Friday, March 13, 2009

Starting school gardens this spring!

This year, we've added a new component to our Garden Science program: on-site school gardens!

We are working with each of our participating elementary schools to install gardens on the grounds of their school. This will add a long-term element to our program, enabling our classes to continue learning when we are not there while additionally providing an opportunity for the entire school to access and learn from a garden.

In anticipation of installing school gardens come April 09, we started seeds in each one of our classrooms. We equipped each classroom with a grow rack - an energy efficient fluorescent light attached to a four tiered plastic shelf (made out of recycled materials). Because the seedlings need 14-18 hours a sunlight a day, we set these lights to a timer. The grow rack sits right in the classroom, allowing the students to observe the daily development of the seeds they planted. The students take on the responsibility of caring for their plants - they water the plants daily while recording their care routine and the progress of the plants.

We planted lettuce, spinach, radish, swiss chard, sunflowers, marigolds, and zinnias - all plants that will do well outdoors early in the season.

Some of the schools are starting even more seeds and purchasing seedlings to expand the garden even more. We hope to have some yummy veggies for the eating before school lets out, and know that our flowers will attract lots of beneficial insects and pollinators to the garden.

After learning about germination, we were able to observe germination right as it happened about a week after we planted our seeds. After that, we thinned our plants to ensure that each container contained one healthy plant that was able to get all the resources (sun, water, nutrients) it needed. A few weeks later, we transplanted our seedlings to larger containers, allowing more room for growth and more developed root systems, which will make for a stronger plant. One our of students came up with a great way of describing it - we were moving the plants from an apartment to a house so that they could chill out in more space.

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