Category Archives: Soil

Planting seeds to connect with disengaged students

Arugula seedlingsThe tiny specs of green in the accompanying photo, taken in the morning on Sunday, Oct. 1, are arugula seedlings. We scattered arugula seeds four days earlier, on Wednesday, Sept. 27. It’s worth noting that some seeds still germinate at this late point in the season. We are fairly confident, if not 100 percent certain, that leaves on these plants still have enough Continue reading

Cautiously starting to compost at Albany High

We are moving ever so gingerly toward composting fruit and vegetable scraps at Albany High. In time, this could be one of the best things we do.

Decomposition is aided by a mix of nitrogen-rich "green materials," such as fresh fruit scraps, and carbon-rich "brown" materials, such as dried plant stalks.

Decomposition is aided by a mix of nitrogen-rich “green materials,” such as fresh fruit scraps, and carbon-rich “brown” materials, such as dried plant stalks.

How, you wonder, could deadly dull composting ever compare to plucking beans and peas from the vine and popping them right in your mouth? How could it possibly compare with getting kids who say they don’t eat greens to try them and to then to declare that they truly like them? How could it provide the satisfaction of a fall harvest?

Well, we see the initiative as a route to engaging students in conversation about environmental challenges and the role that individuals can play in meeting these challenges. Composting can trim use of fossil fuel-dependent fertilizers. It can save landfill space. And it  Continue reading

Science opportunities in new look at old practice

Cover crops are catching on in grain-growing regions. So considerable is the trend that the New York Times reported on it in a front-page story in Sunday’s business section. Kinda surprising that the article didn’t mention that we have been dabbling with cover crops at Myers Middle School and Albany High School. Cover cropsBut it still serves as a helpful reminder that this is a subject worth considering for a moment.

So first, what the heck are cover crops? In short, cover crops are plants whose purpose on the farm has more to do with protecting Continue reading

Fresh from the garden, salad is a lunchtime hit

Jahiaire Byrd digs into salad greens grown in the garden at Myers Middle School.

Jahiaire Byrd digs into salad greens grown in the garden at Myers Middle School.

 

Fresh greens went quickly on Friday.

Fresh greens went quickly on Friday.

We hit an important milestone on Friday: The school lunch program served our produce in the cafeteria. We harvested quite a load of leafy greens and radishes on Thursday afternoon. The food services folks made a salad with it.  And the students at Myers Middle School scarfed it up!

We will definitely do this again. In Continue reading

Winter rye experiment results due in soon

Winter rye getting tallWe will soon learn the results of an important experiment. We will find out whether planting winter rye last fall made our hard-packed clay soil any more workable. Most of the grass (pictured above when it was about two inches tall) is more than a foot and a half high now. It’s known for sending roots especially deep into the ground and loosening compact soil as it does.

We planted a strip about 100 feet long by eight feet wide. We need to mow it Continue reading

In search of accurate pH measurement

When you hold a ruler against something you need to measure, you can be sure that the six-inch mark really is six inches from an end of the ruler. It isn’t so easy, however, to measure soil pH.pH testing tools

We discovered in the fall that different tools sometimes produce starkly different results with a single sample of soil. In one instance, we came up with an acidic 5.0 when we tested with pH paper and an alkaline 8.0 with a system that mixes soil with an indicator solution. So what to do? And do user errors or Continue reading

The dirt on Myers soil

The steel dandelion puller that I tried to poke into the lawn where we would start a garden four years ago bent before I could dig more than an inch deep. The earth was that miserably hard. We have a great southern exposure at our site, giving us lots of beautiful sunshine. But we have struggled with the ground beneath our feet since the beginning. Continue reading