Category Archives: Instructional Activities

Potting up

When starting seeds indoors it is sometimes necessary to repot new seedlings into a bigger container rather than plant them immediately outdoors. We call this practice potting up. In the enclosed video I am potting up Broccoli into a peat pot which can then be transplanted at later date directly into the soil.

School Garden Preparation – Dorsey High School

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Preparing a garden bed for seed sowing is a difficult task, in fact it is the most difficult task we’ll perform in the garden all year. Over the summer, weeds grows unfettered, plants die, and the soil is depleted of nutrition.

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All those planting beds need to be cleared and amended.

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Thankfully, at Dorsey High School, we had a few students show up for garden work on a Saturday and they did a fabulous job.

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For approximately two and a half hours students weeded, removed bermuda grass, old plants, and completed some seriously needed site prep work.

See video, How to Amend a Raised Bed, to view the process of adding amendments (preferably organic compost) and turning (or aerating) the soil.

Scarecrows in the Garden

"Go Skatecrow Go!" by students at Fayette Middle School

"Go Skatecrow Go!" by students at Fayette Middle School

Scarecrows in a school garden is a fun activity. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is currently exhibiting its annual “Scaregrows in the Garden”. See link for pics and ideas.

Starting from Seed

The vegetables we grow are mostly annuals. They start from seed, flower,
and end as seeds all within a defined year. That’s their life cycle.

Bolted Lettuce

Bolted Lettuce

Save some seeds this year.  The easiest are cilantro and lettuce.
We also do arugula, fennel, marigolds, beans and sunflowers.
See Starting from Seed for more instructional material.

marigold

Marigold Seeds

Soil Testing – How clean is the dirt?

By Susan Carpenter, LATimes.com

All dirts are not created equal. Urban dirt in particular has suffered the fallout from human activity, often with higher-than-healthy concentrations of lead, arsenic and other toxic metals that accumulate in the soil and are sucked up by plants. It’s an issue of grave importance for the millions of Americans who are food gardening. Soil testing, whether for pH, salinity, texture or heavy metals — all of which affect how well, or if, a plant will grow — is a good idea for anyone who intends to eat the bounty of their gardens. Several laboratories offer soil testing for home gardeners, including:

Wallace Laboratories, El Segundo. (310) 615-0116 or www.bettersoils.com. $65 per test.

EarthCo, St. Louis. (314) 994-2167 or www.drgoodearth.com. $20 to $100 per test.

School Starts Next Week, Be Prepared

WeHo Winter Garden

School starts next week. For those with school gardens already in place now is the time to be ordering your seeds. For those who are starting from scratch see, How to Start and Maintain a School Garden.

If you’re not sure what is seasonal for your area check out your local cooperative extension. In mild winter areas like Southern California one can use the vegetable planting schedule from DigitalSeed.com

We already have seeds of cilantro, lettuce, arugula, and marigolds that we saved from last year. Be sure to set aside one or two of your plants this year to use for seeds. Not only does it show students the full life cycle of an annual plant it also saves your garden program some much needed funds.

For those who are buying, the following seed companies are worth looking into:

1) Botanical Interests – Based in Colorado, BI is a family owned business know for their large selection of certified organic varieties.

2) Baker Creek – Based in Missouri, with a new outpost in Northern California, BC is known for its large selection of heirloom varieties.

3) Gourmet Seed – If your fava beans must be Moroccan, and nothing else will suffice, GS is your place.

A list of what we’ll be growing this year includes the following: arugula, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chives, cilantro, fava beans, fennel, garlic, kale, lettuce, mint, onions, oregano, parsley, peas, potatoes, radishes, rosemary, sorrel, spinach, swiss chard, tat soi, thyme, and turnips.

Stocks

Lastly, perhaps you just want to throw some seeds into a container outside the classroom. If so, consider cool weather flowers such as stocks or snapdragons, a winter hardy herb garden or such easily grown veggies as lettuce, spinach and radishes.

Snapdragons

Rain Gardening in the South

I’ve been noticing school rain gardens being mentioned more frequently in news alerts and thought some of you would find this book invaluable.

Written by NCSU horticulturalists Helen Kraus and Anne Spafford, Rain Gardening in the South helps gardeners wisely use our most precious resource—water. Rain gardens maximize rainwater, enhance the landscape, and promote good environmental stewardship.

Runoff contributes significantly to polluting our waterways. The rain garden, which functions as a miniature reservoir and filtration system, offers an effective, visually pleasing solution that dramatically reduces toxic runoff, resulting in cleaner rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The authors define the rain garden as “a garden slightly sunken below grade designed to capture rainfall, store that water to nurture the garden plants, and cleanse runoff, thus removing pollution.”

Ironically, rain gardens are more drought-tolerant than conventional gardens. Because of their plant selection and ability to store water, rain gardens flourish during dry spells, as well as rainy seasons, making them particularly conducive to the South.

“Water-wise gardeners are conscious of both the need to limit their water use and the need to minimize runoff, thereby dramatically reducing water pollution,” write Kraus and Spafford. “Not only are rain gardens extremely effective in addressing water and pollution issues, they are gorgeous.”

Rain Gardening in the South addresses the specific environmental circumstances of southern gardens, such as climate issues, plant selection, and soil types. It details step-by-step instruction on constructing a garden, from the design stage to post-planting maintenance, including plant lists and troubleshooting tips.

Though the specific plant lists are targeted to southern climates, the concepts, diagrams and design templates are universal.  And it is a very easy-to-use guide, full of accessible information about water harvesting, improving water quality, soil types…good hands-on science curriculum.

Publisher’s discount: $16 + $4 shipping at enopublishers.org

Rain Gardening in the South