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May 2014 Meeting

Our season came to a close today. We reviewed the homework that was brought in: compost we made from brown matter, green matter, air and water.

We went out to the garden to add the compost to it and also to see if we could harvest our radishes, but they were still so very small.  We reviewed plants’ needs:   a place to grow, light, air, nutrients, water, and soil, and came to the conclusion that the radishes lacked water.  There is no in-ground sprinkler system, so if there is no rain from the heavens, the garden would not be receiving any moisture.

We did snip some rosemary, basil, and parsley and went inside to wash up and move on to the next thing.

Next, Elizabeth Blow, a third grader, gave her presentation to us on butterfly gardens.  She was trying to get her presentation under 12 minutes, and succeeded!  Now she will advance to a competition on Saturday, June 21.

We washed and chopped the herbs, then added them to softened butter to make herb butter spreads.  We spread them on bread and each had the opportunity to taste the different butters.

While eating the bread and butter we read the book, From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons.  Gibbons is a prolific author and has some very good titles to read.

Certificates were handed out, with Dale Watson having the best attendance/t-shirt-wearing/completed homework/JMG Plant Sale worker award and Karly Stevens as a runner-up.

I have enjoyed teaching the Sunflowers this year, my fourth.  I will not be returning in September, as it is time to move on.  Please do let me know how your summers are going and if you want me to take a look at your gardens!



Mary Zimmerman

April 2014 Meeting

Were we ever glad to see that the weather cooperated for us to go to the Red Wolf garden! But before that, we talked about what makes garden plants thrive, and came up with the quality of the soil as a large determiner of that. In order to have great garden soil, we probably have to amend the soil with good “ingredients”, and one of those is humus, which is typically the top layer that is full of microorganisms and beneficial insects that break down components to make them plant-ready to take up into their roots. Making a compost pile and then adding the broken-down compost to our gardens is the easiest way to create good soil.

So, we talked about compost , how it is made, and how we can make it at home.  We looked at pictures of the critters that frequent the compost, by eating it and then excreting it.  Some of them are so small, that it would take a very keen eye or a microscope to see them!

The homework assignment has to do with making our own compost and is at the very bottom of this posting.  Note, parents will need to assist their children in this assignment.  Get started as soon as possible, as this will take a while to see results.

We then went out to the garden to clear it of the pine needles.  (Good thing they were there since the autumn, as they prevented the weeds from taking over!)  The Sunflowers took turns turning over the soil, making furrows, dropping two kinds of radish seeds, marking which seeds went where, covering up the seeds with a very little bit of soil, then watering the rows.

Many thanks go to Elizabeth Blow and to Kelly Ibrahim who were able assistants to the class.

Homework Assignment:

Sunflowers JMG Homework due May 8: Compost Experiment …  Parents: Please help and GET STARTED SOON!

You will need:

· 1 gallon-size plastic freezer bag

· 1 cup greens (rich in nitrogen):  fresh plant material such as lawn clippings and young weeds, fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters, chopped or torn into small pieces

· 2 cups browns (rich in carbon):  dried plant material such as chopped woody branches, fallen leaves, straw, cornstalks, shredded newspaper, chopped or torn into small pieces

· 1 tablespoon soil

· spray mister bottle with water

What to do:

(1) Put the green and brown matter and soil into the bag and mist it with water until the browns are moist but not soggy.

(2) Seal the bag tightly with a zip top or twist tie.

(3) Massage the bag daily to mix up the ingredients.

(4) Open the bag every other day for 6 hours to aerate it.  Then reseal it.

(5) On a piece of paper with your child’s name on it, write down any changes you and your child observe. Be sure to write the dates, too.  In 2 to 8 weeks, you will have dark brown compost.  What does it smell like?

(6) Bring back your compost and your written observations to class on May 8.


At our next meeting on May 8, we will be looking at the composting homework that the Sunflowers take back to class, harvesting the radishes (hopefully!), tasting them, and having an end-of-year celebration.

See you then!

Mary Zimmerman




March 2014 Meeting

Carol Norden led the class while I was on vacation.  According to Carol, about one hour of class time was spent listening to three students give presentations as rehearsals for a 4-H competition.  Elizabeth Blow, a Sunflower for the past two years, gave hers on butterflies. (Please see the latest news on this website about how she did.)

For the last 30 minutes, the children made terrariums from gallon milk jugs, placing yogurt cups filled with seedling soil and seeds in them, and covering them with plastic so that the moisture stays inside.  We hope the children see their seeds develop roots and stems and then leaves.  The yogurt cups have holes in the bottom for drainage.  Please make sure that the soil stays moist, but not overly so.

Instead of homework due for next month, we are wanting everyone to sign up for the JMG Plant Sale.  Please see information on this website for the latest about this.

See you next month!  Please have your children dress in clothes that can get dirty, as we will attempt to plant some seeds in our garden outside.

Mary Zimmerman (Mrs Z)


February 2014 Meeting

We did not meet because of the inclement weather.

January 2014 Meeting

Happy New Year! We started the new year by reviewing what we learned about flower parts last month, then moved on to learn about plants’ basic needs:

P:  Place.  They need to grow in the ground or in a container.

L:  Light.  They need sun or artificial light.

A:  Air.  They need oxygen, not just above the ground, but below as well.

N:  N.  Nutrients.  Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium

T:  Thirsty for Water.  Like all living things, including human beings, they need water.

S:  Soil.  Or other material such as sand or gravel to grow in


Last month we looked at samples of soil with magnifying glasses to see quite a bit of living, organic matter such as decomposed leaves, pieces of wood, and insects dead and alive.  This month we looked at the largest portion of soil which is nonliving, or inorganic matter.  We identified the three major parts, sand, silt, and clay by putting some soil in a jar, adding water, and shaking it to see it settle into distinct layers.  It was amazing!


After discussing and seeing soil layers, we moved on to another major plant need:  water.  We talked about how we all are so very dependent on water.  The book, The Drop Goes Plop was so very interesting to read.  It traced a drop from a cloud to the earth, then to a stream, a water treatment plant, a sink, a drain, the ocean, and then up to the atmosphere in the form of vapor, then becomes a drop all over again.  This is called the water cycle.


Our activity was making a rain gauge.  I hope you all have been able to measure the rain we have received since putting outside.  It seems we have had quite a bit!  Remember to add water up the “zero” line, which is the line at which the sand goes up to.  This is called the saturation point.


To further realize how important water is to our lives, the homework has to do how watery our bodies are.  Please help your child figure this out.  Email me if you would like me to send the document in case yours gets lost.


See you on Thursday, February 13!


Mary Zimmerman (Mrs Z)




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