I’m so excited to introduce my guest because it’s someone I met from the Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook group. I asked one of the awesome members if she wanted to do an interview and she recommended Jennifer Brown from the Children’s Garden at Woodend Sanctuary Audubon Naturalist Society of the Mid-Atlantic States in Silver Spring Maryland, a mile north Washington DC.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I work with children. I remember of course working with my mom and my grandmother. Every summer we would go to upstate NY and visit her and my mothers relatives. They had an extensive raspberry patch. Look at the asparagus flowers and herbs. The foundation got laid early on as it does for most people and of course I ignored it for many years.
Until my 20s 30s, I started to take it on as a hobby. The first thing I grew was tulips … they came out and were beautiful.
About my late 20s I was living in a group house, it had a patch of ground in front and a yard in the back. I decided to grow things. They came up in the spring. I decided to cut a whole bunch to take to a friend. She was so impressed.
I thought that more would grow! I was shocked! I thought I knew something about gardening!
Which has been the theme of my life in gardening is there is always so much more to learn!
I plant with students and kids of all ages, I am constantly learning!
We grew amaranth this year, and I hope this week we will be able to cook it, so we are alway learning! I teach them that old people like me are always learning. That’s sort of the theme of my gardening journey.
I love all of that!!!
Now, it’s the Audubon where? What’s the Woodland Sanctuary?
Children’s Garden at Woodend Sanctuary Audubon Naturalist Society of the Mid Atlantic States, Teddy Roosevelt belonged to it. It had no home in Washington DC. I woman who had built a mansion donated it.
It’s a beautiful site, they have many weddings take place there is one way they raise money and their mission is environmental education!
I went to work there in 2008, not trained in that specifically. With a small group wanting to work with school to bring more green education. I decided I wanted to know more of gardening native plants and vegetables. I took that on as a way to grow into the job and to learn more.
There are 2 raised beds in the site. Right near in the historic greenhouse. The base is there and the water supply. I had everything I needed. Since then it has tripled in size.
So my question is how do the kids get there? Do they come in buses? Do you go to schools? Local neighborhoods? Who are the kids?
The kids are
3 different groups
Busloads of kids who come throughout the school year to visit Audubon and get some activities about the environment. There’s a stream on site and they will go down and see macro invertebrates and learn that’s a way to assess the health of the water in the area.
So far they don’t make official visits to a vegetable garden.
Who’s coming now?
Audubon Summer Program
Very active for a summer program. Parents sign up during the week or several weeks.
School day out camp, so they are holidays from school where parents need to do something with kids for the day. That’s great in the fall to continue harvesting or they can quickly sow a lettuce row.
I get an enormous amount done over spring break if you come back for summer!
I bet there’s a ton of listeners who’s brains are spinning gears are turning. In the spring we don’t have much for holidays in my school.
Nature Preschool at Audubon
We also have on site we have a nature preschool for 3-5 year olds. Different classes.
One that happened this last year
Forest Oaks and they’re little 5-year olds not ready for kindergarten who basically roam the estate and learn all kind of things in nature and come to the garden regularly. That teacher is fabulous for having them plant peas very early and explore the garden. She feels very comfortable using the garden.
I met these amazing girls. I went to this training this summer. The last session was using a garden in early childhood education. She taught us all about things you could do with children, it was geared towards pre-k although mostly it was elementary and high school. You could use them across the grades. The college I was at had the oldest pre-school in the state dating back to 1912 or something. I love to hear that they were doing more gardening with preschoolers.
Now we have on staff a woman on staff who was a Phd on mushrooms, so I’m excited to learn more about mushrooms.
I love that to always be learning. And no matter how much you know about gardening, the climate is changing as what you’ve learned about growing peas 20 years ago might be different now and also we’re always expanding
Tell us about something that grew well this year.
It did grow well, but I have been warned it was aggressive, so I’ll find there whether it will I find it popping up everywhere
I garden there in raised beds
Hopi Red Dye Amaranth, one of the camps we have is called ethnobotany.
The kids learn how humans interact with plants and how they c
- weaving things
- finding various dyes
- Hopi red dyes
Native Americans which we love to emphasize learning from them. As far as I know it’s the flower which is a deep red color. I’m excited to be picking some of that flower.
We’ll see if it makes a nice dye! The Hopi actually made red or pink bread
We’ll find out next week.
only use of the amaranth
sautee the leaves. I tried tasting them raw but they are not too appealing. We’ll see if they taste good cooked up.
Well a lot of things are like that don’t taste as good raw as cooked. So what made you pick amaranth? I have a feeling someone gave me some or I bought some aramanth seeds this year. I don’t think they actually got into the garden. I think there was a reason, do they bring in pollinators or is it a companion plant?
It’s about 4 feet tall now, care free, I didn’t have to do a thing! I have it interplanted with calendula! Trying to have something for this ethnobotany camp. These students are a little bit older, so I wanted more challenges for me and for them!
We have some bamboo 40 acres is a lot to manage
some bamboo. One of the leaders is trying to make me some trellises and have the kids learn to make trellis.
I always like what makes a garden is those handmade things in between. I was looking at some pictures and its the little personal things that make a garden come to life I think! Like any little wooden thing that somebody makes or a sign or a decoration. It puts more of a caring feel to it.
Better then store bought stuff.
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
I’m ready to plunge into grapes, I think! Very scary because I have seen how fast they grow.
We have a big volunteer body of people who we also train. We are a site for training master naturalists. They then have an ongoing commitment to service or community. A
They are always looking for projects and we also have eagle scouts looking to earn their badge? Status? We make suggestions to them.
We have one eagle scout make Mason Beehives!
We haven’t seen any bees around our house this summer so I was just thinking about that as I attended a mason bee workshop at the seed fair this spring.
when I first became a master garden, they knew I was interested in working with children gave me a grant to go to
fantastic children’s garden and part of it was one of these mason bee structures! So I took a picture and I handed it to the eagle scout and he figured it out! It’s just a tall structure and the mason bees like small tubes to climb into, just a quarter to half inch depth. You could just drill holes in a log.
The ones I saw they took a coffee can and filled it with rolled up newspaper!
Back to next year.
What I think I might be ready for is an eagle scout to build me a structure for muscatine grapes.
native to south eastern us
having enough room
excited… to learn.
Mike has been trying to grow some grapes. They’re growing but they need to have a strong structure for sure!
Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.
Can I first tell you about something that grew well? I did the 3 sisters garden. Another Native American theme?
Harvest 3 ears of eating corn
really excited about 3 things
spring break camp
made the mounds
I went and got 3 fish heads! The kids loved that!
Some thing to remember if you are thinking to try but don’t forget the fish heads!
I think that’s awesome! Mike did the 3 sisters thing this year with the beans and the corn and the squash but I don’t think he did the fish head thing, we will have to remember that next year!
Then I thought how fun for the fall days out camp because the corn will be done and we will see if we find the sculls of the dead fish.
I’ll try and call you and see if you found them. I actually teach on reservation during the school year. I know it’s bastille day today July 14th! I feel like vacation just started but that should about when this airs. I think they will be decomposed and you won’t find the skulls. IDK maybe they would be there.
They were cat fish!
I chopped in half one whole one and 2 halves!
Did you take pictures before while you were burying them?
Do what didn’t work well?
One of the other things.
I’m a total scavenger. I have these bits of fencing and old poles.
I tried to put the cucumbers in a new area, I had the kids at spring break build these things you could crawl in.
I was thinking the cucumbers would. I forgot we were still contending with deer. They never bothered cucumbers before because they are spiny
they had been munching on them. The cover of the hut that I vegetable didn’t work.
I keep telling mike it’s a blessing, Mike’s still upset but I think it was better it happened then in a good way because everything’s growing back, there’s a chance when the brocolli comes back it might bolt it will be hot, but I feel like it’s made us more vigilante if the deer got in there now it would be so much worse. Deer mistakes it’s all part of the problem!
if they do munch it early, what I have noticed. We have cardinal flower. It’s a native plant beautiful pollinator. I think the latin name is lobelia – canadensus
munched the top of it
so 2 or more leaders
had more flowers
kind of like a natural pruning down
have that happening with zinnias
causes more stems
keep them off now
decided to just not grow any this year.
Do you have harlequin bugs?
IDK, Mike has struggled with cabbages in the past and cabbage moths but somehow he has gotten the hang of it.
The cabbage butterflies don’t kill the plant. I had kale last year and once they were gone the kale just came back.
We have a mild climate and we can grow kale throughout the year…
That’s one of the things with gardening it seems like such a short season. It got so hot last week 99 º and so my lettuce just bolted etc.
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Let’s Get to the Root of Things
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?
Oddly enough it’s watering. Because I feel I’m never patient enough
I am always stressed wondering am I giving enough water?
I totally understand. I feel like if we watered 24/7 we couldn’t get it all.
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?
Well, I wrote down weeding, I think it is. I like keeping the problems at bay and tidying things. I like cleaning things up.
I’ll always say it’s like wiping the chalkboard clean. It can get overwhelming. Mike usually stays on top of his weeds, but he has been complaining this year. He’s just about done mulching and that will take care of it.
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
Well, this year, I went to a class in the spring
called Rooting DC
One of the classes I went this year for the first time was a class about companion planting.
A wonderful teacher she had a book for young students she uses
about what plants do well together
when I tell adults
pizza garden – all the things that go on a pizza do well together
pickles – dill and cucumbers do well together.
and the three sisters garden
I’ll bet its the same woman, she had a ton of books!
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be?
I would be lost without a trowel, it’s very handy
A lot of times I talk with kids about physics. When they’re young to not be intimidated by physics and expose them to those words.
Physics makes using tools to work easier… a leverage trowel…
I used to teach with a woman, we taught reading together and she used to teach a class she called first grade physics. I always felt like that’s what school should be like. Incorporating science and math into the curriculum.
Really following their lead
Over the years I talk less and less and just let them explore! If they have question I answer them. but let them explore!
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
Last year, and the year before we made tabouli a lot
- plenty of mint
The 3 things I have to bring
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- bulgar wheat
hopefully next week we’re gonna do a french potato salad!
What do you eat with the tabouli?
Everybody gets a chance to chop
often have a lot of cucumbers
add mix together
Cool that’s exposing kids to different foods they haven’t eaten before. What do they eat with chips or lettuce?
Probably just with a fork, I doubt well have lettuce next week.
A favorite internet resource?
Well I have to give a shout out to the UMD website
first becoming a master gardener the head of the University extension from Maryland initiated a program to get a a million Marylanders growing their own food
see what it’s like and have an appreciation for growing food.
When I went to school for education, I always wanted to move to Montana and there was a girl in my class who always wanted to go to Maryland, she was like doesn’t that just sound so pretty… Mary, land…
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
What popped to mind, because I had to look it up
gave this book away
I would recommend
history of the world,
Human beings were actually taller in the hunter gatherer stage
when we went to these big crops
people actually got shorter
clearly are getting taller
plants are getting
If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how you found your position at audubon.
Have kids in my 20s, I try not to give any advice, I don’t remember wanting any advice at that age. Just follow your interests. If someone says there’s no way to make money at it someone or you will figure out a way to be employed!
If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
This questions is perfect for me! I have great fondness and respect and belief with the Audubon Naturalist Society’s mission. I can’t speak for others but I think they are all devoted to environmental education.
One of our missions is to have absolutely no storm water run off form the forty acres. We’ve taken that as a microcosm for what storm water run off is and to show we can do it.
people around the Chesapeake Bay is a huge issue
we have a stream to deal with
So part of my project is to grow an orchard on a slope
stop the water
to build mounded crops and maybe slow the water. I tell the kids all the time maybe some of you will become water engineers after working on this and understanding our role of water in our soil how everything interrelated…
Do you want to explain to listeners who maybe have not heard of storm water run off and why it might be bad.
Yes, so storm water run off is an issue
water runs into the Chesapeake bay. When there are pesticides and herbiscides and natural erosion is accelerated what is dumped into the bay creates dead zones for the aquatic life there. Slow that down so it actually sinks into the water table and recharges there and not into the bay.
I could swear my friend Mary was saying she lived along the Chesapeake Bay in NJ.
as it goes North East
NY is the high northernmost point
PA – Susquahannah River is the main river dumping into the top of the Chesapeake Bay.
There’s also an issue with farmers keeping the discharge from the animals, it’s complicated. I don’t want to be against anyone, I just want to say lets keep the bay clean.
I think you’ve probably inspired people today maybe I don’t have to work full time I could maybe spend a day and work with some for young people.
I don’t work full time I am very much a part time worker so it’s very doable.
Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
The only rule I give my kids coming in there is Don’t step on anything green!
I think you are one of the visionaries that is helping to care for our future and teaching kids to enjoy caring for the environment.
It’s so wonderful to see the kids
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