Waldorf School at Moraine Farm Garden Plan 2016-2017
In May 2016 Coleen Ryan, the school’s Science in Nature Coordinator, convened the Garden Group, consisting of parents and faculty with interest and expertise to contribute to the school’s gardening projects. The group offers this Garden Plan to our faculty, board, and parent community.
This plan presents the gardening work already undertaken and planned with the children in the grades and the kindergarten, community activities, additional needs and plans for enhancing the work, and a short overview of how the group is incorporating biodynamic practices toward a sustainable, holistic approach to agriculture.
This fall brought the walled garden’s first harvest of nearly 40 pumpkins and squash. In addition, a full bed of blooming zinnias and pollinator plants, which the local bees have been benefiting from, did very well. The third and fourth grades picked their pumpkins, which they started from seed in the spring of 2016.
As we move forward into the colder season, we plan to prepare the beds for a combination of winter plantings and rest till spring. For winter plantings we will sow garlic, winter wheat and kale. The first step toward this has been weeding the beds and removing grasses and remnants of the squash plants. This work was done by a combination of classes as a focus of the Michaelmas festival when classes traditionally perform practical work in service of the school. At the end of September, the third grade planted winter wheat and kale in one of the garden beds. Then, come mid-October, the opportunity to plant garlic was extended to all classes and those interested will be scheduled in. We will plant spring bulbs in the pollinator garden as well as the garden beds around the inside perimeter of the garden. We will also add some field compost to all of the beds and once the plantings come up, we fill in around them with straw. Another fall activity we would like to complete is to create a second biodynamic field compost pile (see “Biodynamics” below).
Once the beds of zinnias and pollinator plants have finished blooming, those sections will be weeded completely and our field compost will be added to the bed and covered with straw. Some of the pollinator plants can have their seeds saved to plant in the spring.
This will be the first winter that we have the greenhouse on site. We plan to start lettuce from seed and grow it during the colder months. This will be a great way to try out the greenhouse in the winter and grow something that can be easily enjoyed by many. The third and fourth grades have expressed an interest in participating through the winter and any other classes that would like to participate will be incorporated. In early spring, we will use the greenhouse to get an early start with some of our planting.
This spring the walled garden will be planted, with the assistance of interested classes, with squash, pollinator plants, sunflowers and zinnias. The wheat planted in the winter and harvested in July/ August will be available for threshing by classes in the fall of 2017. The wheat berries can be ground into flour to make the bread for our next fall festival. The garlic will be braided or bound together to make beautiful, useful offerings.
There will be a plan for crop rotation implemented to ensure we maintain healthy soil. We hope that this spring’s crops will again be harvested in the fall and more intentionally shared throughout the entire school—perhaps by making squash soup or other recipes that can be enjoyed by all in a celebratory way at the school’s annual fall festival.
This fall the kindergarten harvested carrots along with corn that was planted last spring, which once dry, will be used as popcorn. The children continue to enjoy herbs of mint, sage and chives. There are plans to grow winter wheat, kale and garlic in the outdoor raised beds. In mid-October flower bulbs were planted to come up in the spring. There are also strawberries in the raised bed which as a perennial will come back in the spring.
This winter the kindergarten plans utilize the greenhouse too. The children will start kale and lettuces to be harvested during the winter months. Once the weather is conducive, they will direct seed those plants outdoors in the raised bed. All the while, the kale and lettuce will be enjoyed in soups, rice and sandwiches at lunchtime throughout the week. In the spring, onions, calendula and marigolds will all be started from seed in the greenhouse and then planted in the beds outdoors. Marigolds will come from seeds harvested from the prior year’s flowers. Peas and string beans will be direct planted in the tee pee beds.
The kindergarten area does not receive a lot of direct sunlight. Using donated seeds, the children will plant sunflowers at the walled garden where there is sufficient sun throughout the day. This opportunity will give them an additional space to enjoy and explore as well as become more connected to the wider school garden.
We are working to create a biodynamic landscape for the school with the garden as a central source of influence. We are working toward a beautiful, inspirational, healthful garden full of bounty for our community as well as for our pollinators. Biodynamics is a “holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition” which harnesses natural forces rather than synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, etc. Some biodynamic practices that we are currently applying or hope to begin in the coming year are:
- Spreading Preparation 500 (a healing remedy made from herbs, minerals and manure).
- Biodynamic field compost made in part from plant material from the garden
- Biodynamic kitchen compost made in part from food scraps collected from classrooms
- Pest control through ashing
- Working with the biodynamic planting calendars
- Using biodynamic preparations
- Planting biodynamic seeds
- Burying seeds in a watertight container during the depth of winter
- Developing raised garden beds
- Adding straw as a cover for winter.
The biodynamic field compost pile was created last spring by building up layers. Each layer consisted of six ingredients: green material weeded from the walled garden, raw goat manure, almost finished kitchen compost, soil, water and biodynamic barrel compost. Each layer was shaped so that the finished pile had a rectangular base and a rounded top. Biodynamic compost preparations were added to the finished pile and covered with landscape fabric to help hold the moisture in.
During the 2015-16 school year Mary and Michael Mansur came to a faculty meeting and gave an introduction to biodynamic gardening. This was well received by the faculty. Due to lack of time, it was the wish of the faculty to have further opportunities to learn more about the aspects of biodynamics and how we plan to incorporate them into our school garden. Mary also offered to give talks/workshops about biodynamics to the school community.
Additional Activities and Supplies for the Coming Year
Some supplies will be needed for the coming year, and the Garden Group will thoughtfully put together a supply list. It will include such things as biodynamic seeds and new tools to accommodate larger group sizes. This past year we had a limited number of hand tools and utilized borrowed tools. This made facilitating gardening tasks challenging at times, especially when “buddy” groups wanted to garden or multiple classes were available at the same time. It would be useful to have some storage space in the “Bean House” to store garden tools. We plan to upgrade the watering system in the garden. Last year we relied upon a simple sprinkler and hose, which did not effectively reach all the plants and wasted water. As a school, we want to model positive environmental choices and this is an area that we could greatly improve by incorporating such things as soaker hoses, timers and higher quality spigots. We also hope to find a supplier of fresh cow manure for creating the field compost piles. We will need about three to four 5-gallon buckets full each year.
The Science in Nature Coordinator position (10 hours a month for the entire school year) provides key support for the work of the Garden Group.
Weeding of the perimeter garden beds and brick walkways will continue into the fall and the spring. The plantings in the Pollinator Garden bed will be expanded to provide forage for pollinators continuously throughout the season. By growing annuals as well as perennials there will be planting opportunities each year.
Pests did not seem to be much of a problem this year except for the sunflowers getting eaten. This coming year we will continue to spray seedlings with Bobex spray, a natural pest deterrent.
Some time before the spring planting we will get the soil tested for contaminants.
Last summer we incorporated weekly sign ups allowing community members to have an opportunity to care for the school and walled gardens through weeding and watering. We will do that again in an effort to extend the garden beyond the classroom and out to the larger community.
The Green Earth Summer Camp maintained the garden for three weeks this past summer and we will continue to incorporate that into the camp curriculum.
The Garden Group will facilitate discussions about other ways to engage the community in the garden. Some possibilities might be helping to create the field compost pile, spreading the prep 500, collecting pests for ashing, and making the garden more a part of our festivals and celebrations through location, products or activities.
* For more information on Biodynamics, please see: The Science Behind Biodynamics
This piece was written by Coleen Ryan, our Science in Nature Coordinator.