Toshiba America Foundation

Grants for Grades K-5

Sponsored by Toshiba Corporation, Toshiba America Group Companies, Toshiba America Foundation

Contact: Toshiba America Foundation
Program Office
1251 Ave. of the Americas 41st Fl.
New York, NY 10020

Phone: 212.596.0620

Description: The Toshiba America Foundation offers grants to elementary-level teachers for projects that focus on improving science and mathematics education. The goal is to provide teachers with additional funding to support innovative ideas for hands-on classroom projects.

Applications must be for project-based learning. Funds may be used for project materials only. Summer programs, after-school projects, and independent study projects are not eligible for funding. In addition, requests solely for computers are not considered.

Any kindergarten through grade 5 teacher in a public or private (not for profit) school is eligible. Applicants may contact the foundation via phone to discuss their project ideas before submitting a proposal. Applicants must complete a short questionnaire in order to access the online application.

Eligibility: Public, Private, Charter
Award(s): Grants up to $1,000 are awarded.
Deadline(s): Applications are due October 1, annually.
Focus: STEM, Technology, Technology Ed
Grade Level(s): 3-5, K-2
Content Area(s): Mathematics, Science
21st Century
Themes and Skills:
Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving
State(s): National



Lowe’s Small Toolbox for Education Grant Program

Lowe’s Small Toolbox for Education Grant Program

Sponsored by Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation

Contact: Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation
c/o PTO Today
100 Stonewall Blvd. Ste. 3
Wrentham, MA 02093

Phone: 800.644.3561 ext. 7
Email: (For questions); (To add a school to the Lowe’s database)

Description: The Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation (LCEF) provides the tools to help educators and parent groups through educational challenges by providing the greatest impact, with basic necessities being the priority. The foundation focuses on public and charter education as well as community improvement projects. Projects should fall into one of the following categories: technology upgrades; tools for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs; facility renovations; and safety improvements.

Eligible applicants are public and charter kindergarten through grade 12 schools or nonprofit parent groups associated with a public kindergarten through grade 12 school. There are two grant cycles each school year. Only one application may be submitted per school for any given grant period. In order to submit an application, schools must be in the Lowe’s database. Applicants should review the Pre-Application Checklist, available on the website, in order to successfully complete the application process.

Eligibility: Public, Other (including homeschool, 501 (c)(3) organizations), Charter
Award(s): Awards range from $2,000 to $5,000 per school.
Deadline(s): Applications are due September 29, 2017.
Focus: Community Involvement, Engineering, Facilities/Maintenance, STEM, Technology, Technology Ed
Grade Level(s): 9-12, K-2, 6-8, 3-5
Content Area(s): Mathematics, Science
State(s): National


The John Snow Memorial Trust Educational Grants

The John Snow Memorial Trust Educational Grants

Sponsored by The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust

Contact: The John Ben Snow Memorial Trust
50 Presidential Plz. Ste. 106
Syracuse, NY 13202

Phone: 315.471.5256

Description: The Memorial Trust responds to the ever-changing needs of various segments of the population, especially to the needs of young people and people who are disadvantaged either physically or economically. Education is one of the primary funding areas, in addition to arts and culture, community development, environment, historic preservation, journalism, disabilities and universal access, and youth initiatives. Under the education program, support is given to organizations that provide educational opportunities or academic assistance to individuals who demonstrate an intellectual aptitude as well as financial need. Examples include scholarships, fellowships, academic counseling, and services. It is the Trust’s general policy to give preference to proposals seeking funds for new or enhanced programs; one-time, short-term grants to sustain a program until funding is stabilized; matching grants used to encourage the participation of other donors; and “last dollars” towards a capital campaign.

Previous funding has supported summer learning programs, training for minority low-income students, scholarship support for universities and colleges, and an education finance program.

Eligible applicants are 501(c)(3) organizations. Interested applicants must first submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI). Select applicants are then invited to submit a full proposal. LOIs must be submitted online. The Trustees periodically consider off-cycle grant proposals between July 15 and December 1 for projects whose timing does not fall within the annual grant cycle. Grant seekers must contact the Trust and obtain approval prior to submitting an off-cycle grant proposal.

Eligibility: Public, Private, Other (including homeschool, 501 (c)(3) organizations)
Award(s): Awards range from $10,000 to $25,000.
Deadline(s): Letters of Inquiry are due January 1, annually. Invited applications are due April 1, annually.
Focus: At Risk, Scholarships/Fellowships, Special Needs, Underserved Populations
Grade Level(s): 6-8, 9-12, Higher Ed, 3-5, K-2, PreK
State(s): National


Educational Grants – Project Learning Tree

GreenWorks! Grants

Sponsored by Project Learning Tree, a program of the American Forest Foundation

Contact: James McGirt, Manager of Education Programs
Project Learning Tree
c/o American Forest Foundation
2000 M St. NW Ste. 550
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 202.765.3531
Email:; (For questions about the online application)

Description: GreenWorks! Grants are awarded for environmental service-learning projects that link classroom learning to the real world. Students should implement an action project that help design to green their school or to improve an aspect of their neighborhood’s environment. Activities such as school recycling programs, conserving water and energy, establishing school gardens and outdoor classrooms, improving a forest, and restoring a natural habitat are all eligible for funding.

Eligible applicants are organizations, groups, centers, museums, and schools that involve youth and environmental and conservation education. Proposed projects must exemplify student voice. Applicants must have attended or be registered to attend a traditional or online Project Learning Tree (PLT) workshop at the time of the application deadline.

In addition to those requirements, applicants must involve at least one community partner and obtain at least 50 percent matching funds or in-kind donations (materials and volunteer time) toward the project costs. Interested teachers and schools should check the grants web page carefully for the complete list of requirements for each type of grant. Applications must be submitted online.

Eligibility: Private, Public, Other (including homeschool, 501 (c)(3) organizations), Charter
Award(s): Grants up to $1,000 are awarded.
Deadline(s): Applications are due September 30, annually.
Focus: Environmental Education, Service Learning
Grade Level(s): 6-8, 9-12, 3-5, K-2, PreK
21st Century
Themes and Skills:
Environmental Literacy
State(s): National

Educational Grants – Keep America Beautiful

Recycle-Bowl Competition

Sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, Inc.

Contact: Keep America Beautiful, Inc.
1010 Washington Blvd.
Stamford, CT 06901

Email:; or use the online contact form.

Description: The Keep America Beautiful, Inc. Recycle-Bowl Competition invites all kindergarten through grade 12 schools in the United States to recycle for the chance to win prizes and receive national recognition. The competition seeks to establish new recycling programs within schools, increase or improve recycling rates in schools that currently recycle, and provide teachers and students educational opportunities about recycling and waste reduction.

The competition is separated into three divisions: the School Division (statewide competition only), the Community Division (national competition only), and the District Division (national competition only). The source of the recycled materials determines the division in which a school or district competes. Schools that only count acceptable recyclables collected within school compete in the School Division. Schools that also collect recyclables in the community, including from students’ homes, compete in the Community Division. Whole school districts that are unable to break out recycling data for each individual school can compete nationally against other school districts in the District Division, counting only acceptable items generated by the district. Interested participants should check the competition section of the competition website for lists of acceptable and unacceptable materials and guidance on data tracking and reporting.

Schools may also take part in the Recycle-Bowl Competition in an Open Division or Bragging Rights Division, though they are not eligible for prizes. See the website for information on Open Division and Bragging Rights Division participation.

Eligibility: Public, Private, Charter, Other (including homeschool, 501 (c)(3) organizations)
Award(s): Awards vary.
Deadline(s): Schools must register by October 13, 2017.
Focus: Environmental Education, General Education
Grade Level(s): 6-8, 9-12, 3-5, K-2
Content Area(s): Science
21st Century
Themes and Skills:
Environmental Literacy
State(s): National

Job Opportunity – School Garden Coordinator

Job Description: School Garden Coordinator

Abbot-Downing & Beaver Meadow Schools 

Supervisor:               Capital City Community Learning Center Program Director 

Position Status:        Part-time     

Job Class:                 Unaffiliated, contingent upon funding

Salary:                      $25/hour, as needed up to ten/week 


*Experience working with youth and families and/or community education programming.

*Experience with gardening, school gardening preferred.

*Knowledge of community resources and how to work collaboratively.

*Strong organizational and project management skills.

*Strong oral and written communication skills.


Goal – To provide on-site support to implement two school gardens.

*Organize and work closely with the afterschool team to implement the Garden Program.

*Coordinate requests for and implementation of supplies, equipment and transportation.

*Assist with planning activities designed to celebrate school garden projects.

*Coordinate the implementation of school garden activities and special events.

*Attend meetings and trainings as assigned by the Program Director.

They need three letters of reference, resume, and transcript.  Email those items to Sue Farrelly at

Education Grants – Voya Foundation

Education Grants

Sponsored by Voya Foundation

Contact: Voya Foundation

Email: Use the online contact form.

Description: The Voya Foundation supports nonprofit organizations addressing a variety of community needs and resources. The foundation maintains the following two giving priorities:
• Financial education: The Voya Foundation is especially interested in programming that provides financial education curriculum to grades 9 through 12 students focused on navigating major financial milestones including student debt, credit, home ownership, financial products and services, financial capability, and family needs.
• Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education: The foundation is committed to supporting and improving programs that help prepare youth for the twenty-first century workforce and provide experiential STEM learning opportunities for children in kindergarten through grade eight. Another priority is providing STEM training and education opportunities to current or aspiring kindergarten through grade 12 teachers.

Eligible applicants are 501(c)(3) organizations. All funding requests must be submitted online; the foundation does not accept hardcopy, mailed proposals, or requests under $2,500.

Eligibility: Public, Private, Other (including homeschool, 501 (c)(3) organizations), Charter
Award(s): Grants of $2,500 and greater are awarded.
Deadline(s): Applications are due September 8, 2017.
Focus: At Risk, Family/Social Services, Professional Development, STEM
Grade Level(s): 6-8, 9-12, 3-5, K-2
Content Area(s): Mathematics, Science
21st Century
Themes and Skills:
Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Financial, Entrepreneurial, Economic, Business Literacy, Innovation, Problem Solving
State(s): National

Wise Watering

Wise Watering

ToolboxGB_summerClick to Download this Resource

Water. All living things it need to live and thrive, making it one of our most valuable natural resources. Unfortunately, it’s rapidly becoming one of the most endangered. Water shortages loom as growing cities and suburbs bring increased demands in concentrated areas, and droughts threaten various regions every year. Adopting efficient watering practices not only conserves water and boosts plant health, it’s another way to empower kids to help protect precious resources through their work in the garden.

Mother Nature may water your garden for most of the year, but when plants are growing vigorously during summer months you may need to water frequently. Most gardens have a water source close by, but not everyone has a practical plan for getting water from spigot to soil. We hear often from garden coordinators looking for solutions to this challenge. During school breaks, most garden programs depend on volunteers who have to haul watering cans or hoses — the irrigation option with the least up-front expense — but scheduling and coordination can be difficult, with the bulk of the work falling on a few people. Automatic irrigation equipment provides the most flexibility, but can require a larger cash outlay and time to design and install. This article covers the pros and cons of different irrigation methods to help you make sensible choices, and provides tips about best water management practices and lesson ideas for exploring water issues. We hope this helps you work out the perfect solution to your watering woes!


Why do plants need water? Like people, many plants consist mostly of water. To visualize just how much they hold in their cells, compare a leaf of a living basil plant to one that’s been dried.

Plants use water for important life processes, including photosynthesis (by which plants produce their own energy) and transpiration (evaporation of water from the leaves which cools the plant and creates pressure that moves water from roots to stems and leaves). Water also aids in the absorption of some nutrients.

How much water do plants need? This depends on many factors: plant species, plant size, maturity level, and environment (e.g., weather, soil, other plants growing nearby). For instance, cacti are adapted to desert conditions and need very little water, while water lilies live fully submerged in water. Older and larger plants often need more water to sustain healthy growth, and young plants with shallow roots need frequent watering as the soil near the surface dries quickly. Plants in cool, humid and, shady environments will lose water to transpiration more slowly than those exposed to sunny, warm, arid, and windy conditions. Ultimately, you, your young gardeners, and your volunteers will learn how much water your plots need based on the variables specific to your site.

Anyone who has gardened with kids know that they like to water – sometimes too much! Help them understand that providing the right amount is crucial to the health of their prized garden plants. You can even encourage experiments in test plots or pots where students will find that too little water causes wilting, slow growth, and can lead to early fruit and leaf drop, and that too much can lead to root suffocation and promote disease. Students can also research the water requirements of their various plants to determine their needs and fine-tune the amount based on local variables. Challenge students to track rainfall and monitor soil moisture to help determine when supplemental watering is needed.

Use a potable (drinking water safe) water source to irrigate your edible garden. Water provided by your municipality is a safe source.  If the water you’re using comes from a private well or untreated surface water source such as a pond or river, have it tested regularly for bacterial and other types of contamination. Your local health department can provide you with information on water testing.

Water collected in rain barrels is not potable and may contain harmful bacteria and other contaminants, especially if it’s water collected from rooftops. The safest course is to use rain barrel water only for irrigating non-edible crops. If you decide to use water from rain barrels on edibles, have the water tested regularly and clean and sanitize the barrels frequently.

The EPA estimates that an average of 1/3 of all water use is for irrigation — approximately 7 billion gallons a day! This rate often climbs as high as 75% during the summer, especially in the South and West. Here are some wise watering techniques to help your garden crew minimize demands and pressures on shrinking water resources.

  • When to Water – Irrigate during early morning hours. Much water applied in the heat of the day is lost through evaporation. Evening watering can contribute to disease problems because plant leaves stay wet longer. Watering during windy periods increases water loss.
  • Where to Apply Water – Since plants absorb moisture through their roots, it makes most sense to apply water to the soil. Watering leaves is inefficient and can lead to disease problems. (If your garden is in a dusty area, rinse leaves occasionally if dust builds up on leaves.)
  • Watch the Weather – As best you can, adapt your watering schedule to weather and changing seasons. Although watering every Monday and Wednesday might be convenient for you, it may not be the right schedule for your plants.
  • How Much to Water – It is better to water thoroughly a few times a week rather than a little bit every day. You want the soil to absorb water to a depth of 6 to 8 inches to encourage deep, strong root growth. For all but fast-growing, shallow-rooted plants, allow soil to dry to a depth of 1 inch before watering again.
  • Avoid Runoff – Avoid letting your irrigation water run off on to paved areas or  down storm drains. If you notice runoff, apply water more slowly in cycles, taking small breaks between applications to allow the soil time to soak up moisture.
  • Know Your Soil – How fast your soil absorbs water will vary by soil type and amount of organic matter in the soil. Clay soils are slow to absorb water but tend to hold moisture longer, so they need less frequent watering. Sandy soils drain quickly and do not hold water well, so they dry out faster. Adding compost and other organic matter to your soil will improve water penetration in clay soil and water retention in sandy soil.
  • Keep Moisture in the Soil – Mulch beds and around the base of trees (but don’t pile mulch up against tree trunks) to decrease water loss from evaporation. Mulch also helps regulate soil temperature and decrease weed growth.
  • What to Plant – Choose plants adapted to your weather, climate, and soils. Native plants adapted to the conditions in your garden are often a good choice because their moisture needs have evolved within regional weather patterns. Group plants with similar water needs. It’s better for the plants and makes your job easier.



This method is usually the cheapest in terms of equipment costs. By using proper techniques, it can also be an efficient use of water. As you use a hose or watering can to irrigate you can be selective, watering each plant or plot as it needs. You can monitor how far moisture penetrates into the soil and adjust your watering time as necessary. It’s important to apply water directly to the soil beneath the plants and to avoid excessive runoff onto sidewalks and other paved surfaces.

If you choose to use watering cans, select models that are the right size for your gardeners to avoid spills and injury. Remember that a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, so cans get heavy quickly! Fortunately, watering cans are available in many different sizes. Or you can save money by using half-gallon or gallon milk and juice jugs with handles.

If you prefer using hoses choose adjustable spray nozzles that allow you to stop the flow without having to turn off the spigot, and that offer a range of volume and pressure options. This will ensure that you have the appropriate pressure for various kinds of plantings and reduce water waste.

The downside of hand watering is the time and energy needed. A strong and reliable team of kids and volunteers are necessary to monitor the weather and water when needed, especially during vacation breaks.

Sprinklers decrease the manpower needed for watering. You can purchase hose-end sprinklers or install a system of underground pipes with spray heads. Both types can be made even more efficient and flexible by attaching manual or automatic timers.

Hose-end sprinklers are the least expensive option and can be a good choice if you have lots of beds scattered around. Some produce a spray that moves in a circular motion, others cast a fan that can move back and forth, and still others that resemble mini-tractors “drive” through the garden guided by the hose! You can turn them off and on by hand or purchase a timer to do it for you. The first time you operate your sprinkler, observe the spray pattern to make sure it’s applying water where you need it and not to paved surfaces.

Built-in sprinklers use underground pipes and spray heads. They tend to be more sophisticated to use and expensive to install, but they can be useful for permanent beds and lawns. There are many different types of spray heads available including pop-ups, rotors, and bubblers that allow you to choose the direction and pressure of water delivery. Most built-in sprinklers are controlled by automatic timers you can program to water at the most appropriate time of day even if you’re away. A helpful feature available on some automatic timers is a moisture sensor that prevents sprinklers from activating during rain! It is important to check the system regularly to make sure broken sprinkler heads are not wasting water or delivering spray to paved areas, and that spray isn’t overlapping and overwatering some plants.

The main benefit of sprinklers is convenience, and this is what makes them the least efficient irrigation method. Once they’re on schedule, we often forget to monitor them and end up with dried up or drowned plants and wasted water. You also have very limited control over the spray, so some plants get water whether they need it or not. Much of water sprayed into the air is lost to evaporation and wind drift, and since you don’t have to be present to operate them, it might be weeks before you discover a broken sprinkler head that is wasting water or starving plants of moisture.

Drip irrigation provides a happy medium between hand watering and sprinklers. Drip systems allow for more selective water application and can provide the convenience of automatic watering. Drip irrigation equipment is more costly on the front end than hand watering, but less expensive than installing underground sprinkler systems. Water savings and convenience can give you a rapid return on your initial investment.

There are two main types of drip irrigation. Soaker hose has small pores throughout its surface that leak water directly to the soil at a slow rate, allowing for increased absorption and less water waste. Soaker hose is a good option for rows and beds of vegetables and annual plants.

Emitter hoses feature components that are calibrated to deliver a precise amount of water, such as 1/2 or 1 gallon per hour. There are a variety of types. One kind features pipes with built-in emitters; others allow you to attach small-diameter flexible tubes capped with emitters to a main feeder hose, allowing you to locate emitters right under individual plants or in pots. Emitter irrigation is a great system for watering landscape beds with permanent plantings.

Both options deliver water more efficiently than sprinklers with less chance for water loss due to wind and runoff, and can be attached to timers and moisture monitors to allow for increased flexibility in scheduling. By delivering water directly to the soil, they are more selective than a sprinkler, but not quite as targeted as hand watering.

For optimal operation, you may need to add a pressure regulator to reduce and equalize water flow through the system and a filter to prevent small particles in the water from clogging pores and emitters. In some areas, insects such as ants may enter emitters in search of water and may cause clogs.

This table summarizes the major pros and cons of these three options:

Irrigation Method Pros Cons
hand watering • inexpensive
• allows targeted water delivery
• allows you to monitor soil conditions as you water
• time consuming
• labor intensive
sprinklers • can be inexpensive
• save time
• often waste water
• built-in systems can be costly and complex to design/install
drip irrigation • efficient water delivery
• saves time
• may not be as targeted as hand watering
• more expensive initially than hand watering and many sprinklers

Cucumbers – July 2017 Plant of the Month

Cucumbers – July 2017 Plant of the Month

Grow cucumbers in your home or school garden and you’ll become part of a long gardening heritage. These crisp, refreshing vegetables originated in India, where they have been grown for the past 3000 years! Of course, many changes have come to this crop over the centuries, so gardeners can find a cucumber variety that works in just about any garden situation.


There’s a type of cucumber for every use, including slicers for fresh eating, and varieties bred especially for pickle making. You can, however, pickle any small cucumber, or eat picklers fresh right off the vine, so experiment with different varieties, regardless of how you intend to use them. Slicers generally form 5- to 9-inch long, cylindrical cucumbers with tender, dark green skins and bear over a period of 4-6 weeks. Pickling varieties produce smaller fruits on fast-growing vines and generally produce most of their crop in the space of a couple of weeks. This concentrated bearing makes it convenient to harvest plenty for a pickling session. You can also grow round yellow cukes that look like lemons or ones that can reach up to 3 feet long!

Another choice is between hybrid and open-pollinated varieties of cucumbers. Open-pollinated types are old standbys and include the interesting ones with unusual colors and shapes. Hybrid cucumbers may bear more heavily and show greater resistance to some of the diseases that can trouble this crop.

Typically, cucumber vines produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Bees carry pollen from the male blossoms to the female blossoms in order for fruits to form. The term for these types of cucumbers is “monoecious.”

But among the hybrids, you may see varieties labeled “gynoecious.” These cukes only produce female flowers. Since every flower can produce a fruit, they bear especially big crops. In addition, these varieties have the broadest range of disease resistance. However, you do need to plant a monoecious variety that bears male flowers nearby in order to provide the pollen needed for fertilization. These types of cucumbers usually have some seeds of pollinator vines included right in the seed packet. Just be careful when you are thinning direct-sown seeds to leave some monoecious seedlings.

You may also encounter varieties labeled “parthenocarpic.” These types of cukes produce seedless fruits from flowers that don’t require fertilization. These varieties are popular for greenhouse growing because they will set fruits without pollinators present. However, seeded fruits can develop on parthenocarpic varieties if their flowers are visited by bees bearing pollen from seeded varieties growing nearby.

If you are short on space or planning to grow in containers, consider bush type cucumbers. These produce compact vines that begin bearing a little earlier than vining types, but the harvest will not be as large.

Site: Cucumber vines do best in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter in a location that receives full sun. They can also be grown successfully in containers. Use at least a 5-gallon container with a minimum soil depth of at least 12 inches. Bush varieties are the easiest to grow in containers, but you can also grow vining types if you provide some kind of support.

When to plant: While its name may evoke the epitome of coolness, cucumber plants like it warm. Sow seeds directly in the garden when all danger of frost is past and the soil is at least 60 degrees F; 70 degrees is even better.

For a head start in short season areas, plants can be started indoors 3-4 weeks before your setting out date. Be sure not to start them indoors any earlier than this, however, as older plants don’t tolerate transplanting well. Start seedlings in individual, plantable pots (like peat pots) to minimize root disturbance at planting time. Make sure transplants are well hardened off before they go out in the open garden. Transplant when the soil is warm, all danger of frost is past, and night temperatures stay reliably above 50 degrees F, generally about a week after the last spring frost date.

In many parts of the country you can plant more than one crop of cucumbers. Sow seeds every few weeks up until about 12 weeks before the fall frost date for the most bountiful harvest.

Planting:  Although it is not absolutely necessary to support vines on some sort of trellis, if you do you’ll get straighter, easier to pick fruits, save space, and have fewer disease problems to deal with. The vines cling by tendrils to supports. Tepees or vertical or A-frame trellises work well. Be sure to put the support in place before you plant your seeds. Bush varieties of cucumbers can be grown without supports.

Plant seeds in rows or hills, depending on how you plan to support the vines. Set seeds about ½ inch deep and 2 inches apart, thinning seedlings to 8-10 inches apart when plants have a several sets of leaves. When planting gynoecious varieties, include one monoecious plant for every seven or eight gynoecious plants for good pollination. Mulch to conserve soil moisture.

Care: Cukes are mostly water, and a consistent supply of water will give the best harvest. Moisture stressed cukes may be bitter and misshapen. Drip irrigation and mulch both help reduce the possibility of water stress. Feed vines growing in the ground with a balanced fertilizer about a month after planting. Container-grown plants will need regular fertilization throughout the season.


  • Cucumber beetles: These small yellow-green beetles with either black spots or stripes on their backs begin feeding in early spring on the leaves and stems of cucumbers and related plants; a heavy infestation may totally destroy plants. The eggs they lay hatch into white grubs that can stunt plants by feeding on their roots. In addition to the direct damage they do, the beetles can spread bacterial wilt and mosaic virus, two diseases that can harm or even kill plants.
    One of the best ways to control these pests is to rotate the location of cucumbers and their kin (squash, melons, pumpkins) in the garden and cover seedbeds or transplants with floating row covers immediately at planting time. You’ll need to remove the covers when plants begin to bloom to allow bees in to pollinate, but covering helps to minimize damage to plants at the vulnerable seedling stage. Plants can be sprayed (or dipped, in the case of transplants) with a kaolin clay mixture. This natural product coats the leaves and repels beetle feeding. Combine with yellow sticky traps for additional non-chemical control. You might also consider a registered insecticide to control heavy infestations on uncovered plants.
  • Misshapen fruits: These are the result of incomplete pollination, which causes portions of the fruits to develop improperly. This can happen if there is not enough bee activity when the plants are flowering; for example, if the weather is rainy when plants were blooming or if pesticide use has harmed pollinators. Spells of very hot weather (in the 90s) can also damage pollen and lead to poorly formed fruits. There’s not much you can do about the weather other than wait it out. But you can protect the bees that visit your crops by minimizing pesticide usage; choosing pesticide products that are the least toxic to bees (check the label for this information); and applying pesticides in the evening when bees are not flying.
  • Bitter tasting fruits: Many varieties of cucumbers naturally contain a bitter compound called cucurbitacin. When plants are stressed by things like heat, drought, low soil fertility, or disease they produce more of this compound, resulting in bitter cukes. Some of the newer, “burpless” varieties have been bred to have little or no cucurbitacin. Fruits harvested toward the end of the season from unhealthy plants are most likely to taste bitter. To reduce the likelihood of bitter cukes, keep plants consistently watered, use mulch to conserve soil moisture, and maintain soil fertility.


Cucumbers get big – often too big – fast, so pick frequently to keep vines bearing well. If you let overly mature fruits stay on the vine the plant will think its job is done and stop producing new fruits. Most slicing varieties taste best when they are between 6-8 inches long. Picklers are best harvested when they are 2-4 inches long.

Enjoy cucumbers and make a connection to pollinators with a Bee-utiful Summer Salad from Cooking Light. Just about all its ingredients depend on bees for pollination!


  • The world’s heaviest cucumber, to date, was grown in the U.K in 2015. It weighed a whopping 23 pounds, 7 ounces!
  • The Roman emperor Tiberius demanded to be served a cucumber daily during his short reign. In order to put fresh cukes on his plate in wintertime the vines were grown in movable beds so they could receive the best sun exposure.
  • Cucumbers are very low in calories, with only about 16 calories per cup. And while not stars in the nutrition department, they do offer modest amounts of potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber.

Catching Water

Catching Water

Click to Download this Garden Activity

Overview: Water is important for all living things, and the plants in your garden are no exception. Plants absorb water through their roots so your soil is an important player in making sure your plants have what they need to survive. This fun experiment you can do at home or in a school garden classroom explores how your soil conditions impact water availability and soil erosion.


  •  4 old 9″X13″ cake pans
  •  garden soil
  • compost
  •  mulch
  • fast growing seeds such as grass or beans
  • plastic trays
  • measuring cups

Approximate Time to Complete: 3+ weeks

Location: Outdoors

Ages: 5-10

Season: Spring to Fall


Water is vital for your plants. Soil, or more accurately the pore spaces between the particles of soil, act as the water reservoir for the roots of plants to draw from as needed. However sometimes our work in the garden results in compacted soil with less pore space. This decreases the soil’s ability to absorb life sustaining water effectively. If soil is not porous enough, water (from rain and irrigation) will simply run off across the surface without soaking in, leaving plants without enough water to thrive and often eroding the soil and taxing drainage systems in the process.

There are a number of gardening practices to help your soil increase its ability to absorb and retain water including:

  • Amend the soil with organic matter to increase pore space.
  • Cover soil with a layer of mulch.
  • Install plants with deep and fibrous roots.

Use the following experiment to explore these garden recommendations:

  1. Collect 4 old 9″ X 13″ cake pans. Fill all 4 pans with soil from the garden. As a control, leave one pan filled only with soil. In the second pan, mix organic matter such as compost into the soil. In the third pan, plant fast growing seeds such as beans or grass (this needs to be done a few weeks ahead of time so the plants have time to become established). In the last pan, cover the soil with a layer of mulch.
  2. Set the pans on a table at a slight angle (10 to 20 degrees) with the bottom end placed in a plastic tray.   Use a watering can to simulate rain on your different “pan landscapes,” exposing each pan to the same amount of water at the same rate of delivery.
  3. Compare the water runoff from each landscape. Measure the amount of water collected and record the amount of soil lost by erosion. Which landscape held on to the most water? Which one held on to the least water? Look around your garden and yard to find similar soil conditions in your landscape and decide if you need to make any changes to maximize the water being absorbed by your soil.
  4. Further experiments can be set up expanding the variations of landscape variables described above (for instance a pan of soil with compost and plants, soil with compost, plants and mulch, etc.) or you can add new variables such as sand and rock.