From Gutter To Ground

I really love carrots. Sweet and crunchy, they make a delicious snack fresh from the garden. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could harvest carrots before the school year ends?” I proposed to the Sustainable Life Club when we were planning what to plant for spring. Wondering how we could start to grow carrots even when it was too cold outside for the carrots to germinate, Ms. Lucia, the club advisor, gave the idea of planting carrots in gutters.  

Ethan, Fred, and Ms. Lucia are helping plant carrots in the gutters.

Carrots are normally very difficult to transplant because they grow down into the ground, their small tendrils digging far into the earth, unable to tolerate much disturbance. Even though they can withstand a few light frosts outside, they cannot withstand a transplant from pot to soil.

While carrots cannot be transplanted from pot to soil, they can be transplanted from gutter to ground. Planting carrots in gutters replicates a row in the garden bed, allowing the carrots to grow undisturbed even after transplanting. The gutters are easy to construct, easy to maintain and easy to take apart – all reasons why they are useful to plant carrots in. Connor Murray ’16 explains how the Sustainable Life Club constructed the gutters for the carrots: “We started by taking leftover gutter and cutting them to about 3 feet in length. To keep the soil from spilling out of the gutters, we attached recycled cardboard barriers to the ends.”

Ethan lightly waters the soil using a beaker of water after having planted the seeds.

After constructing the gutters, planting is a simple and easy task. Ethan Kimball ’14 describes how to plant the carrots, “Put the dirt in the gutter in first, then pinch a few seeds into the dirt – about two inches apart each.” He continued, “Then you need to water it gently – you can’t totally pound the seeds with water at first. “ With too little water, the seeds will not germinate, but with too much water the seeds will either wash away or rot before they germinate.

After a few weeks, the Sustainable Life Club will take the gutters out to the garden and transplant them to their proper beds. Jonah Freed ’14 explains how the club plans on transplanting their seedlings, “Dig a row in the garden to fit the shape of the gutter and then, with extreme care, we will slide the seedlings from the gutters into the garden.”

Transplanting takes care and steadiness in order to make sure that the seedlings are not disturbed or overturned. With a good transplant, most of the seedlings should survive and grow to yield a healthy harvest.

Along with carrots, the Sustainable Life Club hopes to also plant a salsa garden. We hope to plant tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn, and beans to accomplish this goal. The salsa made from the garden will be used to either give to the Dining Hall or to sell to local parents or residents.

By tending to a garden, the Sustainable Life Club hopes to teach a practical way of sustaining oneself. We also want to continue to learn how to maximize our harvest while minimizing our impact on the surrounding ecosystem. Through teaching sustainable practices like no-till gardening, composting, and companion planting, we hope to instill methods of gardening that are beneficial to the environment, while increasing crop yield. From gutter to ground, gardening can be successful for anyone and can be a way of learning how to live for yourself and lower your impact on the environment.

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