Monday, April 25, 2016

Seeds, Soil and Sunshine

Spring is here in all of its glory and so begins the gardening season. To prepare our own spring garden students strategically planted seeds, dug small holes to drop in infant seedlings, and learned all about the soil in which we are growing our garden. With water, sunshine and careful nurturing, our spring garden will grow steadily and provide a bountiful harvest in just a few short months.

Students learned the difference between planting by seed, which is called direct sowing, and planting seedlings that have had a head start in a greenhouse. They learned which plants like to be directly sown and which like to be transplanted from a small container to the garden bed. Some plants are very particular to their planting method, and some are flexible and can successfully grow from either seed or transplant. Leafy greens are examples of flexible plants, and root vegetables are examples of plants that must by directly sown.

Students planted root vegetables at one meeting which included radishes, carrots, sugar snap peas, turnips, and beets. At the following meeting students planted leafy greens, herbs and flowers including lettuce, kale, chard, arugula, onions, tatsoi, spinach, and nasturtiums. Farmer John Wilson from New Earth Farm, our consistent mentor and farming consultant, came out to plant with the students and tell him all about his chemical-free and sustainable farm. Farmer John’s visits are always highly anticipated, fun and educational.

The quality of our garden plants depends heavily on the quality of our soil. Healthy soil equals healthy plants. We are fortunate to be able to acquire nutrient-rich compost from New Earth Farm to amend our soil each spring to give our plants a huge energy boost. Students received a basic understanding of the mini eco-system that makes up our soil—like microbes, insects and other organisms—and gained an appreciation for the delicate balance of nutrients the plants need. While they now know that it takes time to develop this healthy soil balance, we can help our soil along the way by adding nourishing amendments like compost.

Students learned about vermi-composting and how to set up a worm bin. Worm bins are great ways
to turn trash into treasure and a sustainable way to dispose of our food scraps, instead of having them rot in a landfill releasing methane gas. Worm castings make an excellent compost for a
chemical-free garden.

The importance of water and proper irrigation for a healthy garden was also covered at our Green LIONS Garden Group meeting. We are fortunate to have a drip irrigation system in our garden. While using city water is not the most sustainable way to water, a drip irrigation system allows our garden to be watered regularly since it is in a school setting and not, for example, at someone’s home where they could easily water whenever it is convenient. A drip irrigation system is more eco-friendly and efficient than say a sprinkler system, because the water drips slowly and there is a 90% absorption rate instead of high evaporation.

Students learned about how we also collect water in our rain barrel and they are able to use watering cans with collected water to water the garden at our meetings.
Did you know that 3o% of water used in our urban area is used to water lawns and gardens? 
Did you also know that 35% of municipal electricity is used to treat that water?
Collecting water through rain barrels or using well water is a much more sustainable way to grow healthy lawns and gardens without depleting our natural resources. Of course, rain is the best irrigation of all! And if we received one inch of rain in a week we should not have to water established vegetable and fruit plants at all. Now that would be convenient.

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