Big pests and small

Our educational center adjoins heavily forested area where many deer live. The gardens are a tempting dessert to the brush and grass they usually make a meal of. Last year, the deer were in the garden beds as soon as we were – leaving their little hoof prints all over the freshly tilled earth the night after it was tilled. One of our first big construction chores was to build a deer fence.


first deer fence project – September 2014

Later, when deer found a way under it, we filled in some gaps and installed sturdier gates.

gates 4.15 - rob and daniel

deer fencing amendments – spring 2015

Now, with an additional, and much larger, garden area, we are building a new deer fence – attached above the original chain link one. Things were going great until we got to the area adjoining the woods and realized what a tick infestation looks like. Work was halted immediately, and we just hoped the deer would not realize how easy it would be to jump over the current fence. After a recent cold snap, we wondered if the ticks might have become dormant, but who wanted to find out?

Last week, our friends at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, came through again, when Entomologist Jeff visited our site. He gave a presentation to the students where they could view different types of (dead) ticks close up.

tick observation

tick in a bottle

Jeff explained how ticks ambush people and animals by standing on their back legs on plants and waving their arms, waiting to sink their little clawed hands into someone’s loose clothing – and why it is so hard to pull a tick off once it has embedded itself (little hooks on its mouth too).

tick jeff

Explaining how ticks grab onto passersby.

Then Jeff did a “trick drag” through the previously most infested areas. No ticks!

tick drag

tick drag

The cold has knocked them back temporarily, and our students are working quickly to get the fence up before they inevitably wake up again in the spring.

tick fence

fence builders at it again




School Garden Workshop


DSC_0551We were so happy to host our first school garden workshop at our new site. Once again, it is so gratifying to see something you once imagined – a school garden demonstration site – become a reality.

We were thrilled to have a seasoned school gardener share her experience of integrating a garden into all parts of her curriculum – with minimum extra time or energy.

In addition, school garden champions learned valuable skills (based on frequently asked questions) to produce thriving gardens.

Brandi demonstrating scounting

How to teach students to scout for pests

Corey and frost cloth demo

How to frost-proof plants

Melissa - trellising

How to trellis climbers and roamers

Afterwards, teachers picked up their transplants and frost cloth kits, ready to get through the winter and into spring with their best school gardens yet.