Category Archives: Soil

Time to get serious about composting at Myers

Biosoil farmersStunted tomato plants at Myers Middle School are sending a loud and clear message that our garden soil needs attention. So lucky for us that Chad Currin and Noelle Dommasch of BioSoil Farm in Schenectady, which produces low-dose, high-efficiency plant nutrient from food waste, learned about the Vegetable Project recently and paid us the other day.

They gave us 40 pounds of worm castings, offered some quick impressions of Continue reading

An opportunity to support connection with nature

Bench1An outdoor classroom needs a place for students to sit. And with your help, the Vegetable Project intends to provide such seating at Myers Middle School. Won’t you consider contributing to this important project? For a gift of $250, we’ll affix a plaque to a bench near the Myers garden with your personalized inscription, creating a lasting tribute in a space that will be used by Continue reading

Soil wildlife grabs hold of students’ attention

common-house-spider-2We were digging in the dirt the other day when a student shrieked, “A SPIDER,” and then offered to kill it with a handy shovel. We do not encourage chasing down spiders or any other living creatures with a shovel. In fact, quite the opposite.

We talk at every opportunity about the value of spiders, worms and other Continue reading

Experimenting with science classroom experience

young girl examining a test tube in a science class

Trying to find the right classroom formula takes considerable trial and error.

We are conducting a controlled experiment, of a sort, in a couple of high school science classes. We are seeking to determine whether we can capture the attention of seriously disaffected living environment students by significantly altering the their classroom experience. And to the extent that we can, we are seeking to determine whether teachers who are at their wit’s end will see the same progress with students that we see.

The context, which we see discouragingly often, are classes with many, many, students who show just about Continue reading

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