Total Pageviews

Wednesday, December 19, 2012's magic

I don't know how many of you compost. If you do, then you know how amazing it is to start with food scraps, and garden debris and moldy leaves--the perfect mix of "green" and "brown"--and after some high temperatures and good active bacteria and fungi, you have something called compost. Which looks a lot like really dark brown dirt.
   Last year, thanks to SKEF and Learning Gardens, we got a nifty 3-bin compost system. The way it works is you layer brown and green garden debris, in one bin, and as it "cooks" down and looks more like dirt, you shift it to the 2nd bin. You keep adding new food to the 1st bin, shifting to the 2nd bin, and then to the 3rd, and so on. Now, this is kind of the cliff-notes version of compost. I, am not a master composter. But I have met one. Yes, they exist just like master gardeners and master preservers. I really don't know much about composting other than what I just told you. So I'm learning a lot, just like our students.
   This is the first year that all cafeteria waste at McKinley is being composted by our local refuse hauler, Allied Waste. You should see the amount of "garbage"that is generated by a school of 300 students. It's actually not much at all when you can recycle and compost nearly everything you use. It's amazing, actually. Gosh, that sounds like a Math and Science investigation waiting to happen!
A few weeks ago several brave souls worked in the garden to get things tidied up for the winter. One of the things we did was move our compost system. I call it a system, but really that's just for lack of a better word. Suggestions? Anyway, here are some pictures from our work day, where you can see compost in action.
Here's the compost bins with some pretty green stuff piled in. But notice the brown stuff on the bottom...

Time to take a look at what's on the bottom of these bins.

Whoa. Compost. Well...more like moldy dead plants from the garden. But it could be compost! eventually...

What's sleeping under that straw?

Straw is a great mulch. Well, it's not the best, but it is a pretty warm blanket for sleeping seeds and future plants. The first graders had a chance to learn about garlic this month. They took a close-up look at a head of garlic, and split it into individual cloves. If you were going to plant a clove of garlic, which end do you think should go down and which end should go up? These 1st graders are pretty plant-saavy already! They could use their skills of observation and see that those little stringy things on one end looked a lot like roots. That end goes down. Right!
    So room 5 came outside and planted some garlic. It takes a long time for garlic to grow. Did you know that? Like, 6-8 months! And we are lucky because we got some early-maturing garlic that should be ready before school is out. This is going to be great! We can learn about all the different parts of the garlic plant and other alliums (that's the fancy name of the family garlic belongs to along with onions). 
       Ever heard of garlic scapes or garlic whistles? Well you will be seeing some of those come Spring and the 1st-graders will get to taste them. Be ready for some stinky garlic-breath!

This, is our garlic. Sleeping peacefully and snug under it's blanket of straw.