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9-10s at the MCS Farm: Putting the Garden to Bed

Thursday, November 19, 2015

As winter approaches at the Farm, it’s time to “put the garden to bed.” In Cathy’s farming class this week, the 9-10s students helped harvest the last of the carrots, and they spread compost over the garden beds. The garden will lie dormant until spring, when we begin turning the soil and getting ready to plant all over again.

Ed gets a tractor bucket load of compost from the bin. 

As winter approaches at the Farm, it’s time to “put the garden to bed.” In Cathy’s farming class this week, the 9-10s students helped harvest the last of the carrots, and they spread compost over the garden beds. The garden will lie dormant until spring, when we begin turning the soil and getting ready to plant all over again.

Ed gets a tractor bucket load of compost from the bin. 

Every morning and every evening, waste from the cow and pig stalls is dumped into the manure spreader (a big mechanized wagon towed by our old Ford tractor), and then once or twice a week we either spread it over the hayfields or put it into the large composting bins near the barn. With the help of bacteria, fungi, worms and insects, the compost pile slowly breaks down from table scraps and cow and pig manure to a fine rich humus, full of vital nutrients. These include “macronutrients:” nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in large quantities. Seven other “micronutrients” are present in small quantities: iron, manganese, zinc, boron, molybdenum, copper and chlorine. They all are found in our compost and they are all required for healthy plant growth.

Spreading compost over the garden beds. 

Some farms need to buy fertilizer to replace nutrients in the soil. At the MCS Farm, we use the animal and kitchen waste to feed the soil. In this way, we create a completely self-sufficient cycle of food > waste > compost > soil > [add sunshine and rain … and do a lot of weeding] > food.

A local hero—the worm—is greeted and celebrated. 

Digging up the last of the carrots in the lower garden.

Everyone ate a carrot or two (or three) during the harvest.

Overheard from a student eating a carrot: “This is the best part of farming!”

The carrots get dried in the sunshine before being moved to the root cellar for the winter. 

And while the outdoor gardens slumber through the cold days of winter, green seedlings are just beginning to sprout in the MCS Farm greenhouse. The gardens may be dormant, but the Farm never sleeps.