The ICS St. Francis Garden club worked really hard last Friday. They pulled weeds in the upper part of the ICS garden, turned the soil to loosen it for new plants, mixed in compost to add nutrients to the soil, formed the rows with levels for walking in between the raised levels for planting, added newspaper and mulch to the rows to stop the growth of weeds and to mark where students can walk.
The students also harvested the carrots growing in the garden and fertilized the tomatoes.
Each student will be assigned a row to plan, to plant and to keep up this spring.
We thank the Town N Country Garden Circle women for their help with the club and with the butterfly garden again this week.
To stop the growth of weeds, the grade 2 students with the help of the Town N Country Garden Circle ladies, put down layers of newspapers with mulch on top to prevent the growth of weeds. After school, the St. Francis Garden Club finished the paper/mulch layer on the lower level of the garden.
Last week the St. Francis Garden and Ecology Club members got out shovels to prepare the soil for the garden. We created the paths to walk on, and heaped up soil to build the rows for the seeds. We placed newspapers, 4-6 pages thick, on the paths and then covered them with cypress mulch. The newspapers help to stop the weeds from growing in the paths between the rows. The mulch does the same and holds the newspapers in place. Both the newspapers and mulch also help to hold moisture.
We cannot buy fertilizer at this time of the year in Hillsborough County Fl. The new limitation is to cut back on the amount of fertilizer flowing into Tampa Bay during the heavy late summer rains. We can buy potting soil, so we mixed a little potting soil with the soil in the rows before planting the seeds. Students read the back of the seed packages to find how deep to plant the seeds and how far apart. They measured carefully to try to get the correct depth and placement for the bush bean, carrot and beet seeds. We also planted some flowering plants that were brought in by Dominic, one of the club members. The upper level of the garden will be planted in vegetable seeds. The lower level will be planted in flowers to develop a wildlife habitat, especially for the butterflies.
In two posts, Make Compost Like Yoghurt and Chicken Wire Compost Container, I described a compost method I am trying. The purpose is to set up a compost pile that matures quickly to be used as a vegetable garden base. The master gardener who recommended the method said to leave it for 3-4 months and then to plant vegetables directly in it. Although not all the hay was converted to compost, the mixture had matured with a rich layer of compost under the top layer of hay. I added a small bag of purchased top soil, mixed it with the remaining hay and compost and planted two tomato plants. I left a layer of hay on the top to act as mulch.
Possible Problems: My concern is that there might still be enough active decomposition that the temperature could become too hot for the tomato plants. Although the plants are thriving, I’ll continue to monitor the temperature. Another concern is that there might be too much nitrogen for the tomato plants due to the rich compost. By adding the topsoil, I added structure to the mix to hold moisture, reduced the direct contact each plant has with the nitrogen in the compost while still providing the needed nutrients. The plants had nearly doubled in height in a week and have many flowers. Hopefully, we’ll have tomatoes soon.
Grade 5 students planted their seeds today. Each group of 3-4 students had a package of seeds and a portion of a row. They read the directions for depth for the seeds and spacing between seeds, then worked together to get the project done. They marked the area with small plastic posts indicating who was in the group and what they planted. Since we had time and energy, we created 2 short rows, perpendicular to the other rows. Students brought fresh soil from the pile at the end of the garden and put mulch down between the new rows. Flowers were planted in these rows. Students know it is necessary to attract pollinators to the garden and we appreciated the colorful flowers that the grade 8 students had planted in their area last the fall. At end of the process, we watered the garden. Now we wait.