Posts tagged ‘Urban Gardening’

January 23, 2014

From the Ground Up: Urban Gardening Basics

by Melissa Harding

Jamie and group

As part of the Museums Connect program, made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums, Phipps is partnering with the Gidan Makama Museums in Kano, Nigeria to provide an immersive experience for 15 local high school students in each city. Participating students will learn about nutrition, cooking and cultural food traditions by following local food from farm to table and will be communicating with students at their partner institutions. This project will last from September to June, resulting in the creation of a community cookbook that will be designed and created by participating students. Students will also meet each month for a Saturday workshop involving activities designed to get them thinking critically about their food system and food culture. Calling themselves the Global Chefs, this group of students is excited to learn more about what food means in their lives.

For the first meeting of 2014, the Global Chefs were visited by a very exciting guest! Chef Jamie Moore, Director of Sourcing and Sustainability for the Eat ‘n Park group, a local chain of family restaurants, was on hand to help them create a wonderful meal. Joining him were Nancy Hanst and Alyce Amery-Spenser from Slow Food Pittsburgh. Together, they chose a menu from the students’ previously submitted recipes and came up with a delicious combination – green tossed salad, baked moi moi, spicy coconut shrimp soup and sweet potato pie. This was a pretty ambitious menu, but Chef Jamie helped the students pull it off smoothly, teaching them ways to be more efficient in the kitchen. He also modeled the importance of flexibility and substitutions, replacing a hard to find shrimp powder with homemade shrimp broth in the baked moi moi. Finally, he taught food presentation skills, helping the students to create beautiful, individual servings.

While half of the students were cooking, the other half learned about urban gardening and how they can tie their own food consumption to the land. Specifically, they talked about gardening in small spaces, using techniques like vertical growing and inter-lapping plants. They also learned the principles of compost and soil ecology and worked on garden planning.


Additionally, students shared the recipes that they brought for January’s assignment, which was to bring in recipes featuring vegetables. The recipes they brought ranged widely, including: cornbread; collard greens; summer steak salad; oven-fried onion rings; potato pepper stew; vegetable quiche; gajar halwa, a carrot and nut-based dish; samosas; vegetable stir fry; and pasta and broccoli. February’s assignment, which focuses on the upcoming cookbook, is to bring in a recipe that is presented in a visual mock-up that will represent their vision for the cookbook. The students are very excited and have lots of great ideas – we can’t wait to see what they come up with!

To see more photos from the day, check out the slideshow below!

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The above photos were taken by Kate Borger.

September 4, 2012

Home Connections: Making Seed Balls

by Melissa Harding

The Home Connections series features ways that you can teach simple environmental education concepts to your child at home.

In this week’s Home Connections, our topic is seeds. We talk about seeds quite a bit at Phipps; the topic comes up in every summer camp and we even have popular school and outreach programs about seeds. In short, we do lots of seed activities! If there is a way to turn old seeds into a craft or game, we have tried it. As a way to continue the conversation at home about seeds and germination with your child, try making seed balls!

What is a seed ball? A seed ball is a little ball made of compost, clay and seeds that can be planted anywhere, even in areas with poor soil. Popular with urban gardeners, these little balls can be thrown over fences, planted on the sidewalk and put in the least hospitable places, yet still grow. In a decorative bag, they also make beautiful gifts and favors for special occasions.

Seed balls grow so well because each ball contains all the elements needed for the seeds inside to germinate. The soil and compost in the ball provides nutrients and the clay provides a protective coating for the seeds inside; all you need to add is rain. You can use any type of seed in your seed balls, from small carrot seeds to large marigold seeds, and shape your seed balls accordingly. This is a versatile craft that all ages will enjoy.

Making seed ball is more of an art than an exact recipe.

They can be made out of the following ingredients:
3 parts clay (you can use powdered potter’s clay or pre-mixed children’s art clay from the craft store)
1 part compost or potting soil
1 part seeds
Water to mix

To make: Add water to clay and mix until it becomes a little soft and pliable. (This first part takes a strong arm). Next, add compost and mix until mixture is a definite brown color and the compost and clay are integrated.  Finally, take a small handful of the mixture and sprinkle some seeds onto it. Mix the seeds into the clay  and form into a ball shape. Make sure the seeds are inside of the clay. Let them dry overnight or several days until the seed balls turn a lighter color.

To use: Toss anywhere that you would like your seeds to grow! It is best to toss before a rain spell or gently water with a hose to help soften the clay. Over time, the clay will break down and the seed will germinate!

Note: Please do not toss in natural areas where the seeds you plant may compete with native plants.

Topics to address with your child while making seed balls:
Inside a seed
What seeds need to germinate versus what plants need to grow
How seeds travel

The above photos were taken by Melissa Harding and Christie Lawry.


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