The Potomac Highlands Watershed School 

PHWS Projects 2014

Charlestown Middle School, WV

Petersburg Elementary School - Raised Garden

May 2014

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The multi-year plans for an outdoor classroom at Petersburg Elementary School are one step closer to completion. Students this spring spend two back to back school days installing four raised bed vegetable gardens.

Prior to the construction of the raised beds students were tasked with creating a scale drawing of their homeroom class’s bed. Students used graph paper to determine a scale and the correct size of their bed before filling in the vegetables that would grow in each area of their garden. Students used a “Bad Buds” guide to know what plants would not grow best together. Students made sure to take in account the direction the sun would be traveling in relation to their plants; they did not want to create shade in one area. The student’s ideas were compiled into one planting plan to be followed the day of the planting.

CI staff, Frank Rodgers and Molly Barkman, built the wooden raised bed structures prior to the students first day outside.

On May 21st, the four classes filled their raised beds with the soil needed for planting. Students took part in a process called lasagna mulching. The process is simple, but messy, and uses layers of different materials to create a rich soil for growing vegetables. The first layer was composed of composted manure that was spread-out over the ground followed by a recycled cardboard layer.  The third step was a thin layer of coffee grounds* followed by a two inch layer of leaf humus and then a thin layer of coffee grounds again. The sixth layer is two inches of mushroom compost followed by the last layer of two inches of compost. This process was repeated for the four raised beds with each 5th grade class. At the end of the day students had a chance to get their hands dirty and learn a new process for composing soils for gardening.

The next day, May 22nd, students were able to take their planting plan to install the varying vegetable plants and seeds in their class raised bed. Students were grouped and assigned a plant species prior to going outside. Once outside, students were given their plants or seed packet and assigned to a four square foot section of the raised bed for planting. Student with started plants had to determine the proper spacing for the plants and install their plants. Students with seed packets determined the correct depth and spacing by reading the instructions. Students used rulers and worked as a group to properly plant their vegetable seeds. This process was repeated for all four classes.

At the end of the project students had nothing but positive comments about the experience. They were asked to use one word to describe the experience. You can see their responses in the wordle image.

*coffee grounds were donated by Daily Grind at Abrams Crossing Center in Winchester, VA.