Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Middle School Builds the Garden Teepees

In Kids on the Farm on April 30, 2011 at 11:44 pm

On Friday, our middle school students hit the farm again in order to construct the teepee supports for the pole beans. Under the guidance of math teacher, John LaRue, the students planned out the materials needed, identified the diameter of the circle required, drew those circles in the soil, and then worked together to assemble these supports.

These teepees will allow our pole beans plants to grow healthy, more vigorous vines, and will eventually lead to higher yields than plants without such well-designed supports. Meanwhile, some of our young farmers inside the building, having seen the first model teepee that farm director, Sarah, put up, have been whispering that Indians work our farm at night. We have not corrected them.

Many thanks to all our middle school students and Mr. LaRue who worked so hard on this project! And the hats? Well, they found them with the other supplies and decided to wear them. Kind of funny.


Earth Day on the Farm

In Uncategorized on April 30, 2011 at 11:13 pm

April 22 was the first Earth Day for the farm so we wanted to mark the occasion with an appropriate activity. Jeremy from Compost Cab had been hard at work on the plans for our new composting system for some time so the kick-off for this project seemed the perfect choice for the day.

The project plan is pretty straightforward: build and manage an on-site composting system that produces fertile, nutrient-rich compost so that the farm can grow more and better food. The space at the northeast corner of the farm by our double gate is perfect to enable a simpler workflow for composting and other farm operations. The first task was to re-purpose the railroad ties and pallets that were already on site to create three holding areas (for wood chips, farm waste / leaf mulch, and finished compost), while leaving room for easy access for deliveries of all sorts. The folks from Compost Cab also carved out space for, and started building, the actual composting operation.

At full capacity, we’ll be utilizing two passively aerated windrows, one approximately 30′ long, the other 15′ long, and each around 6′ wide and 4-5′ high. We’ll be managing these to produce finished compost in approximately 18-22 weeks, depending on the weather.

Over time, the inputs for the compost will consist primarily of three things:
1. Food waste (no meat, dairy, or oil) collected by Compost Cab from in and around the city. We’re planning to source as much of this from as close to Walker Jones as possible, and obviously hope to include scraps from the school as soon as possible.

2. Leaf mulch (likely from the municipal program in DC or Takoma Park, MD) and waste material from the farm.

3. Wood chips (mostly from landscapers with whom the farm has an existing relationship).

Going forward, we’ll be needing some additional materials, including compost blankets, a compost thermometer, a sifter, etc., but we’re not quite there yet. If you know any good sources for these materials, will you let us know?

Hoop Madness on the Farm

In Kids on the Farm on April 15, 2011 at 10:22 pm

The Farm at Walker Jones has a deep appreciation for all the adult volunteers that help make the effort possible, but nothing can compare with the wall of energy that hit the farm yesterday in the form of a constant stream of students from kindergarten, fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade. On that last day of school before spring break, the WJ Tigers went above and beyond to make sure that all of the seedlings they have been nurturing in their classrooms landed in a safe place during break. It was time to get those baby plants acclimated to the outdoors.

The eighth grade boys were the first ones out. Directed by middle school math teacher, John LaRue, and farm director, Sarah Bernardi, they carefully transplanted trays of herb seedlings to larger pots. They then moved on to installing our hoop house along the side of the farm.

Next up, our younger friends all made it out to do a little more transplanting and placement of the pots under cover. It was difficult to determine the biggest draw of the farm visit – getting dirty or running through the tunnel created.

By the time seventh grade made it out with Mr. LaRue for the last period of the day, the cold frame situation was well under control, and so they turned their efforts to moving more compost to the beds.

And of course our ceaselessly entertaining worm population whose appeal has no age limits.

Dirt, worms, bugs – nothing fazed most of the kids. It took adults eating kale off the plants to elicit the “Ewws!” Our hope is that a continuing personal investment in their food source on the farm will eventually make most of them more adventurous eaters. We might have to cook it to sell it to them though as suggested by one very bright seventh grader.

From Plans to Reality

In Events on April 4, 2011 at 12:51 am

After wintering over, it felt like we were back to square one with the farm. We kept our chins up, we planned and planned, but it was not until this week that some of those plans became realities. We started with a fresh mow and border weed removal. After taking Will Allen’s advice last week to allow the collard and kale beds to remain intact at least for the time being, we had the other two rectangular beds tilled. Quite a job. But the real magic happened today when with little more than the promise of a new farm t-shirt and a hot dog from Whole Foods, tons of our farm friends showed up to help make our farm a more beautiful place.

The weed warriors dug in in earnest to rid our greens and herb patches of nutrient stealing enemies.

And the other extremely hardworking team set about defining our new rows, amending them with compost, and establishing new paths in between rows that are a full 18 inches across to accommodate all our young farmers. The new paths are defined with wood chips so as to make it clear where people walk and where plants live.

We will all be out on the farm again next Sunday from 12-4 with lunch and t-shirts and high hopes. Consider joining us? We would love to work alongside you and tell you about the full scope of our plans – a three sisters labyrinth bed, the bee enclosure, classroom seating, the persimmon trees, the chickens. It is all coming, but we would love your help in making it all happen just a little faster. Many thanks to all for today – families, friends, students and the fantastic Master Gardeners from UDC!