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Back to School Gardening

46,000 young people were welcomed back to DC Public Schools this morning for the 2014-2015 school year. And 168 students at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School have a brand new school garden to get excited about! USDA’s People’s Garden team assisted Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, which supports the charitable efforts of the Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards, with laying the groundwork for this project.

More than 100 volunteers painted, cleaned and gardened at Drew ES for DC Public Schools Beautification Day. The Red Rockers and Wizard Girls cheered on 30 USDA Executive Master Gardeners and a dozen Washington Capitals, Mystics and Wizards fans as they built a brand new school garden in the rain. The rainy weather did not dampen their commitment to help produce Washington’s healthiest next generation and in less than 3 hours the school garden was complete.

It's National Pollinator Week: Bee with Us Friday for a Twitter Chat with Beekeepers & Join Us for the Fifth Pollinator Week Festival at USDA

How do pollinators affect your life? Well, if you’ve ever eaten a blueberry, chocolate bar or tomato, you can thank a pollinator. Pollinators are birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees. They are responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites of food we eat. But these invaluable creatures are facing declines. That’s why USDA agencies, other federal departments and partners share knowledge and collaborate on efforts to help increase awareness and tackle challenges facing pollinators.

Last month, USDA launched a webcam that is literally buzzing with activity at the People's Garden Apiary, located here on the roof of USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. Observing these social insects at #USDABeeWatch is fascinating and addicting. If you’ve been watching then you probably have a lot of questions about honey bee behavior and beekeeping. Meet our Beekeepers Nathan Rice and Andy Ulsamer virtually on Friday at Noon and ask them questions about what you’re seeing. Tweet to us @USDA and use #USDABeeWatch. Feel free to send your questions ahead of time, and we will respond to as many as possible during the chat.

See Honeybees at Work: USDA Launches BeeWatch

At the ribbon cutting of the USDA Headquarters People’s Garden in April 2010 plans were already in place to install a beehive on the roof of the Whitten Building as well as a "bee-cam" so anyone anywhere could learn about bee activity. USDA’s newest ‘buzzing’ residents were welcomed on Earth Day but the bee cam was put on hold. 18 gallons of honey later, that idea has finally come to bee.

So what will you see on our bee cam? This time of year, the camera - placed several feet from the entrance of the hive – shows female worker bees entering and exiting the hive gathering nectar and pollen (both collected from flowers) to convert into honey. Be on the lookout for bees carrying a load of pollen on their hind legs. As bees groom, they’ll move the pollen onto their back legs creating a pellet of pollen. A small amount of nectar is used to stick the dry pollen together.

Join Us at the USDA Harvest Festival

You’re invited to the USDA Harvest Festival on Friday, November 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come celebrate the end of the growing season in the People’s Garden and at the USDA Farmers Market. Take advantage of the last opportunity of the year to shop the outdoor USDA Farmers Market located along 12th Street, SW in between Jefferson Drive and Independence Avenue in Washington, DC.

The day will be filled with fun activities and educational demonstrations that are free and fun for the whole family. Here’s a list of the planned events:

#AskUSDA: A Conversation Between Gardeners

The arrival of fall doesn’t mean that garden season is over. In fact, the People’s Garden Initiative wants to keep the conversation growing! Throughout the growing season, People’s Garden staff and Executive Master Gardener volunteers at USDA Headquarters are asked hundreds of questions on the why, how, when and what of gardening. You too may be digging for answers on ways to turn your thumb a healthier shade of green.