Tag Archives: volunteers

Tancil Court, Alexandria, “I Can Shine Garden”

“I Can Shine Garden” teaches children to grow vegetables

By Alice Reid

I Can Shine

Thanks to a hard-working group of children and more than a dozen volunteers, we’ve had a productive and fun spring at the “I Can Shine Garden” at Tancil Court in Alexandria.

While the weather was still cool, the children planted seeds for collards, spinach, bok choy, and lettuce as well as peas, radishes, and carrots. For their labors, they have harvested more than 10 pounds of collards, several bags of peas, lots of carrots and so much Swiss chard and bok choi that there’s been enough to supply several dishes for the children’s after school snack. Bok choi was the big surprise. The kids went from “Hunh? What’s that?” to “Yum, we want more.”

Coming along we have four tomato plants, a handful of pepper plants, some zucchini plants, pole beans ready to climb on our teepee, and some cucumbers to compete with them. Over in our little “annex”, i.e. two abandoned tree wells in the court yard of this Old Town Alexandria public housing project, we have a watermelon patch going, and a 10 by 10 foot area that the kids planted with sweet potato slips they rooted themselves. Keep your fingers crossed that the potatoes catch on. Oh, and we have two baskets of regular potatoes coming along as well.

We are also participating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a Harlequin Bug experiment (the Organic Vegetable Garden is also participating in this experiment). The USDA is trying to find the best kind of bait to lure these voracious bugs away from collards and their other cabbage-family favorites and into traps. We have four USDA-supplied collard plants at the corners of Tancil Court. Each one has a pheromone-laced bait  hanging above it to lure the bugs. Each week the children tour the baits, count and collect any harlequin bugs that may be resting on the plant leaves. They bag and freeze any they find, and those are collected by the USDA. Tancil Court is one of several area gardens participating in the experiment.

Summer is when we focus on harvesting our crops and maintaining our garden. We’re also hoping to do a couple of projects such as making solar ovens and baking a pizza using some of our own produce.

We sometimes use healthy snacks as a teaching tool, such as serving “parts of the plant salad,” – carrot roots, celery stems, spinach leaves, broccoli flowers, pea seeds, and tomato fruits – all blended with a little ranch dressing.

This project started three years ago under the auspices of a city effort to combat childhood obesity through healthy activity, i.e. gardening, and healthy eating habits. The garden has certainly helped these children on both fronts.

Reposted from the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia blog.

Arlington Energy Masters celebrate award-winning year

On Wednesday members of the 2012-13 cohort of Arlington Energy Masters volunteers and members from the inaugural class in 2011 gathered to celebrate their accomplishments of the past year. These dedicated volunteers worked together to conduct energy and water-saving retrofits in 157 low-income apartments, surpassing the 100 units that received these services in the first year of the program. Volunteers received graduation certificates to acknowledge the 60 hours required of current year volunteers and 20 hours required of returning Energy Masters.

Created by VCE, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, and Arlington Thrive, the Arlington Energy Masters program was recognized with two accolades this year: a Green Giant award from Washingtonian Magazine and a state award from Virginia Cooperative Extension for excellence in new initiatives. The latter comes with a cash prize that the partners will use to purchase more energy saving supplies as the program enters its third year.

The goals of the program are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help low-income residents cut their utility bills. The next training for new volunteers begins on Sept. 26. If you are interested in becoming an Energy Master please fill out the on-line

Recognizing the 2013 Arlington Energy Master volunteers

Recognizing the 2013 Arlington Energy Master volunteers

application that you can find here: www.arlingtonenvironment.org