Winter is coming! As exciting as this season is for skiers, ice skaters, snow-people builders, and cold-weather lovers of all types, it is rest time for the garden and planning time for Garden Teams. Over the next couple of weeks, students and garden teams will be out doing final summer/fall harvests, amending and exploring the soil, and planting winter seeds.
Keep reading for numerous resources designed to help teachers, administrators, and volunteers prep the Learning Garden for winter and to help maintain engagement and excitement about your Learning Garden during the colder months.
Harvesting Sweet Potatoes
At the workshop, we got to dig for sweet potatoes in Matchbook Learning’s garden, and the teachers who did can attest to how much fun it is digging up this buried treasure! We created a two-minute video on how to harvest sweet potatoes that you can use as a refresher, share with other teachers or even show to students who will be harvesting. Sweet potatoes can be harvested anytime between now and November 1, 2018.
Harvesting out your Summer/Fall Crops
Need reminders on how to harvest other crops in your Learning Garden? Reference the Indy Annual Garden Plan and our Harvest Basics Guide. Then remember to weigh, track AND report your Learning Garden Harvests!
You will want to clear all the summer/fall crops out of your Learning Garden by Nov. 1st! As students remove tomato plants, corn stalks, pepper plants, etc. from your Learning Garden, be sure to have them LEAVE as much soil from the roots in the bed as possible. DO NOT remove your strawberry plants or perennial herbs (thyme, oregano, sage).
Once the final plants are removed from the garden you can begin work on the soil. Depending on if your soil level has dropped or if your beds are still full of soil you will have different soil management tasks.
Schools with low soil levels: A pallet of soil will be delivered to your school and placed near your Learning Garden. You will then:
- Unwrap the pallet of soil.
- Have students carry and empty 4 bags of soil in each garden bed.
- The smaller A beds will get 2 bags each.
- Spread out the soil so that it is level but do not push down on the soil and compact it.
Schools with full garden beds: You garden educator will drop off a bucket of soil amendments to your school.
- Have students sprinkle one cup of soil amendment onto the soil surface of each bed.
- Have students mix the amendment into the top 4-6 inches of soil using their hands or garden tools.
If you have any questions or would like assistance performing these tasks at your school please reach out to your garden educator.
Now that the plants are gone and the soil is prepped, it is a great time to do a soil investigation with your students. Use our Soil Investigation Activity as a guide, and look out for an email from your Garden Educator with grade band specific variations.
Mulching Your Learning Garden
We are providing every Learning Garden with one bale of alfalfa mulch, made possible by a grant from the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District! You will mulch your garden AFTER topping off soil (if applicable) and AFTER planting your over-winter garden (if applicable). Do be aware that some students may be allergic to alfalfa, so check before you go out.
Spread the mulch roughly 4 inches deep on the beds that are NOT planted with over-winter seeds. Spread the mulch 1-2 inches deep on beds that ARE planted with over-winter seeds. Encourage students to loosen and fluff the alfalfa hay, rather than laying it in flat, tight flakes from the bale. This will both allow one bale to cover your entire garden, and serve as a more effective insulator. You can reference our Mulching Your Garden resource for additional tips.
Eating Your Learning Garden Harvests:
After harvesting the remainder of you crops make sure to check out our Tasting Activities for delicious recipe ideas. The links below are great resources for delicious ways to eat your sweet potatoes! Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry location and eat them within a couple weeks of harvest.
Big Green “Ravioli” Recipe (substitute sweet potatoes for beets)
You can even eat the sweet potato leaves (cooked not raw)! They are an excellent source of important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Other Recipes from the Workshop
Staying Engaged Over the Winter:
- Big Green Writing Prompts (CCSS-aligned; for all grades)
- Argumentative/Opinion Writing: K-2 | 3-5 | 6-8
- Informative/Explanatory Writing: K-2 | 3-5 | 6-8
- Narrative Writing: K-2 | 3-5 | 6-8