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Garden Module
Modules 1 and 2 provided information on planning your garden, Module 3 focuses on the fun part — PLANTING the garden! It also includes basic information on plant care and links to additional resources to help with your gardening adventure.

Installing Your Garden — Outdoor Gardens: The first step to installing your outdoor garden is preparing the soil. If you are constructing a raised bed, this is an easy step because you will build the bed and then fill it with the chosen soil. If you are installing an in-ground garden, you will need to remove existing plants and weeds and then till the ground to loosen the soil. Tilling is a process of turning the soil so it is easier to dig in and easier for plants to establish their roots. This process is also called cultivation. You can till the soil using shovels, hoes, pitchforks and rakes or by using a tiller. Activity #1 will discuss this process further. You never want to till or work with very wet or very dry soil. Working with very dry soil is back breaking and creates dusty conditions. Tilling wet soil is bad for the soil structure. As we mentioned in Module 1, soil needs pore space filled with a mixture of air and water. If you till extremely wet soil, the particles will be heavy and the soil will compact and lose the essential air pores. For more information on preparing your soil, check out Soil Basics from Cornell Cooperative Extension: http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/ Washington/Ag/NewFarmer/Course/ Materials/Hort/Soils.htm.

Once your soil is ready, you will follow the crop planting instructions you researched for your growing schedule in Module 2 Activity #3. Like tilling, you do not want to plant in excessively dry or wet soil. If your soil is dry, gently water it the day before you plan to plant. Avoid planting in overly wet soil because it will be very messy and movement in the beds will cause compaction.

After you plant your seeds or transplants, you need to water them in with a gentle water spray. It is important to use a gentle water spray to avoid seed movement. If your spray is too forceful, you may find all your seeds sprouting in one section of the garden because they moved with the flow of the water (especially small seeds like lettuce).

Installing Your Garden — Indoor Gardens: If you are creating a windowsill garden, your main installation concern is to protect the windowsill or table from water damage. Place your pots in individual plant saucers or in a large plastic tray to catch drainage.

If you are installing prefabricated grow lights, use the directions included with the materials. If you are creating your own grow lights, you can find directions in the "GrowLab®: A Complete Guide to Gardening in the Classroom." Make sure to follow all safety precautions and if possible, see if your school district has an electrician to review your construction.

Once you prepare your indoor gardening spot, you will plant your seeds or plants based on the instructions researched in Module 2 Activity #3.

Maintaining your Garden: To maintain a healthy garden, you need to monitor your plants closely and provide for their needs. Some of the basic maintenance activities will include:

Watering: Water is a basic need for all plants, but the amount needed varies by plant and environmental conditions. Under normal conditions, plants require about 1 inch of water or rain per week. You want the soil around your plant to be moist, but not too wet. Feeling the soil is one of the best indicators of when it is time to water. To check if your garden needs water, poke a finger 1 inch down in the soil and water if the soil is dry. Apply water at the base of the plant rather than on the leaves to decrease the possibility of disease. Water in the early morning, in the late afternoon, at night, or on cloudy days to cut potential losses by evaporation. The best time is in the morning so that plants can dry off quickly.

The plant will also give you signals by wilting. If you check the soil around a wilted plant and find it is already wet, it means that the plant might have root problems, a possible sign of disease or sometimes this happens to new transplants as they adjust to their location. Only water when the soil is dry and monitor the plant for a couple of days. If the plant still looks wilted in wet soil after having time for its root system to adjust, you may have disease problems so remove the plant and the soil around it to prevent possible disease spread.

Thinning: Many times you plant more seeds than can grow to maturity in your space. Once the seeds germinate, you need to 'thin' your crop by removing some of the seedlings growing too close to each other. Although it is never easy to remove plants, if you leave too many plants in a small space they will compete for resources and will not be able to grow to their full potential.

Weeding: Weeds are plants growing in the wrong place. You want to remove all unintentional plants because they will compete for space, light and water with your crops (and many times weeds will win because they are so hardy). Pull weeds by hand or remove them by hoeing or cultivating around your plants, staying far enough away to prevent damaging your plants or their roots. With either approach, make sure the roots of the weed are completely removed.

Fertilizing: Depending on the soil results you obtained in the soil activity in Module 1, you may need to provide additional nutrients for your plants. Let your soil test results and the plant needs be your guide. Nutrients may be added by applications of compost, organic fertilizers like fish emulsion or by synthetic fertilizers like slow release pellets. You may think if a little bit of fertilizer will help your plant grow, a lot of fertilizer would result in an even better harvest. However, the phrase 'the more the better' is not applicable to fertilization. Excessive fertilizer can contribute to disease problems and lead to run off of the extra nutrients (polluting local streams and rivers).

Mulching: Outdoor gardens benefit from the addition of two to three inches of mulch added to the soil. The mulch helps to slow water loss from evaporation, moderate soil temperatures, decrease soil erosion and decrease the spread of soil-borne diseases. There a number of different materials you can use as mulch including shredded wood, straw, plastic and newspaper. For more information about mulches, check out the Cornell Cooperative Extension article: "The types and Uses of Mulch in the Landscape" available at: http://www.cce.cornell.edu/suffolk/grownet/organic/mulches.htm.

Monitoring for Pest Problems: Insect and disease problems are easiest to fix if caught early. Monitor your plants regularly for common plant insects like aphids and scale (small sucking insects damaging leaves and stems). If you find them when their numbers are small, you can keep their damage under control with a high pressure water spray or by manually removing them. If they become a larger problem, you may try a soapy water spray (1 tablespoon of dishwashing detergent per 1 gallon of water). Also look out for leaf spots, signs of fungal and bacterial diseases. Remove suspect leaves and throw them away (do not place in a compost pile). Close observation of your plants should prevent problems from escalating. You want to avoid pesticide use because of your setting and how closely the children work in the garden.

When you encounter insect and disease problems, you will first need to identify the culprits. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides a list of insect fact sheets at: http://www.entomology.cornell.edu/Extension/DiagnosticLab/IDLFS/index.html and the Cornell Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic provides disease fact sheets at: http://plantclinic.cornell.edu/. They both also provide additional diagnostic services for unknown pests.

Here is a chart describing some common garden pests from the book Steps to a Bountiful Kids' Garden by the National Gardening Association:

Identifying Common Garden Pests
Flea Beetles
Japanese Beetles
Striped Cucumber Beetles
Tomato Hornworms
Adults: 1/4", Larvae: 1/3"
Favorite Vegetables
Cabbage, cucumbers, melons, peas, potatoes, tomatoes
Cole crops, tomatoes, beans, peppers
Any crop
Various crops
Vine crops, such as cucumbers, squash, melons, pumpkins, peas, beans, and corn
Tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers
What to Look for
Tiny green, yellow, or black insects that suck plant juices, causing withering and loss of vigor. Aphids spread plant diseases and viruses.
Fat gray, black, or brown worms that curl up when disturbed. They cut off young plants in spring just under or above the soil surface.
These pests are hard to see, tiny, active insects that lunch on your foliage and leave tiny holes. Their activities are especially harmful to young plants.
The larvae are grubs that live in the soil. The metallic green adults emerge in early summer and devour a variety of foliage and ripe fruit.
Adults are yellow with three black stripes on wings. Larvae are slender and white with brown at both ends. They eat their way down the plants' stems doing much damage.
The larvae of the hawk moth, these large green worms feed greedily on foliage and fruits. They have white bands along each side and a horn at the tail end of their bodies. Look for droppings under plants to locate these well-camouflaged pests.

This information provides you with the basic maintenance techniques, but as you garden, you and your students may develop additional questions related to plant care. Use these sources for additional growing advice:

Cornell Cooperative Extension
Home Gardening Website

Gardening Fact sheets

Plant Health Care for Landscapes and Gardens at Home and in the Community

or contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension Office

National Gardening Association Home Gardening Website