Prepping Your Learning Garden

Fall in Los Angeles can be a hot affair! It can be difficult to maintain the consistent soil moisture needed for young seeds and seedlings when it’s constantly sunny and 90 degrees! Luckily, we have put together some tips and resources to help you have a successful gardening season.

1. Till your cover crop

If you have summer crops in your garden, we recommend keeping them growing as they will continue to produce. However, if you planted a cover crop, the first thing you will need to do is to cut and till in the cowpeas. Make sure to remember to harvest or remove cowpea pods before tilling them in. Tilling cowpeas provides your soil with nitrogen and is therefore considered a “green manure!” For detailed information, check out our resources below.

Resource: Tilling Cowpeas video (2:45) and CA Cowpea Guide

2. Water your soil

Make sure your soil is deeply watered, especially if it was not watered over the summer. Your soil must be moist before you plant. Ways to tell if your soil ready:

  • your soil is no longer separated from the side of the garden beds
  • you can easily stick your finger(s) all the way into the soil
  • when you dig a 2-3 inch hole, the soil looks dark and moist (try this in all beds)

Please note that when you first start watering your garden beds, water will probably start rushing out from the bottom. This is normal as dry soil is hydrophobic (it repels water). If your garden was nor watered over the summer you will need to water your beds multiples for several days before they are ready to be planted. If you need to plant earlier, you can have your students mix the soil with their hands to help water penetrate.

Resources: Big Green’s Water page

3. Plant!

It can be difficult to get seeds to germinate when it’s hot outside. The top layer of soil can easily dry out resulting in dried out sprouts. You can remedy this by planting early in the week during the morning or by planting your seeds in a tray first. When the seeds have sprouted, you can transplant them in the garden. We provide enough seeds where you can try both and have it function as a science experiment–what will germinate first, seeds planted directly in the beds or started in pots/trays?

Regardless of which option you choose, check your seeds/seedlings daily as they will most likely need to be watered that frequently!

Resources: Egg Carton Seed Starts (PBS)