- BFA ORGANIC SCHOOL GARDENS PROGRAM SUPERVISOR
OVERVIEW: LESSONS 6 - 12
- Lesson 6 - part A: PROTECTIVE CLOTHING
- Lesson 6 - part B: PLANTING IN GARDEN BEDS
- Lesson 6 - part C: CROP ROTATION
Lesson 6: Planting seedlings into garden beds, sowing seeds directly into beds and crop rotation
Lesson 7: Saving water in the garden and mulching beds
Lesson 8: Caring for plants, weeding, and protecting plants from extremes of heat and cold
Lesson 9: Soil pH and how it affects plant growth (with additional text for senior students)
Lesson 10: Garden friends and enemies, and organic pest control
Lesson 11: Saving seed and taking cuttings
Lesson 12: Sowing green manure crops (plus nitrogen fixation for senior students), presentation of 'Organic Gardener' certificates to students
The program includes a selection of simple recipes in PDF format that use the fruits or vegetables that students can grow in school gardens.
All but the last lesson of this program can be presented at a time that suits the individual progress of each school. Lesson 5 (sowing seed in pots) and Lesson 6 (planting out seedlings and sowing seed directly into beds) can be repeated whenever suitable bed space and growing conditions are available.
In cool gardening zones and some temperate zones, protecting plants from cold will be an important lesson. However, this lesson will not be relevant to schools in warmer parts of Australia, and likewise schools in cool zones will probably not need to know how to protect plants from extreme heat. Adapt these lessons to suit your school's needs.
You may have noticed that we have not, as yet, included any information on pest and disease control. This is because pests and diseases affect stressed plants. If plants in organically cultivated gardens receive adequate water and fertiliser in easily absorbed organic form, and they are growing in soil containing enough humus to keep soil within a suitable pH range, pests and diseases are unlikely to be a problem except in extreme weather conditions. Healthy plants produce compounds that deter pests and have strong tissues that are less susceptible to diseases. In learning organic cultivation, students are learning how to make their garden more naturally pest and disease resistant.
However, if you do experience pest or disease problems that you don't have an organic treatment for, and your school has registered for this program, BFA experts will be able to provide advice to you via e-mail.
We recommend that you present the lesson on growing green manures close to the end of the school year. Green manures require less attention than fruit or vegetable crops during our hot summers. If you can recruit a volunteer to slash the green manure during the summer holiday, the bed will be mulched and ready for planting at the beginning of the next school year.
At the end of the program, schools that have registered with BFA can receive a certificate template in PDF form that can be printed out and presented to students who participated in the program. There is no cost to register your school for this program.
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PREPARATION FOR LESSON 6:
Please read through Lesson 6 text for students.
For this lesson you will need a tape measure or some measuring sticks to help students transplant their seedlings with suitable spacing. As retractable metal tapes are easily damaged if they get dirt in them, a batten of 20 x 20 mm dressed timber marked off in suitable distances is more practical.
The most common distances between rows and seedlings are 15 cm, 20 cm, 30 cm, 40 cm, 50 cm, and one metre for large plants. A cheap plastic ruler can be used for spacing plants up to 30 cm apart. For larger plants, a 40 cm batten and a one-metre batten (both with a mark or notch halfway along the batten) will assist students. Use a thumbtack rather than a permanent marker on timber battens to mark measurements, as dark ink marks become difficult to see when the timber gets damp.
This is a simple reminder to students to wear suitable clothes when gardening and advice on storing their gloves between lessons.
Most Australian students are accustomed to wearing a hat for outdoor activities, and we recommend that all students, teachers and supervisors also wear thick gloves when working in the garden, compost heap or worm farm for the reasons given in the lesson.Spiders like to hide in dark recesses that the fingers of gloves provide, and spider bites are a common problem where gardeners carelessly store their gloves with other gardening equipment. Given that Australia has two venomous spiders, as well as the White-tail Spider that can cause extensive skin damage, protecting the fingers of gloves is particularly important. Storing gloves in a sealed container is not suitable, as gloves that have been in contact with soil can become mouldy. Gardening gloves need to be stored where there is good air circulation. If students have not stored their gloves safely, please ensure that they press firmly along the outside of each glove finger before putting on their gloves.
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Please demonstrate removing a seedling from its pot so that students can see that it has to be done carefully to avoid damaging the seedling. If the mix does not respond immediately to a tap on the base, give the base of the pot a gentle squeeze before tapping it again.
Seedlings of tomato, corn, broccoli and green beans can all produce extra roots along their lower stems if they are planted slightly deeper, or hilled up as they grow. However, seedlings of lettuce, celery, endive, bulb fennel, parsley, cabbage, Asian greens, silver beet, spinach, beetroot, carrot, radish and turnip, and strawberry offsets all produce leaves in a rosette supported by a very short stem, and these seedlings will rot if planted too deeply. Rotted seedlings are a common cause of disappointment for young gardeners. Please show students how to recognise rosette growth on a seedling, and how to test that the planting hole is not too deep.
Encourage your students to work out row and seedling spacing by themselves. If they can't find spacing instructions on seed packets, you will find spacing for most common fruits, vegetables and culinary herbs in 'The Food Garden' section of Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting pp 185-299.
PLANTING IN BLOCKS
It is impossible after harvest to remember how much space in a bed was used by a particular crop, and beds will need some form of marker to indicate where a section has contained a crop. A small plastic juice bottle (recycling code 2 or 5) partly buried neck down in the bed is a safer form of marker than short wooden stakes. Or, flowering annuals can be placed as markers to divide sections of vegetable families.
HERBS, VINES AND TREES
Annual and biennial herbs can be sown in gardens beds. Try to include some flat leaf (Italian or Continental) parsley. Its milder flavour allows it to be used generously in salads and hot dishes, and it is packed with essential minerals and antioxidants. Not only do flowering annuals attract beneficial insects to the garden, flowers from organically grown violas, calendulas, borage and other culinary herbs, and both flowers and small leaves of nasturtiums all make interesting additions to a salad.
Perennial Mediterranean herbs generally like a less rich soil than most vegetables, and one that is very free draining. They are also very productive for at least three or four years, which can make working around them difficult in vegetable beds. These herbs will grow well in large pots in the garden area. Mints should always be grown in large pots, as they can take over garden beds.
We have not included planting instructions for fruit trees or vines in these lessons. However, if your garden has room for a suitable fruit tree or two, or room to grow a suitable vine or fruiting canes along a fence, you will find cultivation notes for these in 'The Food Garden' and planting instructions for trees and vines in Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting pp 141-145 and pp 162-3.
SOWING ROWS OF SEEDS
We recommend that you ration seed being sown directly into garden beds to avoid waste. Very small seed can be mixed with some dry sand to make it easier for students to spread the seed more evenly along furrows.
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Crop rotation is extremely important in keeping soil healthy, and the common practice of rotating only two crops in growing areas is the reason why so many diseases plague plants in commercial production, and why scientists are constantly searching for disease-resistant strains of crops.
Once root-rot diseases have gained control of garden beds, they can be spread to other parts of gardens by gardening tools and soil on shoes or weeds. Eradicating these diseases is a long, laborious process that can take up to six years. Please ensure that your students do practice an effective crop rotation.
Encourage students to make a simple crop rotation chart for their garden, so that they can see at a glance what not to plant for their next crop in a particular bed.
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