Ask a Question forum: School Garden

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sallyb123
Aug 1, 2013 11:54 AM CST
HI:
I have two raised gardens that my students will be planting for a fall garden. We will be adding PVC pipe and covers for fall and winter gardening as soon as school starts in August. (Rio Grande -- Students in the Functional Skills Program). Here are some questions:
1. We have good soil in the garden, but I would like to add some good soil and mulch. Where can I purchase good organic soil and mulch in Albuquerque.
2 What are some easy seeds/vegetables to grown during the fall? Where do I purchase the seeds?

Thanks....Sally Parker
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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Newyorkrita
Aug 1, 2013 12:18 PM CST
Welcome! Welcome Sally! Welcome!

You can buy seeds at most any local nursery, they always have seeds left from the spring inventory. If you don't like the selection you can buy on line. My favorite on line vendor is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

http://www.rareseeds.com/

Another favorite on line veggie seed vendor is Gourmet Seeds.

http://www.gourmetseed.com/

If you are adding to the soil I would suggest you purchase a good quality compost. Look for a local supplier that will sell it by the cubic yard. Places that sell landscape rocks and crushed stone usually carry it.

Easily grown from seed-
Brocoli
Summer squash and zucchini
Winter squashes or pumpkins
Cucumbers
Peas

Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Aug 1, 2013 12:26 PM CST
Welcome, Sally. If you will click on the WebApps tab, and then the Garden Calendar, you can input your zip code and get good information of planting dates appropriate to your area. It is also helpful if you update your profile to include either a specific or general location for yourself so folks can chime in with advice specific to your region. Enjoy gardening with your children, I have many fond memories of doing so with my two (now grown) sons.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 1, 2013 2:41 PM CST
Hi Sally, and welcome to ATP!

>> Where can I purchase good organic soil and mulch in Albuquerque.

Unfortunately, I don't know Albuquerque. I would check prices at Lowe's, local "dirt yards", and ask some nurseries and landscapers where they buy.

A landscaper or lawn service might even offer you free wood chips or grass clippings, though many will caution you to worry about herbicides and weed seeds in lawn clippings.

If your soil is starting out "pretty good", or anything less than "excellent", I would spend my money on more compost and pine bark fines, to improve the soil I already had, instead of buying more so-so-soil. Even "unusually good topsoil" is still not as good as very well-draining, rich, fertile GARDEN soil, or "intensively improved raised bed soil"..

Raised beds really let you get maximum benefit from really good, rich soil. You can plant densely and still get high yields and rapid growth.

You would probably get more benefit from adding 2-3 inches of compost and other soil amendments, and mixing them into the beds with forks or a Roto-tiller, than by just adding a few more inches of heavy or not-very-rich soil.

I agree about adding compost. You might or might not get a better price buying it by the cubic yard from a "dirt yard". Near me, the price is similar whether I buy a cubic yard and have it delivered, or buy bags of "manure-compost mix" from Lowe's ($1.25 for 1 cubic foot), and shlepp them around in the trunk of my Ford Escort.

However, the quality from Lowe's is MUCH better: it is real compost and aged manure. The "dirt yard" sold me "Cedar Grove Compost" that had so much sawdust and so many wood shavings that it was almost worse than nothing.

What I like best for mulch is coarse pine bark nuggets (or almost any evergreen bark product). Big wood chips also work well, as long as you don't turn them under into the soil.

Once underground, wood helps microbes "steal nitrogen" away from plant roots. Wood is best used as a top-dressing for several years, and by then is OK to turn under (or, better, compost it first).

I like bark from Lowe's much be4tter than from Home Depot. My local HD sells "bark mulch" that's full of dirt, wood and pebbles. I figure that it's just logyard trash, scooped up along with weed seeds and oil drippings. Lowe's sells bark nuggets that are obviously clean, screened BARK.

P.S. If you tear open a plastic bag of bark and it feels wet and smells faintly like garbage, it was probably stored wet (and anaerobic) long enough to start fermenting. Try to find a store that keeps bark drier. Too much fermentation creates acids, alcohols and other fermentation products that are not very good for young roots. No big deal as long as they get enough rain or watering to dilute and flush the breakdown products away.

Any mulch protects soil from drying out and baking in the sun. The value of coarse mulch is that it lets water, air and CO2 pass right through. The roots and soil microorganisms need quite a bit of oxygen and they release CO2.

Fine mulch, like sawdust or coffee grounds can "pack down" and turn into a hard crust that slows down gas exchange and grabs any rain or watering and holds it up where the roots can't find it. If sawdust or coffee grounds are all you have, use a thinner layer like one inch, and rake it around every so often to keep it broken up. When you water, water enough to saturate the fine mulch. Only the water that passes THROUGH the mulch will do your plants any good.

Other good mulches are pine needles, straw or hay (if it has few weed seeds and NO herbicides). Some people use plastic film with slits for water and air to pass. In small raised beds, you might even consider something like rectangles cut from cardboard boxes. Gaps would let water and air through. Weeds are easy to pull out of loose RB soil.

If you have enough coffee grounds to consider using them as mulch, instead turn them into the soil as instant, high-N compost. They loosen the soil, hold some water, release some Nitrogen, and also attract worms.

Or use the coffee grounds to jump-start a fast compost heap. Combined with sawdust or paper or brown leaves, coffee grounds will help those break down fast and produce 2-3 times as much compost as the original coffee grounds.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 1, 2013 2:48 PM CST
If you have access to power equipment or lots of kids with shovels, consider digging out the pathways between the beds If that soil is fairly good, shovel it onto the tops of the beds and then amend it further.

This does require the bed's walls to be higher.

The extra height assures good drainage and aeration. It gives a deeper root zone. It brings the soil surface closer to the student's faces, so they see the soil surface, seedlings, and weeds up close and personal.

BTW, RB walls sometimes allow the soil to dry out right THROUGH the walls faster than they would otherwise. When I have that problem, especially when the CORNERS of the beds dry out first, I line the insides of the walls (or just the corners) with heavy plastic cut from the bags that bark, compost and manure came in.


Also, consider making the beds narrow (like 36-40" wide). Then it is easy to reach all the way across to weed or sow, form one side, without walking around.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 1, 2013 3:18 PM CST
>> What are some easy seeds/vegetables to grown during the fall?

Lettuce, Chard, snap peas, snow peas

These Brassica greens grow fast and will last into cold weather, but might not like starting when it is TOO hot.
Bok Choy, Chinese Cabbage, Komatsuna.
Tatsoi is very cold-hardy



>> Where do I purchase the seeds?

Don't any of the kids' parents save seeds? Not even left-overs from last year?

I like these following online vendors, but local feed stores or farm co-ops will have varieties best suited to your local conditions ... but you might have to buy 5 pound bags!

Some people swear by eBay seed vendors for lowest prices, but I've had bad luck with some eBay vendors.

These first two have very good information about how-to-grow each kind of vegetable. Also, their paper catalogs have great referencer sections about how to grow each vegetable: great details.

http://www.territorialseed.com/category/vegetable_seed
culture guides are listed after each seed packet.

http://www.johnnyseeds.com/c-1-vegetables.aspx
library of guides: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/t-Growers_Library_Vegetables.aspx...

http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/search.php
http://www.victoryseeds.com/main_vegies.html

Hazzards has BIG packets and some good prices, if you already know what you wnat:
http://www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Cat...


If you buy from Baker Creek (they have many CLASSY varieties! Especially for melons and watermelons), also look at their "bulk" deals - an ounce of seed may cost only a little more than a few grams:
http://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/bulk-vegetables/

For Asian greens and other Asian vegetables, I love these next two sites.

Tainong is really a wholesale place for market growers and real farms, but I-Lung also sells sample packets, a scoop that's around 2 grams, for only $2. Shipping is barely over $5. I love that place! They answer the phone in Mandarin, and change to English as needed. And you can always find something to grow that makes visitors ask "WHAT is THAT??!??"
http://www.tainongseeds.com/vegetable-seeds/

Kitazawa is more aimed at small home gardeners, but you can get quotes for pounds or ounces of seed. They have GREAT variety of Asian crops, and detailed descriptions.
http://www.kitazawaseed.com/


Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Aug 1, 2013 4:07 PM CST
Since this is a school project, you might approach your local feed/hardware/garden store and ask if they may be willing to donate seed. You could offer them a 'public thanks' of some sort in your local newspaper or school newsletter.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 1, 2013 4:26 PM CST
>> We will be adding PVC pipe and covers for fall and winter gardening

I have a notion that raised beds, especially tall raised beds, being covered to keep them warm, might benefit from having the hoops and plastic film cover the entire bed, including the raised walls. That should capture a little more heat, and also enclose the existing heat energy in the soil to keep the air warm all night.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Aug 1, 2013 4:27 PM CST
Good idea, Deb! Pretty cheap publicity for a local merchant, too. Smiling
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 1, 2013 4:41 PM CST
By the way, what are you using to make walls for your raised beds? Most people use wood, but I like concrete paving stones stood on end. I have options for 8" walls, 12", or 16". My soil is so clayey that I can leave a "curb" of clay at the bottom of a bed and stand an 8" paver on top of the curb, but still have a wall 12 inches tall or taller.

The pavers can cost less than $1 per linear foot.
8" x 16" x 3/4"
12" x 12" x 1"

Thumb of 2013-08-01/RickCorey/215455 Thumb of 2013-08-01/RickCorey/3700c4 Thumb of 2013-08-01/RickCorey/46bec4

Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Aug 1, 2013 4:47 PM CST
But maybe they could get a local lumber yard to provide the boards for the raised beds for free? (Begging for free stuff is one of the things I do best. Hilarious! )
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 1, 2013 4:49 PM CST
Cheap is good, free is best!

If even one parent of one student has livestock, ...
... visualize free manure ...

P.S.

Here's a related thread that may have some useful advice:

All Things Gardening forum:
Tips for starting a new garden bed
The thread "Tips for starting a new garden bed" in All Things Gardening forum
Name: Dave
Dayton, TN (Zone 7a)
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TennesseeDave
Aug 1, 2013 5:34 PM CST
Welcome! to ATP
Name: Angie
Mackinaw, IL (Zone 5a)
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BookerC1
Aug 1, 2013 8:37 PM CST
For fall planting, I agree that greens would be a good choice. Spinach is easy to grow, and can stand some cold weather. A lot of kids are pleasantly surprised at how much they like spinach raw as salad greens, or on a sandwich. Lettuce is another easy to grow crop, and many varieties like Black-seeded Simpson are called "cut and come again" because you can cut the leaves off 1/2 inch above the soil level, and they'll grow back.

I don't think anyone has mentioned garlic yet, but that is another good thing to plant in the fall and harvest early summer. Peas can take a good bit of cool weather, as can root crops like onions, carrots, and beets. In fact, I've read about people heavily mulching their carrots and harvesting throughout the winter, as it is supposed to make them sweeter after a frost.

Do you only want plants from seed, or would you be interested in something like strawberries? They take a bit to get established, but they'd come back every year, and you'd be able to pick them in the spring during the school year. Rhubarb and asparagus are other crops that take a couple of years to really get up to speed, but are easy to care for, and could be harvested in the spring. I'm trying to think in terms of what would be ready to eat during the school year, as so many crops are traditionally grown during the summer vacation months!

You might also want to look into something called Winter Sowing. This would be a great way to extend the gardening into the winter months, and would give you plants early enough to see some results before the school year is over. You can read more about it here:
http://garden.org/ideas/view/valleylynn/223/Time-to-Winter-S...
[url=www.wintersown.org]www.wintersown.org[/url]
Name: Angie
Mackinaw, IL (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Ideas: Master Level Tip Photographer I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Region: Illinois
Irises Bulbs Daylilies Lilies Herbs Clematis
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BookerC1
Aug 1, 2013 8:39 PM CST
Oh, also be sure to include some herbs! Chives overwinter well, oregano is perennial and easy to grow, lavender smells wonderful. Sage is my son's favorite; he pulls the leaves off and eats them plain. Basil is good as an annual, but won't tolerate any frost. Be careful with mint. . .it spreads like crazy and tries to rule the world. LOL It is good in a separate container, though.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
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Newyorkrita
Aug 29, 2013 3:54 PM CST
Do you have an update on your school garden?
Coatesville IN (Zone 5b)
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Claudia
Aug 30, 2013 10:11 AM CST
I would also highly recommend Herbs.....them maybe kids could take samples home to try out new flavors!

Hope your garden project is a great success and maybe it will excite a kid or 2 about gardening! Kudos to you!! Thumbs up
Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. ~Eeyore
Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Organic Gardener Herbs Dragonflies Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry
Birds Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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Bonehead
Aug 30, 2013 10:19 AM CST
Another good plant for kids is Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) - they really like to nibble on the leaves. You might even try to make some lemonade with the stevia they have grown and real lemons for a sugar-free healthy beverage (experiment at home first so your juice has the right sweetness). Stevia is not hardy over winter so you'd likely need to get it going inside during early spring so it would have enough bulk to it before school is out.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
[Last edited by Bonehead - Aug 30, 2013 10:20 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #474640 (18)
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Hummingbirder
Image
Newyorkrita
Aug 30, 2013 10:32 AM CST
Claudia, growing herbs is a great suggestion. Many are easily grown from seed and as you said, they are useful.
[Last edited by Newyorkrita - Aug 30, 2013 10:33 AM (+)]
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