“I can’t imagine anything more important than air, water, soil, energy, and biodiversity. These are the things that keep us alive.” ~ David Suzuki
Previous post: Mimicking Nature, Bed Prep How-to, October 2017
It only took a few days to ready the 10 garden beds for the classes to plant after the summer last year. Thanks to some free organics (aka hoarding of leaves and cardboard) and thanks to my neighbors’ lawn crews (bagging up the last lawn clippings of the season) and local grocer (produce waste) the school gardens were back in business for autumn.
That was six months ago.
While I was busy indoors helping kids to become the next generation of Soil Experts, the kids adopted (aka rescued) a few Monarch caterpillars from the cool autumn temps of the outdoors. They turned into pupa right before our very eyes (be sure to watch the last molt video, embedded below), and when they emerged as adults, we released them with great pomp and circumstance in the garden space where they were born.
Off they went for the long migration south to Mexico to spend the winter with millions more like them, only to return again come spring. It’s been happening that way for millions and millions of years.
Bye bye, Little Buddy!
We took soil samples from each of the beds and compared them with soil from my garden (which is already rich with organics). Kids learned about the different layers that settle out in the jar when shaken up and let to sit overnight: sand to the bottom, silt and clay above that, minerals in the milky layer of moisture, and humus floating at the top.
Garden Soil – Looking Good!
We learned about the relationship between fungi and plants — mycorrhizae, or the Wood Wide Web. This is what we’re really growing in the garden space; edibles are just the side bonus of this symbiotic relationship.
We watched organic materials — leaves, coffee grounds, cardboard, vegetable waste — break down with microscopic decomposing organisms whose job it is to do just that. Nature knows exactly what to do, after all; we just need to not mess it up.
We learned how to enjoy but not micro-manage our domestics. Kids learned to respect all living things in the garden space and were eager for their weekly treasure hunts, searching for signs of a functioning soil food web and a healthy garden ecosystem.
They found lots of treasures!
Leaf Mold — Decomposition
Hyphae ‘Delivery System’
Mama Spider Carries Egg Sac
We are careful to give her space.
We built compost.
We planted seeds.
We got our hands dirty.
And we got our share of Vitamin D too. Sunshine!!
4th Grade Girls Skip Recess
Build Center-Compost and Plant ‘3 Sisters’
What we didn’t do is spend money on materials or waste time watering our gardens. Materials were all waste for the taking and the moisture was already locked in with the organics as they were added. Mulching with leaves both feeds the fungi which feed the plants and conserves soil moisture from evaporation. Why take compost to the plants when you can plant right into the compost?
When it was time to harvest, those seeds became edibles to be sampled in the classroom or right there in the garden space. Some were delicious (peas are sweet!) and some notsomuch (radish and turnip and mustard are spicy!). And some make for great lipstick (beets).
Let it grow!
Beets, Peas, Lettuce
Green! Yum, Yum.
Mushrooms – The Edible Kind
Back to the Roots Home Kit
Soil is the foundation for all terrestrial life on our planet — including us; when we steward the soil, the soil, in turn, cares for us. There is no need for us to work harder than we have to, fixing problems that we create when we go against the way of Nature.
Getting dirty with a bunch of kids sure is a whole lot of fun.
Photo-bomb Anime Carrots
Tell me .. are you a soil evangelist?
What’s growing in your garden?