Ever wondered what those stakes were doing in the garden? How about those hay bales? Or the new ditches near the compost bins? The Sustainable Life club has worked hard to get this season’s crop planted this spring and ready to harvest when we come back to school in September. We have dug those ditches, pitched the stakes, and laid the hay bales in order to learn a little about agriculture and make salsa at the beginning of the school year.
As you may have seen, we have set up stakes in a few garden beds for tomatoes. We started these tomato plants inside the greenhouse in March and took them out to plant last week. When planting tomatoes, the club learned that we should bury almost the entire plant under the soil. In order to prevent the plant from rotting, we pinched the lower leaves off of the plant before burying them. By burying the tomato plants so low, they will develop a strong root system that allows the plant to grow larger and produce more tomatoes by absorbing more nutrients from further down in the soil.
The stakes that we placed near these tomato plants have the purpose of supporting the tomato plant as it grows bigger. As the plant grows larger, the tomato will need to be tied to the stake in order for it to be able to support itself in an upright position. These tomatoes make up the majority of the ingredients needed for our salsa.
The two hay bales that we have laid out and planted are for the purpose of experimentation. We used these hay bales as a form of a raised bed. The club dug two holes in the hay bales, about six inches deep and three inches in diameter, and filled each hole with dirt. We planted a few carrot seeds in each hole. When we come back to school in September, we hope to see a healthy crop of carrots growing out of the hay!
Finally, the two parallel ditches near the compost bins hold newly planted asparagus. Asparagus needs to start out in ditches because as they grow, they should be covered with dirt about two or three inches from the top of the plant. Asparagus, similar to tomatoes, likes to be mounded with dirt in order to develop thick roots and strong sprouts. If you see an asparagus plant growing high above the ground, take some dirt and bury it about two inches from the top! Although the asparagus will not be ready to harvest this year because they are still developing, they will be ready to harvest in the years to come.
In addition to the tomatoes, asparagus and carrots, we have also planted kale, radishes, peppers, cilantro, basil, and beans. In order to celebrate hard work in the garden, the club harvested an early crop of radishes and mint this spring and made salad with radishes and drank mint iced tea. By planting and harvesting in the garden, the club hopes to teach its members and the community how to practice sustainable agriculture by making their own food. When we ate our radish salad and drank our mint iced tea, the club members all felt the satisfaction that comes with eating their own food. We are hoping for a fruitful harvest this fall demonstrative of all the hard work that we put in to plant the crops!