The first day of spring is March 20th; however, that does not mean it’s time to head back into the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC). In fact, many farmer almanacs calculate winter’s last frost as sometime in April. So, while the weather continues to range from sunny days to bleak winter storms, students at PS 346 are learning about seed starting and seed dispersal with Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman.
The first lesson in understanding seed dispersal is identifying the soil that is needed for indoor and outdoor planting. Plants can grow in coconut coir fiber, Rockwool, hydrogen clay balls, plotting soil, and worm casting soil, which are all great for container (indoor) planting.
Container planting, a method of planting for those that do not have access to a large garden, gives the gardener more control over the plant’s environment—so it’s im-portant to monitor the soil, light, water and fertilizer because plants dry out easier in pots. Roytman used plotting soil mixed with worm castings and Pearlite, which is volcanic stone, for several small, rectangular planter boxes. The combination of these soil types will provide a moist, nutrient rich environment for the seeds. “The students will be planting wheat berries inside of these small planters, and will place them under a shelf of grow lights,” Roytman said.
In addition to using planting pots, the students will be planting carrots, radishes, edible flowers, and more in the aquaponic and hydroponic units. “Hydroponic and Aquaponic units use different kinds of media for plants. Instead of soil, we use Rockwool or hydro-gen clay balls,” Roytman said. Both the Rockwool and hydrogen clay balls expand when they absorb water, keeping the plant continuously moist and aerated. Over each of the units, there are bright grow lights, enabling the plants to perform photosynthesis.
After the students’ spring recess, Roytman will be transplanting many of the plants, vegetables and herbs grown in the Aquaponics Lab into the UGC. She hopes to develop a revolving crop cycle that will harvest in the late spring, summer, and fall.
Photos by Amanda Moses