Garden Leaders


Garden Leadership is an extension of The Y Environmental Service Corps.  They met one afternoon each week.  The summer started when the Garden Leaders planted the demonstration garden at the Co+op.

They cared for gardens during the summer, painted flower pots to be distributed around town, visited a youth garden in Santa Fe to bring ideas to our community, made a sign and painted a mural for the garden, and led garden activities for an afternoon for iCare Adventures.


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History Adventures at Fuller Lodge

We had a great time participating in History Adventures at Fuller Lodge hosted by the Los Alamos Historical Society.  Our portion of the program was on seed balls with a focus on forest fire recovery.  Hang on — forest fire recovery is related to food plant growth.  The grasses and wildflowers that grow after a fire need some of the same items that food plants need to grow.  The seeds need protection from drying out and wind, and nutrients for the seedlings.

We began our day by playing a quick game of “Fire and the Unit.”  The game starts by the Fire Chief yelling “FIRE!”  The other participants immediately move their arms up and down in a flowing motion while making hissing and crackling signs to mimic fire.  The chief then yells “Unit 3*!”  The participants quickly form circles of three.  All participants who make it into a circle of three continue onto the next round.  The above steps are repeated until two participants are left.  After fire is called by the chief, the chief will say “Unit Jump*” and the first participant to do the command wins.  The winner will become the next fire chief.

* the unit number changes for each round and is up to the chief to decide the number

** the chief calls out any command he chooses

After the game, we read a short story about a forest fire.  In the story, a tree was struck by lightening causing a fire.  Animals evacuated, fire fighters came and fought the fire.  By the next summer, grasses and wildflowers grew in the sun that was once shaded by trees and bushes.  Over time, bushes and trees grew and the forest looked as it did before the fire.

After story time, we had messy fun and made seed balls.  To find out more about seed balls, click on our May 3rd post titled “Seed Ball Making”.  The link is

Leave us a comment if you have a question or a thought.

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Seed Ball Making

A great time happens when clay, compost, seeds and water combine (recipe for seed balls).  In this case, the gooey mess brought some nature and smiles to students on a windy, sunny, rainy and snowy day in Los Alamos.  It was a little too cold to play outside but two trooper middle school teachers, Ms. Baker and Ms. Unger, allowed us along with almost 200 7th graders to make a mess — I mean seed balls — in their class.

Seed balls are a fun, popular and effective way to replenish wild flowers and grasses to an area devastated by fire.  After a fire, much vegetation is gone which increases the risk for flash floods and erosion.  It is important to get plants with established roots in the ground.  Using seed balls to foster the natural growth cycle is way to have fun while gaining an ecology lesson.

After a fire, grasses and wild flowers are among the first to grow due to the increase abundance of sun on the forest ground.  The grasses and flowers thrive in the sun, establish their root systems rather quickly (helps to prevent erosion), and provide animals a habitat.  As time passes, slower growing plants such as bushes and trees grow, creating a shadier environment and will establish deeper root systems than the flowers and grasses.

Seed balls create the perfect recipe to increase nature’s natural course. The balls have four simple ingredients: clay, compost, seeds and water.  The clay acts as the binding agent to keep the compost and seeds together.  The compost gives seedlings (seeds shortly after they sprout) the nutrients the plant will need to grow.  The combination of the compost and clay will prevent the seed from drying out as well as protecting them from animals and wind.  The water allows the clay, compost and seeds to form balls (think about making a sand castle with dry sand).

The seed balls LAYFP makes will be used to create a border of native grasses around our community garden.  Our recipe is below

You will need:

1 – 5 gallon bucket

2 parts compost

5 parts clay (you can get clay powder from an art store – we went the cheaper route and used the recycled clay which is a mixture of different types)

1-2 parts water

1-2 parts seeds (It is very important to consult a local ecologist or Extension office on what kind of seeds to use.  The wrong seeds can be invasive to an area and create damage that is hard to reverse if at all)

Flat surface for the balls to dry (we used cardboard)

Add the dry ingredients to the bucket and mix.  It is easier to mix the ingredients evenly when dried.  Add water slowly and mix.  You want to add enough water to make the mixture the consistency of playdough.  If you add too much water, just add more dry ingredients.

Once you have the correct consistency, roll the mixture into 1 inch balls and allow to dry on a flat surface (cardboard).  After the balls are dried, throw them in the area where you want the seeds to grow.  Be patient and allow time for nature to take its course.  Sprouts can be seen shortly after a good rain.

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Seeds Glorious Seeds

Yesterday we went on an escapade to the NMSU Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.  We conquered narrow adobe wall lined roads (in a quite large van) to the entrance of the center.  We made the turn to the center property saw breath taking views of a 1920s era adobe house backed by research fields and Black Mesa.  The grape vines and tress –  oh yea, I’m supposed to be writing about the seed bank.  Right, back on track.

We went to the center because we heard they have seeds, free seeds and lots of them.  Upon arriving, the agriculture specialist gave us a quick tour of the adobe house I just mentioned and we talked about the LAYFP on the walk to the shed aka the seed bank.  The door swings open revealing boxes, sacs and trash cans full of seeds*.  Seeds, glorious seeds.  Seeds for the taking.  We got a quick run down on where to find what seeds and the specialist asked us a small favor, to only take seeds we will use. He passed through the doorway and left us in seedland.  It is seriously better than being a kid in FAO Schwartz in New York with no budget.

For the next hour, we sat on bags of seeds and sorted while our mouths watered thinking of the fresh veggies that will come of these seeds.  We brought home seeds like Cinderella pumpkins, heirloom eggplant, Sesame Street tomato, Mississippi Purple Pea, Supai Red Corn, pinto beans, swiss chard, Sonora Chile, Gold Star Chile, spinach, mustard, Winter Thyme, Tarragon, carrots, Headmaster Lettuce, paprika, Oregano, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, Vates Curled Blue Kale, ghourds, Red Verona Chickory and more.

The center recommends you leave at least an hour to sort the seeds.  Based on our experience, that’s a correct recommendation.  If you choose to get seeds from the center, call the center to make sure someone will be available to help you when you get there.  Don’t forget to take envelopes and pens to label your seeds.

*Seeds have to be tested each year for areas such as disease and seed purity.  After the seeds are tested, they are brought to the center for people to take. 


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Volunteers Needed

It’s the middle of March and we’re planning plenty of fun activities for you to enjoy this spring and summer.  We want you to be a volunteer so our garden can grow to its full potential.  We’re looking for volunteers in many different areas.  If you want more information about the LAYFP, please click LAYFP presentations Jan-Feb 2013

We’re having a potential volunteer meeting on March 20 at 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. at PEEC.  Please click  LAYFP – Seeking Visionary Volunteers to see the volunteer flier.

If you have any questions, please e-mail Sylvan at or call her at 505.662.3100.

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Teachers (and everyone else),

PEEC is having some great gardening classes.  Take a little time to learn about year round vegetable gardening or holistic orchard management and get some ideas you can implement in your classroom.   Check out the flier for  Vegetable Year Round Gardening or Holistic Orchard Management .

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Mountain Elementary

Great news for the LAYFP world!  We met with the Mountain principal, Mr. Ivanovich and he gave us support of the project. Ms. Clayton, a Mountain 3rd grade teacher, agreed to be our contact person at the school.

Ms. Clayton said a few things that could be useful as garden aids for their school is plant picture books, how-to writing lessons, science journaling, and completion of open-ended responses.


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