Preparing the UGC For Spring Planting

DSC_0311BY AMANDA MOSES

The bitter chill of winter is slowly melting away as we make way for spring’s sunny weather. Flowers will soon be in full bloom with the incoming warm weather, sunshine and occasional rainstorm. Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman is thrilled to announce that classes will return next month in the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC).

Throughout the winter students at PS 346 have learned all about crop rotation, the water cycle,
planting and compost in the SCRF’s Aquaponic Lab. These lessons were developed as a precursor to harvesting and planting in the UGC during the spring. After the mid-winter break, Roytman will be teaching students how to sow seeds and start the germination process, so that these plants can be transplanted into the UGC. “Transplanting involves taking plants from small soil pots and placing them into the hydroponic unit until they are ready to be transferred to the UGC,” Roytman continued, “We don’t always need soil to grow
plants. Here, in the Aquaponic Lab, we grow things in water using the hydroponic and aquaponic units.”

In order for a seed to germinate (which is a plant’s growth process,) it must receive water, light, oxygen and basically exist in a moist environment that provides optimal living conditions. According to Roytman, seeds wait to germinate until these conditions are met: the temperature must be warm, the soil or clay pebbles must be filled with nutrients, and it should be continuously watered. Once these food supplies have nourished the seed enough to grow, it will sprout from the soil and begin making its own food through photosynthesis (the process of using sunlight to synthesize food from carbon dioxide and water which involves chlorophyll and generating oxygen).

In addition to preparing seedlings for the UGC, Roytman has 1,000 red wiggly worms happily cohabiting with 500 European night crawlers in a vermicomposting bin. Composting is the process of taking green waste (food, leaves, and other organic materials) and waiting for it to break down into nutrient rich humus. A worm’s bodily waste can also be used as compost. These little creatures reside in bins filled with the green waste (scraps of grapes, strawberries, apples, bananas, carrots, etc.), which will serve as their food. After the worms digest the green waste, they deposit casts filled with microorganisms (free of any pathogenic bacteria because it is killed in the worm’s stomach) creating nutritious compost for healthy plant growth. “Vermicomposting requires very little work, produces no offensive odors and provides worm castings that will help plants thrive,” said Roytman.

Winter’s last frost, a time when gardeners and farmers begin to plant seeds, begins on April 1st in NYC; this is when Roytman and her students will transplant the seedlings from the Aquaponics lab into the UGC.
Photo: Amanda Moses