Week 3 – Amending Beds, Laying Out Rows

Why do we need to amend the beds, why do we need to turn the soil?” I hear this alot. Invariably its from a student in the midst of said activity who deservedly wants a break. The answer is, we amend the beds to add nutrients to the soil. Healthy soil means healthy plants. There is an old addage that states feed the soil, not the plant.

We turn the soil to mix the amendments with our existing soil and to aerate it as well. Aerating the soil is crucial for root development. Stick your pointer finger into an aerated bed and observe how easily it penetrates the surface. Now try to stick that same finger into the hard ground between the beds and notice how difficult it is to penetrate, if you can even do it at all. Now imagine that your finger is the root of a plant. In what environment do you think it will grow best. Correct, the aerated bed.

Note: Once a bed is turned it should never be walked on. Walking on the beds compacts the soil.

Once the beds are amended the next step is laying out rows. We lay out rows to plot where our seeds will be sown. Simply tie string to two row ends where you want your seeds to be planted. Row ends can be: splintered pieces from an old wooden box, plastic spoons, or, my favorite, tongue depressors from the nurses office.

Space your rows according to what plant you are growing. Read the back of the seed packet for this info.

School Garden News – South Africa

A Dream Garden Turns into Reality
“MAKHOARANE School, the winners of last year’s City Parks’ My Dream Park competition, has seen its dry and dusty playgrounds turned into green oasis, with newly planted trees, a water feature and new swings and slides.”
Complete article can be found here

Video – How to Amend a Raised Bed

Week 2 – Soil Amendments

Setting up a classroom, learning all new names and faces, last week was way too short to even think about gardening. No worries, we’ll get to it this week without missing a beat.

First off, review Week 1 (see below), especially the part about tool safety, then read on…

For those new to gardening you should have your location scoped out and permission from the principal granted. Focus next on obtaining raised beds or containers. Gardeners.com offers a 3 ft square raised bed made of black plastic now on sale for $35.00 (that’s about as low of a price as I’ve seen anywhere.) See it here

For those with existing raised beds now would be a good time to clear the beds, add your amendments and begin turning the soil. Physically this will be our hardest job all year. It would be a good idea if everyone took turns to lessen the burden.

More about amendments…
Definition of Soil Amendment – Material that is added to the soil for the purpose of improving the physical and biological characteristics of the soil including improving the tilth, porosity, aeration, aggregation, water holding potential, or to increase the organic content, ion exchange capacity and microbial viability. Washington State Department of Ecology

Choosing a soil amendment

Where Can You Get Cheap Natural Fertilizers and Soil Amendments?

School Garden News – Australia

Garden Path to Health
“Purple carrots, black tomatoes and a trout called Elvis have children at Southmoor Primary School in Moorabbin lining up early for classes to tend their school garden. It’s all part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, designed to encourage fearless food attitudes in a convenience-bent generation.”

Complete article Can be found here:
http://www.theage.com.au/news/epicure/garden-path-to-health/2007/09/10/1189276602136.html

Week 1 – Planning, Clearing, Tool Safety, Compost

For those new to school gardens now is the time to find a proper location. You’ll want a spot that is level, with at least six hours of sun exposure, and good drainage. If the desired location is facing south, all the better. Make sure there is a usable water source nearby. If no ground is available containers will do nicely, the bigger the better.

For those with existing gardens, begin clearing your beds pulling all dried matter and weeds leaving nothing but dirt. However, before you get started, look around and see what is left from the summer. Dried corn tassels make a wonderful fall arrangement. Dried pole beans left on the vine can be collected for next season. Dried flower heads such as sunflowers, cosmos and marigolds can also be saved for seed.

If you are already equipped for composting add the cleared matter to your compost pile. If not acquainted with composting now would be a good time to introduce yourself. Compost is nature’s way of recycling itself. Plants that have expired are put into a pile with other organic matter. By keeping the pile wet and aerated the pile decomposes forming compost, which is then added back to our existing beds to enrich the soil.

For more information see Composting page at Wikipedia , the Compost Guide from compostguide.com, and the “Guide to Home Composting” from the Los Angeles Department of Public Works in either English or Spanish.

Tools and Tool Safety are always addressed at the outset. Both are essential to a successful garden. Basic rules are as follows: 1) No running with tools; 2) Do not carry or swing tools on your back; 3) Do not bring hands tools over your shoulder; 4) Walk with the tool by your side, blade down; 5) Return all tools to their proper place immediately after use. Do not leave tools in the garden; 6) Anyone not following these rules does not get to work in the garden.

Essential tools are: Garden Fork for turning soil and compost, Shovel for transplanting, Dirt Rake for leveling the soil, removing root clumps and large pebbles, Garden Hoe for removing weeds, Hand-shovels (also called trowels) for digging small holes, Hand-cultivators for weeding and aerating soil, and Pruners for cutting large stems. Miscellaneous tools include: scissors, string, gloves, rulers, tape measure, row ends and plastic bags to distribute the bounty.

School Garden News – India

America is not the only country using school gardens as a way to get young people to eat healthier. Read about what one region in India is doing.
View complete article: http://www.hindu.com/2007/09/04/stories/2007090460200400.htm