Things to avoid:
- animal scraps/bones–these may attract rodents into our compost pile
- feces–there is a risk of disease and/or bacterial transfer
- plastics–these won’t break down in time for us to use
Items used for compost should be close to the target ratio of 30 Carbon-1 Nitrogen. Some common compost materials include:
- cardboard 350 C-1N (bad)
- corn cobs 75-1 (ok)
- fruit 35-1 (excellent)
- leaves 60-1 (ok)
- newspaper 175-1 (not too much)
- peanuts 25-1 (good)
- coffee grounds 20-1 (good)
- grass 20-1 (good)
- vegetables 25-1 (excellent)
- egg shells (good because of their Calcium Carbonate shells)
Compost should be watered once per week because the invertebrate living in the compost need water. Before watering, mix the compost thoroughly, then water for about 5 minutes. The compost should feel moist and spongy.
The key ration of fertilizer is Nitrogen-Carbon-Phosphorus. Our fertilizer has a ratio of 7-4-5. Before we mixed the fertilizer into the soil, we tilled the soil with the spade fork and the hand cultivator. In total we used 15 cups of fertilizer.
Some Good Planting Techniques
There is a big difference between planting seeds and seedlings. When spacing seeds in a garden, you don’t need to waste too much space spreading them apart; it is extremely inefficient. Instead, estimate how wide the diameter of each plant is going to be so that adjacent ones do not merge together. Even if this occurs, it is not a big deal; all you have to do is cut them apart with a knife after they are picked.
Some things to keep in mind if you are planting a seedling or a potted plant:
- Do not aggressively tug the plant out of the pot. Doing so may result in root damage, which will severely shorten the plant’s life. The correct approach is to handle the roots with intense care and make sure they are harmed as little as possible.
- It is really important not to let roots dry out. Keep in mind that the roots are the ones taking in the water and nutrients from the soil. Without the roots, the process of mineral uptake is nearly impossible, and plants will be unable to photosynthesize because they are not receiving anything that can be converted into glucose (aka expendable energy).
- When planting a potted plant into the soil, make sure you dig the hole as deep as the soil mold of the pot. The surface of the soil of the potted plant should line up with the surface of the soil in the garden. This way, the plant will have a better time adjusting to its new environment, and the roots will continue to grow.
Watering the Garden
Aside from using compost and fertilizer on top of the garden bed, one of the most crucial elements of attaining a healthy garden is to water consistently. Here are some tips and information to ensure that you water not only efficiently but also correctly.
- Many people are not aware of the fact that the amount of time that plants should be watered depends on what time of day it is. The sun will cause a lot of the water to evaporate, so it is probably best to water the garden more during the day than at nighttime.
- Temperature is a direct function of seed germination. Make sure that your seeds are receiving as much sunlight as possible. If not, they will never receive the signal to start growing.
- In order to ensure proper plant growth, water consistently (morning and evening). Forgetting to turn on the sprinklers is one of the biggest reasons that plants die prematurely.
- During the day, plants use their water to carry out photosynthesis. It is crucial that you water enough so that there will still be enough moisture after evaporation takes place. At night, keep in mind that you do not have to water as much because it will not evaporate as quickly. However, make sure that there is enough water in the soil to last through the night.
- It is important to know that water goes directly down into the soil, so make sure you are watering directly above seeds and their roots. If you water next to the seeds rather than on top of it, you lessen the chance that the roots will properly receive the water.
- Over-watering is another factor of plant death. Normally, in Southern California gardens, it is so dry that this is not really a problem. One of the few times that over-watering causes premature plant death is in houseplants. The soil in the pot gets so wet that there is no space for oxygen. Fungi start to accumulate and rot the plant roots. Again, since we will be dealing with an outdoor garden in a dry climate, this should not be a problem.
If we keep all of these things in mind, we should have no problem maintaining a healthy community garden throughout the semester.