Phoenix Garden

Phoenix School Learning Garden is focused on teaching students agricultural practices with hands-on experiences. Through this blog we hope to educate others and also learn from community members through discussions.


April 2016

Plants and the Process of Photosynthesis – DR

This week we learned what the structure of a plant looks like and how photosynthesis is used to produce the health of the plant. Now as we all know, photosynthesis is the process by which a plant sustains its life. Three things are needed for this process to work effectively, water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide. So let me break down for you why those things are need for photosynthesis and what the bi-product is from it all.

To begin with, let’s talk about the roots of a plant and what happens. The roots of the plant are complex systems, composed of the taproot, or, the main root from which everything branches out from, the rest of the plant also grows out of it. Growing out from the taproot are fibrous roots. Both the taproots and the fibrous roots suck up water and dissolved minerals. The water and dissolved minerals travel up the Phloem, which are tubes within the plant structure. The Phloem transports the water and minerals throughout the plant, much like our blood veins are conduits in which our blood flows.

The water travels through the Phloem and disperses throughout the plant, taking H2O and nutrients to the palisade mesophyll and spongy mesophyll. The mesophyll is where all the action happens. Within the Palisade, there are flat stacks of membranes called granum, which harbor thylakoids which have all the pigments and chloroplasts necessary to begin the photosynthetic process. Here’s where the need for sunlight comes in.

So, as the sun warms the thylakoids, the light photons hit the pigments, electrons are released. During the release, enzymes within the plant begin breaking down water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The hydrogen is then broken down into ions and electrons. They are then carried back into the chloroplasts to begin the process of warming and releasing. The oxygen atoms are sent to the phloem which expel them and H2O through the stomata, tiny valves under the leaves of the plant which open to release water back out into the world in order to keep a constant flow of nutrients.

The plant needs to release the water because it has no valve to pump it throughout it’s structure. It merely continues to suck up the water and the pressure of that and the draining H2O going out the stomata, drag along the water molecules because they like to stick together. The stomata actually act like pressure valves. The more water is available, the more they plump up and open. As water becomes scarce or heat become unbearable, the pressure is not enough to keep them open, so they close in order to retain water.

Electrophysiology and molecular studies on stomata during drought

Now that I’ve covered that, let’s get back into the process. So, we have talked about how the plant uses sunlight to break apart atoms and send of electrons, and how it replaces those electrons with stolen hydrogen ions and electrons. So where do those stolen bits go? Once they are released, they are used to power some enzymes within the leaf and those enzymes are used to create glucose from the Co2 gathered from the air, and voila, you have photosynthesis!


Last little tid bits:

You can visit for more information. I used some of their information to flesh out my knowledge of the processes.


Trip to Light House Bakery and Their Garden – DR

Last Friday the Garden Leadership class went on a field trip to the Light House Bakery. We got to see their old hand constructed ovens, get a tour of their garden, help around their establishment, and enjoy a delicious lunch as a gift for the work we did. We learned many things and had a lot of fun getting to experience their culture.

On the tour we got to walk around their compound and learn some of their techniques for growing and sustaining life on their land. One thing that really stood out to me was some of the experiments they were doing to promote a connection throughout their large network of trees which are dispersed throughout the area. To do this, they infused hay bales with nutrients and mushrooms. Why did they do this? Well, mushrooms have been found to create huge networks of roots. These networks are used for more than just taking nutrients out of the soil, they are used to put nutrients back into the soil and also to connect and communicate between plants. Not only do the mushrooms connect with each other, but other plants are integrated in the link. This is why the Light house has utilized them. It is believed that in future years, the land will be linked together in a cohesive community of not only trees and garden vegetables, but some weeds as well.

Another thing they discussed was the use of some plants, (which we typically call weeds) to grow as companions with the plants you wish to grow. They use them as a way of keeping more invasive plants out of the area. For example, dandelions are allowed to grow cohesively with the plants they put into the soil in order to keep out any weeds that would be too invasive. It allows the plants you want to be there not to get choked out. They have actually seen some good results with this experiment as it has promoted healthier plants that don’t have to fight so hard for their place in the world.

In addition to these, there was another tid bit that stood out above the rest. During our tour, we came upon a tree which had one of it’s main limbs beginning to corrode and die because of disease. The limb accounted for most of the tree’s established growth. In an effort to save the tree, what they did was begin growing a smaller tree near it. Once the tree grew tall enough, they cut the top off and grafted it’s end into the diseased limb. As the younger tree matures, it will become the limb’s support and actually sustain the growth and stability of the older tree.

Our time at Light house was in-Lightening to say the least. *Laughs at self* See what I did there? *Pats self on back* All joking aside, we learned a lot during our time there and it will be really cool to do a follow up in the next few years to see how well these experiments have paid off. One thing is for sure, what we learned there is valuable for any gardener to know.

Adding Compost to the Greenhouse – DR

Yesterday in Garden Leadership we went out to the Greenhouse and filled the beds with composting soil from the compost pile. We did this in an effort to replace the nutrients that have been depleted over the last few years of growing.

As plants grow, they consume nutrients in the soil. To counteract that, we took dirt from the compost pile, and integrated it with the existing soil in the beds. Plants need many nutrients to survive and thrive. These nutrients include, nitrogen, phosphorus, hydrogen, oxygen, magnesium, iron, and carbon. Many of these can be found in compost. In order to have a healthy garden, one must understand the significance of integrating it into their garden beds.

It helps your plants significantly because often times, if you are a home gardener, you don’t necessarily have the space to rotate your crops from area to area, so you must be able to put nutrients back into the soil. It also helps attract bugs and worms which also help with the growth of your plants. Another thing that it helps with is minerals that the water deposits on the top of the existing soil as it sinks into it. During the mixing process, the minerals get turned into the soil in order to give plants that nutrients as well.

As you mix in the compost, it is important to pay attention to where your plant’s roots are. You don’t want to expose them because it could destroy the plant. You also don’t want to bury any small sprout-lings you have.  Scoop  the compost onto your planting bed and gently turn it into the soil. All of this will benefit your garden for years to come.

Terrariums are not a video game – DR

In preparation for our up and coming auction, the Ag. Science class has begun work on making terrariums. A terrarium is an enclosed system with plants. Essentially the water recycles itself through evaporation and condensation. You rarely ever have to water it, if at all because it essentially creates its own mini water system.


You can make your own terrarium using just a few materials.

1. A glass bowl or container. This can be a fish bowl or a clear glass vase

2. Soil, sand, and gravel

3. Terrarium plants

4. Decorative elements

5. Activated charcoal


Now, the first thing you want to do is create a layer of rocks in the bottom of your container. This is extremely important because the container will have no drainage holes so in order to keep excess water away from the roots of the plant. You place the rocks in there to create a bit of an escape for excess water within the system. The next thing to do is to add about half an inch of activated charcoal as a layer on top of that. doing that will cut down on any smell and it also helps control drainage. After that, place in your soil and sand. Then you will plant your bit of plant in the soil and add in your decorative elements. Water your plant until the soil is damp. You do not want the soil to be wet. It is unwise to add any fertilizers because you want to avoid excess plant growth. You rarely have to water it because it is it’s own enclosed water system, but it is wise to pay attention to the soil. If it is dry, then you should add some more water.

So how does it maintain proper water levels for such a long time without being watered? I’m glad you asked because here’s the answer. When a plant sucks up water, a vital component in photosynthesis, the water travels throughout the plant through the xylem and phloem. Those are essentially the equivalent of our arteries. As it passes through the plant, it needs to have a place to go, in order to sustain the health of the plant. Because of this, plants have little valves called stomata which open and close in order to release the water back into the earth.

If the environment is too warm, the more water the plant needs to stay saturated so the stomata close because they are trying to hold the water within the plant. If it is too cold, the plant will freeze. So when storing the terrariums, it is good to keep them in a place that is not too chilly but also isn’t too warm, that way the plant is given a sustainable place to live.

To kale for -KB


You may know that Kale is healthy for you but do you know just how healthy? One serving of kale has more absorb-able calcium than a small carton of milk topping the nutrient density scale. This species of wild cabbage can be found or grown really anywhere with a normal range in climate, but once the weather gets too hot the kale will stop growing. Colder weather is actually preferred for growing it seeing as it brings out the natural nutty flavor of the plant that plants grown during the fall tend to have. Now kale isn’t for everyone, if you’re on a blood thinner the vitamin K vitamin in kale could be to much for you and may interfere with your medicine intake.

Kale is harvested from the garden for the kitchen and is used inside the salad bar for school lunch. The kale in our garden gives a nice touch to a delicious salad made at our schools salad bar.

Think before you squish.- KB

Having bugs in your outside garden is impossible to avoid, but did you know there are three bugs that you should never kill if you do come across them in your garden? These three bugs not only don’t harm your plants but improve your gardens over all health!

The assassin bug: This bug got it’s name from it’s toxic saliva and speed it uses to kill it’s prey, but what you might not know is this little bug preys on a wide variety of garden pests and doesn’t hurt your plants.


Syrphid, flower, or hover flies: These insects are often confused with the oh-so-similar looking bee or wasp but in fact don’t have a stinger. Syrphid larva can consume hundreds of aphids in one month where as the adult Syrphid feasts on pollen and nectar.


Pirate bugs: these little bugs are mainly found in crop areas such a corn, cotton etc. They do an excellent job of eating a large variety of main garden pests while protecting the crops. Two plants that hover flies are attracted to (along with many others) are dill and lavender!


Things you can do to encourage these helpful bugs is by actually buying and introducing them into your environment or planting something that attracts the bugs into the environment. Here at Phoenix we inform our garden students about the beneficial bugs in our garden and not to kill them. We purchased baby mantids that weren’t hatched and introduced them into the environment  once they did hatch.

Garden Snakes By Nina Atkisson and Connor Hartley and Isaac deniss

snake blogMost people tend to stay away from snakes because of their fear of the. What they don’t understand is the benefits of them which works out for the snakes in a way. No matter what people say about them most want to kill them. but maybe if we discuss the advantages of them it will defer a few wanna be killers of them. In the garden snakes can be of great benefit. They eat insects or rodents primarily, neither which are likely to benefit the garden themselves They do many things without damaging the environment one bit. They don’t chew or hurt plants in any way.   One rodent eating snake can nearly decimate a rat family in weeks, and several small snakes can do severe damage to a grasshopper population in a confined area in just one summer. the avoid Gardner’s in anyway. Basically, they eat many of the bad things in your garden. Most snakes in the U.S. are non-poisnous and for the most part harmless. They’re very clean animals And carry very few diseases.

Branch Spreading – DR

Recently during Phoenix’s endeavors in agriculture, we have been learning about how to tend to trees. Why you ask? Well, there are many things that can effect health and growth of a young tree. One of these things is branches growing too close to other limbs.

When branches grow too close together, or grow up at a sharp angle, it causes more stress on the limbs, which can ultimately cause them to break. It also blocks sunlight from getting to all the leaves and cuts down the amount of airflow the plant receives. Because of this, it is important to instal spacers early in the tree’s life so they can grow properly.

Spacers can be made of clothes pins, rulers, or flat pieces of wood about one inch across. The length varies depending on the age tree. The spacer should have one “V” shaped notch at either end. They should be placed gently in the tree, with the branch you want to move resting in one notch, and the other notch firmly stationed on the branch or main part of the tree. Spacers should be left for 2-3 years and should be checked every 2 weeks or after an extremely blustery day.

Here at Phoenix, we used the spacers in our orchard. All our trees are young and we are hoping to get them spaced before it becomes a problem.

The Praying Mantis – Cameron Bennett

The Praying Mantis is an insect that you can find in your garden. It is small, has six legs, and is green. The biggest known kind of mantis are only up to four inches long. The women Mantis lays an egg sack before death every fall. They die of hypothermia in the winter. Each egg case contains about 200 baby mantis. All of the eggs hatch in the beginning of the spring. It is also the only known insect that can look over its shoulder. Their reflexes are two times quicker than a horseflies. The Mantis usually eats other small insects. It is very hard to find a Preying Mantis most of the time because of their skin color. The green makes them camouflaged into the plant they’re on or grass they’re in.

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