We are less than a month away from winter break! With testing and end-of-semester grades, we know it’s easy to forget about the garden. But the biggest harvests are right before winter break so we highly encourage schools to keep an eye on the garden. Below are some quick tips on how to manage your December garden:
1. Keep watering. If you have been watering deeply, you can ease back to watering every other day. If your plants look sad, you need to continue watering daily. Always check the moisture of your soil! The top may look wet but at root level it may be bone dry.
2. Keep harvesting. A lot of crops will produce more the more you harvest them. Examples of these are crops that produce fruit and leafy greens: sugar snap peas, zucchini, spinach, kale, etc. Harvest greens by removing the larger, outer leaves. Smaller leaves will quickly grow to take advantage of the newly available sunlight.
>> Check out our Harvesting Resources page!
3. Remove diseased or infested plants as you see them. The fastest way to keep an outbreak under control is to catch it early. The second fastest way is to release a class of students in the garden to look for bugs and funky leaves. Not only will they have a lot of fun, your class can watch an ecosystem up close, collect bugs and plant samples for analyzing, hypothesize about pests, etc., they will also keep the garden in tip-top shape. If you have a lower grade or special education group, we highly suggest working with an upper elementary class to be your students’ big buddies in the garden.
Mid-December through end of semester
4. Water very deeply. There’s never a guarantee that plants will survive not being watered over winter break but last year we had quite a bit of rain. You can help increase the chance that your garden will survive by watering deeply and building a reservoir of water deep in the soil.
5. Harvest as much as you can. Not only the intended crop parts but other less-known parts. Broccoli leaves are healthy, delicious and a great substitute for other hardy greens. Cabbage leaves can be prepared much like other parts of the cabbage.
>> Learn more by reading the “additional harvest” section of your favorite crops in our Maximizing Your Harvest blog post.
6. Remove weeds, pests, and disease. A small insect or disease problem can spread quickly if unmanaged for a month.
7. Leave healthy crops in the garden (yes, even bolted/past the harvest window plants). This will help anchor the soil during the Santa Ana winds, protect your soil from cat feces, keep moisture in the soil, and your garden can continue to act as a habitat to beneficial insects. As a bonus, if it rains your garden can continue growing!
If you or other members of your garden team need any assistance or direction, please let your Garden Educator know. The more notice we are given, the higher the probability that we can visit your school.
Thank you all so much and have a wonderful winter break!