The bitter chill of winter has slowly melted under spring’s warm and sunny weather. With the sunshine, and occasional rain-storm, beautiful flowers and plants are in full bloom. Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman, is thrilled to announce that classes will be held this 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. Each lesson was developed to help students understand how to create a sustainable garden environment, as well as harvest and plant in the UGC. With these lessons in mind, Roytman taught her second grade class about transplanting—taking the plants from small soil pots and placing them into the hydroponic unit until they are ready to be transferred to the UGC.
“Do you remember the lifecycle of a plant,” Roytman asked the class. Seven-year-old, Isabella responded, “First the seed starts to grow roots, then a stem pops up and then the bud opens up into a flower!” Roytman nodded her head in agreement, adding, “Did you know that we don’t always need soil to grow plants? Here, in the Aquaponic Lab, we can grow things in water using the hydroponic unit.”
Lifting a small Swiss Chard Lettuce plant out of the hydroponic unit, Roytman showed students how the roots permeate a cage-like pot with expanded clay pebbles. “The cage pot allows for the roots to expand into the water,” Roytman said that to help the plant grow, she placed small expanded clay pebbles to provide large amounts of oxygen for the roots. These pebbles hold enough moisture and nutrients for the plant to grow. In addition, the clay’s pores provide enough drainage for the roots, allowing the plants to grow faster. “This chard lettuce plant started as seed in the UGC, and then I transplanted it into the hydroponic unit, so that it can grow during the winter. Even without the soil, the clay pellets and water give the plant plenty of vitamins for it to grow stronger,” Roytman said.
For the first spring lesson in the UGC, the second graders will transplant marigolds. Since winter’s last frost is not until April 13th, the marigolds will be placed in the hydroponic unit they are ready to be planted in the UGC.
Photos by Amanda Moses