Gardening, or farming in general, is no easy pickings—especially when preparing for spring planting. You first have to remove all of the old harvest, lingering roots and weeds from gardening beds—and then prepare the soil. Garden Educator Jacqui Roytman spent the first week outside with her students in the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC) amending and prepping the soil for planting in May.
“I think it’s really important to take this opportunity to show students what life is like for real gardeners and farmers. Prepping is an important process during the springtime so that we can plant and sow seeds,” Roytman said.
Two of Roytman’s classes, third and fourth graders, were given a lesson on the various tools necessary for gardening, and then shown how to use those tools to amend the soil. “You take your tool and dig it deep into the dirt, and then you turn the soil over,” said Roytman using a shovel in one of the many UGC garden beds. “What you want to see is the rich, dark soil and not this light brown, sandy soil,” she said to the class.
Six students, three on each side of the garden bed, took turns using tools such as: a shovel, hoe, spade, rake, and a garden claw. While one side of the garden bed was amended by half of the group, the other half cheered their partners on. The lesson proved to be both a chance for students to get a real life gardening experience, as well as a chance to practice teamwork.
Laughing as they turned the soil over, many of the students compared this lesson to the videogame Minecraft. Alex Sohn, who loves fighting monsters in Minecraft, enjoyed pretending to be a character in the videogame gardening for experience points. “I like being in the garden, I get to touch the dirt and see different types of bugs,” Sohn said.
As the students worked, Roytman walked around the UGC explaining the benefits of soil preparation. Amending the soil is an important part of gardening because it improves drainage, airflow and allows the plants to receive, and the soil to hold, more nutrients, she said. Roytman grabbed the garden hose and sprayed the beds, displaying the way soil absorbs moisture to the class.
Overall, the class learned that the basis for healthy plants is healthy soil. Once the soil has been fully amended, more organic soil is added as well as compost so that there are plenty of minerals, organisms (earthworms, fungi and bacteria) to help maintain good quality soil.
Once the lesson was complete, the students had a chance to have a scientific scavenger hunt, where they recorded their observations of birds, plants and bugs that they saw in the UGC.
“I like being in the garden because we can touch the things we are learning about and explore different parts of the garden. I think my favorite part of today was trying to find the different bugs and plants in the garden,” Erik Aguero said.
When the students return from their spring recess, the garden will be ready for planting and they will also learn how bees help pollinate the UGC’s flowers.
Photos by Amanda Moses