Garden Lessons @ McDevitt Middle School

Radishes germinating

Sixth-grade students in Ms. Turkington and Mr. Maillis’ math Cluster Challenges have been active participants in preparing the school’s garden space for the warmer days ahead of us. In the classroom, students helped by starting seed trays with greens such as arugula, a few varieties of red-leaf lettuces, and Swiss chard, as well as a few kohlrabi for some more exotic-looking fare (food).

Outside, students cultivated and planted five of the garden beds with peas, carrots, and radishes. Just like those we planted at Stanley, the peas and radishes should be ready for harvesting in May, but little germination (the transition from seed to sprout) has taken place yet, with exception of the radishes. We’ll keep our eyes on these beds in the coming weeks for signs of new growth.

After helping clear out leftover crops from the autumn season, student pitched two miniature greenhouse tents on one of the two raised beds on the property. Interested in maximizing (getting the most out of something) our use of garden space, the students measured the square-footage inside of each tent to see how much salad mix we should plant. The seed packet indicated that approximately 60 seeds should be planted in every foot-long 2-4″ wide-band, with each band being about 6 inches apart (now that’s a mouth-full!); students measured a total in-tent square-footage of about 66 square feet (36 inches x 22 inches = 792 inches/12 inches = 66 square feet). Their measurements and calculations, including the spacing between each band, suggested that a planting of three 3-4 inch bands of salad mix, approximately 5 inches apart, should yield us maximum greens. But how many seeds does that equate to? About 540 (9 foot-long bands x 60 seeds) of them! Since planting the seeds two weeks ago, we’ve noticed some germination of the green-leaf varieties included in the mix.

Inside the tent / stages of growth

"Can I have another scoop of poop?"

Another aspect of our recent garden work includes an informal experiment. Students in Ms. Turkington’s class planted their greens without using any sort of soil amendment (something added to the soil to improve plant growth or health, like fertilizer or compost), while students in Mr. Maillis’ class sprinkled a good amount of red wiggler worm castings (also known as vermicompost or worm poop), collected from our very-own bins, on top of their seeds. From our work with the science Clusters, we discovered that worm castings are even more nutrient-rich than typical compost, which makes us wonder: will these greens grow faster or larger? Will they be more flavorful or more healthy? While we may not find answers to all of these questions, we’ll keep an eye on both tents to see what becomes of our two plantings.


Images by Rebekah Carter (2011).

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