Tag Archives: 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.

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.

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.

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?