Watts Vertical Garden Project

In February, our Program 18 student Dreamers from Animo James B. Taylor (JBT) Charter School in Watts constructed, assembled, learned about, and planted vertical gardens. Vertical gardens are innovative ways to grow plants, especially if you have no land or a very small yard. With a vertical garden, you can grow up the side of your fence, on a wall, at a school, or even in a garage. Some vertical garden systems can even be portable so they can be conveniently moved. Better yet, vertical gardens function as wonderful spaces for community gardens, as multiple people can partake in growing plants within the compressed space.

Alberto Campos, Program 18 Coordinator, explains how the gardening projects impact our Dreamers:
With limited resources in the Watts community and California’s water drought, Dreamers have the opportunity to partake in gardening, harvesting, and consuming the vegetables at school. The vertical garden project not only teaches our students responsibility, but also teaches them about healthy choices and a healthy lifestyle.

IHADLA Watts Animo JBT Vertical Garden Project

These vertical gardens and this excellent project were brought to our Dreamers by Mrs. Vanessa Frank and Ms. Alexandra Fuller. The two women kindly donated all of the vertical garden materials and helped build the gardens with our students. They also asked Niels Thorlaksson from LA Urban Farms to help educate our student Dreamers about the significance of the gardens and their personal connection to the earth, plants, and nature.

During our after-school program, our JBT Dreamers from Watts assembled, constructed, planted, and learned about the vertical gardens. The boys wanted to help assemble and build the vertical garden structures, and they did a great job doing so. They made sure the gardens were very stable and sturdy to resist any strong winds. After building all three vertical garden structures, the Dreamers learned more about each of the plants they were going to pot. The student Dreamers planted a variety of vegetables, including kale, cilantro, butter lettuce, and romaine lettuce. They labeled each plant that they potted with their name to track the progress of their plants as they grew. Once completely grown and ready to harvest, all of the plants were used to make healthy green smoothies!

IHADLA Watts JBT building vertical gardens
The boys building the base of the vertical gardens.
IHADLA Watts JBT assembling vertical garden structures
Assembling the vertical gardens.
IHADLA Watts Animo JBT vertical gardens LA Urban Farms
Students learning about the plants and labeling their individual plants.
IHADLA Dreamers proud vertical garden project JBT Watts
Our proud Dreamers happily standing next to their completed vertical garden project.

Inner City Youth Vertical Garden Update

Throughout March, we got updates on the vertical gardens from Watts Program coordinator Alberto. Since being planted, the plants have been growing for about a month. The gardens are looking lush and beautiful, adding a touch of green to the school’s campus. Most of the plants have been growing very well, which is quite impressive considering they started from seedling-size. With the unprecedented March weather, some of the plants were damaged by the recent storms, but they survived.

Students have a schedule of when to clean the garden, add food, and add water. Alberto has informed us that the Animo JBT school staff enjoy having the plants on campus and also help clean the vertical garden towers. In addition, he says that Ms. Habashy, the leadership teacher at Animo JBT, has done a great job working with Dreamers and other Animo Students to keep the plants healthy. Alberto has been communicating with Neil from LA Urban Farms to make sure that more seeds and plants are delivered to restock the vertical garden towers once the plants are harvested to make smoothies.

IHADLA Watts JBT vertical gardens growing
Vertical garden project update: growing great.
IHADLA Watts Animo JBT vertical gardens Ashley cilantro
Ashley’s cilantro plant.
IHADLA Watts Animo JBT vertical gardens Osvaldo butter lettuce
Osvaldo’s butter lettuce looks delicious.
IHADLA vertical garden plants growing greens Watts JBT
Some of the plants are doing incredibly well.

IHADLA Watts Kitchen: Healthy Green Smoothies

The day finally came when the plants were ready to be harvested and made into healthy green smoothies! Our Dreamers were a bit apprehensive about taking plants and blending them into a drink, but they did enjoy the smoothies they made. Many of the Dreamers were surprised at how good the smoothies tasted even though green plants were added to them. Teaching our students how to add some extra nutrition to their everyday choices will help educate them as they become more independent.

IHADLA Watts team work blending smoothies
Patiently blending all of the ingredients together.
IHADLA Watts JBT gardening project plants smoothies
Adding their very own, home-grown plants into the blender.
Wendy IHADLA Watts green smoothies gardening project
Wendy gives the smoothie an “okay”–not her favorite, but not bad!
IHADLA Watts Animo JBT smoothies from plants thumbs up
We got a thumbs up.

This project has been very successful and we cannot wait to grow more plants with our Dreamers.

Teaching our Dreamers about how to beautify their Los Angeles community with greenery helps them understand the importance of taking care of their neighborhoods. Gardening requires attentiveness and patience; therefore it is an excellent activity for our 6th grade Dreamers. They can also learn how to be responsible for the growth of their vertical gardens while practicing team work, as the students must work together in order for the gardens to prosper. Even better, the Animo JBT students who are not Dreamers get to take part in the vertical garden project. This helps spread environmental education in the Los Angeles community.