready to harvest just in time for classes to start in September
(this way there is less to worry about harvesting throughout the summer).
- see picture above
Thanks for checking out our blog! We will update you in a couple of weeks when we harvest our beets (we will blanch and freeze the roots and the greens) and also when our new seeds begin to grow!

Happy gardening :)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Giving at Graduation

Our garden is overflowing with produce and we are so lucky to be doing so well! The students have been working tirelessly and their hard work really shows! Below is a video walkthrough of the garden prior to our big harvests.
We had an amazing graduation ceremony yesterday for our NJ class of 2017 and it was so awesome to see all the grads and all the hard work they put in to get where they are now.

We have been so lucky with our garden and the amount of produce we've been getting out of it so we decided to invite all the graduates, their friends and families as well as our special guests to come check out the garden and cut some lettuce, bok choy, spinach, kale and onions to take home.  Even after everyone came through and cut what they wanted we still had tons left over so some students have volunteered to come in to help pot up some lettuce plants and harvest more kale, spinach and strawberries (thank you!!!). We made some salad bowls with different kinds of lettuce and kept some of the lettuce as single plants in pots for people to take home and plant in their gardens.  Everything is so colourful and looks so beautiful.
a look at the lettuce harvest for today.  Sending lots of
this home with students and staff to plant in their
gardens at home.

A look at the two "salad bowls" we created with four
different varieties of lettuce.  They look so
colourful and tasty!

One of the ruby red lettuce plants potted
and ready to be transplanted in
someone's home garden.
Our bins of spinach and kale harvested from the garden today.
These will all be washed and frozen by our wonderful Foods
teacher and will be used in all sorts of foods for the students
in the fall.
We are so excited that there is still so much more to harvest from the garden.  We will be completing our harvest this week and next and plan to reseed with vegetables that have about 60-80 day harvest lengths so that when the students come back in September they will have lots of tasty vegetables ready to harvest!

Happy gardening! 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Another huge thank you goes out to Chris Shaeen from the Metro in Blackburn Hamlet for donating seeds to our garden program 2 years in a row! 

The seeds that Chris has donated the last two years have led to all of our wonderful produce from the gardens.  Here is this year's donation ...

Thank you so much for your generous donation Chris! We can't wait to get these seeds in the ground!

Happy gardening!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Irrigation System

Irrigation over the summer is a big hurdle to overcome for schools.  However, with a grant from Whole Kids Foundation we were able to set up a pretty awesome irrigation system that can be controlled from home! 

This irrigation system is SO cool! We have it set up with soaker hoses and sprinklers that can be turned on and off from a smartphone, anywhere.  This will be extremely helpful over the summer months when all the students are gone from school and we're waiting until September to harvest!  

We will of course go over to the school once a week or more to harvest food from the garden to freeze and to pick weeds (weeds never rest)!

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Huge Harvests!

We have been having huge harvests from the garden daily! 

We've had peas, lettuce (different varieties), kale, spinach, bok choy and LOTS of strawberries!

a look at the big gardens
more bok choy ready to harvest!
bok choy and turnips 
the onion bed is
growing so well
Happy gardening!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Thank You Very Mulch!

Thank you SO much to Gina from the Orleans Community Gardens for her amazing donation of mulch to the NJ student gardens!  We got a trailer full of wonderful mulch and we are looking forward to spreading it in the garden beds this week! It'll provide lots of help with water retention in the beds and will also help to keep the weeds away! 

There are so many incredible things going on at the Orleans Community Gardens.  They do weekly donations to the Ottawa Food Bank and have also got into the beekeeping business!  So much knowledge and so many kind people. 

The amazing community gardens run by Gina!
Found at 3352 St. Joseph Blvd and also
on Facebook!

The mountain of mulch that we picked from (with a shot of the
beehives in the background - what amazing work they're doing over
at the Orleans Community Gardens!

Our haul of mulch! 
A before and after shot of our Indigenous Healing Garden without mulch and
then the beautiful finished version with mulch! Our sage, sweetgrass,
tobacco and cedar will now be able to grow weed free! 
Thanks so mulch Gina!

Happy gardening!!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Garden growing update

Just a quick post to show you some photos of how our garden is growing!

Another view of the bed!

Strawberries are
starting to ripen!
Our ruby lettuce blend

Turnips and bok choy


Thanks for checking out our post,

Happy gardening!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Transplanting and Harvesting!

We spent this week transplanting out the rest of our seedlings that we had started under the grow lights in the classroom.  This included tomatoes, marigolds, kale, lettuce, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, gourds, bok choy, and our herbs (parsley, arugula, dill, thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives).
Some lettuce that has been transplanted
into the garden (as well as some that
was direct sowed)! We're so impressed
with how well the garden is growing!

Tomatoes, marigolds and red leaf lettuce
transplanted into the garden!

We were also fortunate enough to have our first big harvest! The students were so excited to see all of their hard work pay off in the form of wonderfully crisp and tasty radishes! The foods class was excited to try different recipes with the radishes including roasted radishes, fresh raw radishes with hummus as well as a salad with radish greens!  
This is a quick view of our radishes from seed to harvest!
Students have been working really hard on finishing up the irrigation system for the garden as well as creating signs for their gardens.  We're hoping to get it all done for the arts/music/gardening showcase this Friday (16th) at 12:30pm. Will give more updates this week!

Happy gardening! 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Sunflowers and berries, and potatoes, oh my!

Children's Universe is a daycare down the street from our school and today we had a fun event with them in the garden! First, our NJ students started by reading books to the daycare children in our student lounge and then we set off for an adventure outside.  The NJ gardeners had started sunflowers (NJ's official flower) in our "greenhouses" in the classroom and today we transplanted those sunflowers outside with the help of the daycare children! Each NJ student got in a group with two daycare children and together planted 10 sunflowers down the fence.
One of our transplanted sunflowers from
the NJ greenhouse to the NJ garden! Hoping
the daycare children will enjoy coming over
to water their flowers and watch them grow
over the summer!
We haven't had a chance to make a "sunflower bed" yet so one
of the NJ students had a great idea to mark off the newly
transplanted sunflowers with some trail tape to ensure
the sunflowers weren't chopped up by the lawnmowers!
Our strawberry patch is coming along nicely as well! We've decided to remove the netting for now to ensure that the strawberries can be pollinated but we'll put the netting back once the berries are out!

Our ever-growing strawberry bed! We're so excited about
all the flowers. Flowers = strawberries!
Aren't the strawberry flowers
We found these fancy potato bags at Ritchies Feed and Seed and decided to try them out in the class! We know you can grow potatoes pretty much anywhere but we were curious to try these ones with the harvesting flap at the bottom. Essentially, we rolled down the bag and covered the bottom with some potting soil and vermicompost.  We then planted seed potatoes in the bottom of the bag and covered them with more soil.  Once the green stem comes out of the soil with some leaves we'll unroll the bag and keep adding soil (bit by bit) until the bag is full of soil (and hopefully yummy potatoes)! We'll keep you posted on how it goes!

Fancy potato planter!
The first layer of potatoes have
already started growing! These are
the Norland 'early' variety
seed potatoes from Ritchies

 Thanks for reading! Happy Gardening!

Thursday, 25 May 2017


Part of our Whole Kids Foundation Garden Grant has gone towards a classroom worm composter! We would love to be a sustainable program where we create our own soil for the gardens and we believe this is a great first step!

Students are so excited about our new Worm Factory 360! Below is a video of how the worm composter works!

We got our batch of red wiggler worms today from an awesome local company called Smart as Poop! They were so wonderful and had tons of information for us about vermicomposting (thank you!!!) 

The class took today to set the new red wigglers up in their new bed (made of shredded newspaper, coir and some soil).  We fed them some banana peels and the worms were so happy to get their first snack in their new home!

We covered them with soil
and put the lid on because they
don't like the light
our red wigglers all set up
in their new bed
Their first meal of banana peel

The students are learning what types of things go in the vermicomposter such as:
- vegetable scraps
- coffee grounds
- crushed egg shells
- shredded newspaper

They are also learning the types of things to avoid putting in the vermicomposter:
- meat/fish
- dairy products
- greasy/oily foods
- minimize citrus peels

We're so excited to be creating a more sustainable classroom and looking forward to being able to use this rich compost in our gardens!

Another update to come soon!

Happy gardening ☺

Friday, 19 May 2017

Weeding, growing and building!

Wow, what a productive week! So much has been going on in the Norman Johnston gardens! It's been such a gorgeous week weather-wise so the students have been busy outside working at building garden beds, weeding and planning.

There is a lot of work to do in our Traditional Indigenous Healing garden and the students have been hard at work making sure that all spokes of the wheel are weeded and that there is lots of room for the sacred plants to grow. 

A look at our Healing Garden
(the spokes include 4 sacred plants
 with great healing power -
sage, sweetgrass, cedar and tobacco)
Weeding our Traditional Indigenous Healing Garden
Students have done an amazing job at dividing our biggest bed into square feet so that we can plan what to grow in each square. 

Radishes have been the quickest
to germinate! It looks great with
16 radish plants per square foot!
The "H" bed all measured and divided up with labels
as to what was planted in each square! Some of these
squares are dedicated to transplants that we will be planting
next week or the week after.
Students are measuring out one of our new garden beds and dividing this into square feet as well! We have built all three of our new garden beds and filled them with soil.  This was hard work but they look great! Thank you to Growing Up Organic for providing us with the lumber, hardware and soil to make this happen!

Measuring out one of our new garden beds
Our strawberry patch is doing wonderfully! We're hoping that there will be a lot of strawberries for all of the students to enjoy soon! Using some rebar, plastic PVC piping, twine and netting we were able to build a hoop house to protect our strawberries from hungry animals and birds (but still leaving room for pollinators to get at the flowers). This was a really fun project! We're hoping to build similar structures over our other garden beds to put frost blankets over in the fall to extend our growing season!

A look at our new hoop house to protect our strawberry patch.
In behind the strawberry patch is two more of our new garden beds!
 Thanks for reading! We hope everyone has a wonderful long weekend!