Now that we in the Boston area have survived a truly historic winter, it’s finally time to get our school gardens ready for spring. I sat down with CitySprouts garden coordinator Shaylla Chess to learn a thing or two about gardening in April. She gave me these great tips:
1. Choose the right plants. April is a chilly month in New England, so our spring vegetables must be able to tolerate cool temperatures. Salad greens are excellent choices: lettuce, kale, arugula, and collards all grow like champions this time of year. For a school garden, be sure to look into kid-friendly veggies like carrots and peas. (To see how peas can be a great help in teaching elementary math, check out fourth-grade teacher Christine Fetter’s lesson on measuring pea growth over time!)
2. Remove snow and debris. This winter has probably dumped buckets of snow on your garden. Even if the snow has melted, it’s likely revealed a layer of debris: dead leaves, mulch, and other material that will keep your crops from growing their healthiest. Clear out the junk so your plants can get the sun and space they need!
3. Check your soil temperature. Even cold-tolerant plants will only grow when conditions are right. Use a soil thermometer to see if your beds are warm enough for planting. If the bed temperature is less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll have to wait for sunnier days before sewing your seeds.
4. Gently turn and fertilize your soil. Using a spade to turn over the top layer of soil aerates it, providing much-needed oxygen to the microorganisms that help your plants grow their healthiest. Add garden compost to ensure that your veggies get all their essential nutrients.
5. Source seedlings from a local nursery. In addition to supporting a local farmer, you’ll be sure to plant crop varieties that can thrive in your climate.
With these tips in mind, you’re on your way to a beautiful and fertile learning garden!