One of the many aspects students enjoy about the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC) is digging deep into the dirt. Many children have told the Spring Creek Sun how much they enjoy donning their garden gloves and sifting through the soil, whether they are looking for worms, planting seeds or amending the soil.
Last week, students in the Spring Creek Afterschool Program were able to help Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman prepare the garden beds for planting. Although spring is now here, gardeners are still dealing with the aftermath of winter such as: winter weeds, hardened soil and the lack of soil aeration causing the dirt to lose its nutrients. In anticipation of these effects, Roytman planted cover crops with her students. “There are good weeds and bad weeds, but weeds like Pennycress and Ligenfelter, help stabilize the soil so that in the spring there are still plenty of nutrients for our plants,” Roytman explained to her third grade class.
Another beneficial weed is milkweed, which Roytman plucked from the soil to show her students. “Milkweed provides a habitat for wildlife, such as monarch butterflies,” she said. An additional winter problem is that rain and snow can sometimes cause wood, like the garden beds to deteriorate. Since one of the garden beds needed replacing, Roytman asked her class to help her remove the nutritious soil from one garden bed and place it into another one.
The simple acts of shoveling soil into a wheel barrel, and then relocating the soil into another garden bed, was fun for the Spring Creek Afterschool children. Dividing the task into groups, the children used teamwork to remove the soil. Some students used a pitchfork to break apart the dirt so that their classmates could shovel it into a wheel barrel. Another student helped move the wheel barrel to the other garden bed, where they helped their friends shovel the dirt in. The final process involved raking the soils into an even surface.
Once the dirty work was finished, it was time to transplant the seedlings grown in the Aquaponics lab into the UGC garden bed. The children planted heirloom tomatoes and basil. “Before we place plants together in the soil, we always have to check a chart to make sure that these plants can co-exist in the same garden bed. There are plants that help each other grow by giving off different nutrients, and there are others that attract insects that could be harmful to another plant,” Roytman said.
Nine-year-old Eden Ortiz rolled up her sleeves and dug her hands deep into the dirt exclaiming, “I love that we get to work in the dirt because we can see all of the worms and other insects that live in the garden! I’m not afraid of bugs because I know they help make the garden beautiful.”
The next garden lesson will have students planting even more delicious vegetables and flowers, which can be harvested in the late spring or early summer.
Photos by: Amanda Moses