Worming into Spring

As happens every spring, at the time of year when I have most to write about, I have the least time to write… But a little update at least.

It’s been a cool and dry spring, so things are a little slow to get started. It’s definitely not unusual to get snow and/or freezing rain in April in Toronto, but after a mild and fairly snowless winter, we got one of our biggest snowfalls of the year at the beginning of April. (Hey, I love snow, I was excited!) What was a little more unusual to see were the snow flurries we had in mid-May! (The pictures below are from our icy Easter and snowy beginning of April.)

Once it was time for seeds to go in, it pretty much stopped raining. There has been a bit of rain here and there and it seems nice and fresh in the morning, but if you dig just a centimetre or two down, it’s still bone dry. Luckily kids love watering, so I’ve been keeping them nice and busy with that…

Some of the plants that are currently looking nice and green (besides the weeds…) are some plants we left in the ground last fall, like kale and kohlrabi. Partially we left them in just for this reason – so that there would be something to see growing already early in the spring. They’re also biennial plants, meaning that they go to seed in their second year. They’re just starting to bloom now, and will start producing seeds in the coming weeks. I love that kids can see the process of them blooming, being pollinated and going to seed. And since the flower buds look a lot like broccoli, it’s a nice connection to make with the kids a) about them being in the same plant family and b) that when we’re eating broccoli we’re eating flower buds.

I’ve also done some worm and worm casting harvesting with some classes both at Dundas and at Withrow. A Dundas teacher had a VERY full worm bin, with lots of castings (yup, that’s worm poop!) that we can use in the garden. So a couple of classes spent a few hours one day sorting the worms from the castings, so that the worms could return to their home in the worm bin and the compost can be used out in the garden. Some kids were a bit grossed out, but most were pretty excited! We got a LOT of castings, which we’ll mostly use when transplanting seedlings into the garden in the coming weeks.

At Withrow, a teacher wanted to start up a vermicomposter in his classroom, so I took kids out to the schoolyard compost bin to harvest some worms and take them to their new home in the classroom. This particular class spends tons of time outside doing all sorts of hands-on lessons, so they were ready to jump right into it and get their hands dirty! (And don’t worry, the worms were only in the small bags for transportation between the garden and the classroom, where they were introduced to their new vermicomposter home.)

On the topic of composting, I turned the Blake school compost at the end of March. The first (intake) bin was starting to fill up, and it had been a while since it got a proper stir. Well when I opened up the front of the bin, it was very clear what had composted and what had sat frozen all winter. Some Kindergarten kiddos were watching as I opened it, so I got a nice chorus of “Wow! That’s cool!” from them. The bin was definitely ready to be turned, because when I was back a week later, it was steaming hot in there! Things were happening again after a winter’s rest!

I’ve also been working one day a week this spring with Green Thumbs, a wonderful Toronto organization which has started and does programming in a few downtown/east end school food gardens for years! More on the Garden Buddies programme soon…

Happy growing!

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