Monthly Archives: April 2012
Well, I hope you’ve finished your raised garden bed, because now its time to plant! And, conviently, this planting will require a bit of math, science, and forethought.
THE GENERAL IDEA: Planting in long rows with lots of space to hoe between is a great example of how farmers have grown crops for years. It is not, however, a great way to garden. Instead, plant your veggies in a more space-saving way. (*Side note: you will also use a fraction of the seeds in a packet with this method. Store in a cool, dray place and save the rest for next year!)
THE SCIENCE: Plants need a certian amount of space to grow. Their roots need to spread out, their leaves need to catch the sunshine, the fruit needs room to develope. But, if a plant needs six inches of space between it and its next neighbor in a garden row, it also only needs six inches of space all the way around. And since you don’t need to walk in your raised bed you won’t need to leave any rows which must later be hoed!
THE MATH: Divide your raised bed into square feet increments. You can do this a lot of ways; I used a small rope. Use something that will be around all season. Then, choose a plant for each square.
Find out how much space each plant requires. You can consult the back of the seed packet, the information pick in the seedlings, or search the web. Then do the math! If a plant needs 3 inches in a row it needs 9 square inches in a raised bed. How many square inches are in a foot? How many times will 9 go into that number? That is how many plants will fit into your square foot. Now on to the next plant! Do any plants take up a whole foot? Two? Which plant requires the most space? The least?
Now plant, water, and enjoy!
Gardening is great for teaching kids about farm life. Did you also know it’s also full of math concepts? Read all about the way I garden in this book: All New Square Foot Gardening. Not only is it an easy, enjoyable way to garden anywhere– even the balcony of an apartment, but it also involves lots of great math! And since it’s about time to get plants in the ground I think we’d better get started!
To begin we’ll need to make the raised garden beds which are the biases for a Square Foot Garden (that’s SFG). Some of these steps can be done by young children, some by teens, and a few by a grown-up. Before you are ready to hack at boards with a saw, however, you must have a plan!
How big will your bed be? Did you know the average person can reach in about 2 feet? Kids can reach in about 1 1/2 feet. Where will you put your bed? Can you walk all the way around? If it is against a wall of fence how wide should it be? If you can reach in from both sides how big should it be? How long do you want it? Try using graph paper to design your bed. (Create your own graph paper by printing a table made in word processing program.)
Then, measure! You can have the lumber yard or home improvement store cut your boards for you, but kids will love using a simple tape measure. I used the plans from the book above to make new beds this year, but my original garden beds came from these instructions: Sunset Perfect Raised Beds. The ones shown on Sunset are big, sturdy, and will last a lifetime. The ones I’ll show you are cheaper and easier!
Second, measure, pre-drill holes and use deck screws to add posts to the ends of two boards. Kids can help line up the boards like you see on the bottom of this picture so the finished product looks like the boards on top!
Next, line up your two boards with posts with two more boards. Screw the new boards to the posts while kids help you hold it all in place.
To use this SFG on a deck or apartment balcony add plywood to the bottom. Fill your finished bed with equal parts compost, peat moss, and top soil. Check out next week’s lesson for more math as you plant your garden!
Not all dirt is created equal. Soil contains sand, clay, air, and organic matter. The amounts of each of these, however, is different in all kinds of dirt. Great dirt has lots of air and organic matter; poor soil is full of sand or clay. Most dirt is somewhere in the middle.
It is possible to tell a lot from the appearance of the dirt. The closer to black your dirt is the more likely it is to be rich, nutritious soil!
For this soil lesson try investigating the dirt where you live. Using a small trowel, dig a bit of dirt from your yard. Get it from under a decorative stone or piece of furniture to avoid making holes in the lawn. Place the sample in a plastic baggie. Then look for other places to take a soil sample. Ask a friend or neighbor, visit a park, maybe even call a family member in another state and ask them to mail you a baggie of dirt!
When you have several samples compare and contrast your soils. Squeeze a pinch between your fingers. Does it stick together? Sticky soil is full of clay. Does is fall apart? Maybe it has a lot of sand. What colors do you see? Is it light, fluffy dirt like potting soil, or hard as a brick? Make some notes in your science journal or create a diagram to show the results.
And here’s an interesting soil idea. Instead of collecting refrigerator magnets or post cards on your travels, pick up a bit of soil from your next vacation site!