By Amanda Moses
As winter’s bitter chill draws closer, Garden Educator Jacqui Roytman has PS 346 students helping her put the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC) to bed. Putting a garden to bed for the winter is an important prepping process because it maintains the soil’s nutrients for future crops. The two key concepts for winter preparation are cleaning up and covering up.
Last week, Roytman asked her classes to help her harvest the remaining fall vegetables, which included: peppers, banana peppers, herbs and tomatoes. After they finished collecting the items, she showed the students how to preserve the food. “During early human history, when people first learned to farm, they would preserve food for the winter,” Roytman said. Some of these items can be pickled, turned into sauces or jams. Each process expands the lifespan of the food using vinegar or a certain type of fermentation that prevents the vegetables from spoiling quickly.
Since September the children have learned all about planting seeds, harvesting them and now they are learning about preserving food and seeds. “Everything in the garden becomes full circle. The seeds they planted have become plants that have sprouted their very own seeds, so the children are learning about storing these seeds for the next season,” Roytman remarked.
After clearing all vegetation from the garden beds, Roytman then prepped the soil to be amended. Taking care of the soil is pivotal, so it’s important to plant cover crops to keep the soil aerated and filled with nutrients. Roytman explained to her fourth grade class that plants such as clover, milk weed, and alfalfa help protect the soil creating a sort of “green manure.” In other words these plants fertilize the soil with natural, green nutrients maintaining moisture.
Once the garden is fully prepped for the winter, the snow fall will act as a thick quilted layer of moisture, which will help keep the soil healthy.
Photos by: Benjamin Randazzo