One size does not fit all

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A few weeks ago, I wondered, Will we ever fill this table with seedlings?

This week I found myself anxiously thumbing through all of the seeds that we haven’t planted yet. On the flip side, I’ve had a few moments of feeling pretty good about all the seeds we have planted so far.

When it comes to planting seeds with kids, I realized it’s more about the technique that needs to be considered, versus how information is delivered. In addition to constantly differentiating instruction, it’s equally important to be able to differentiate, or grade, experiential tasks to suit individual strengths or challenges. In addition to my student’s ages ranging from 6-21, the skill level, hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and strength within each class  can vary as greatly as age. So, when it comes time to plant a seed, one size definitely does not fit all!

Devon folds up his seed tape, securing the carrot seeds inside until planting time.

Devon folds up his seed tape, securing the carrot seeds inside until planting time.

For the younger children, whose fine motor skills are still developing, we made seed tapes. We started out by reading The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle. (This book is deceptively full of valuable plant knowledge.) We filled a small squeeze bottle with a mixture of cornstarch, water and a drop of food dye (color makes it more fun for the kids, and easier to see where to drop the seeds). The children then put small drops of the paste onto the edge of a length of toilet paper. They then dropped a few seeds onto each dot. I asked them to try to put 2-3 seeds, but  if they put more or less it was no big deal. The seeds that didn’t make it onto the cornstarch mixture fell away and we then folded our toilet paper in half, capturing the seeds inside the dots of cornstarch “glue.” In their next class, the children will plant their seed tapes and be able to watch their carrots grow!

Another vehicle for planting seeds used was peat pellets. These are nice and fast in terms of set up. We prepped the pellets before the kids came to class by soaking them in warm water and teasing them into shape. In  some cases we were able to have kids prep them for the class following theirs. Some students used their fingers to drop their seeds into the pellets and cover them up, some used seed dispensers for smaller seeds and others used Popsicle sticks to help manipulate the pellets and keep dirt off their hands.

Shaquez seeds and labels a channel tray with small flower seeds.

Shaquez seeds and labels a channel tray with small flower seeds.

For small flower seeds, it takes a steady hand! I love the channel trays which we received as a great donation  from a member of the Mid-Atlantic Horticultural Therapy Network last summer. Many flower seeds need light to germinate, so a fine scattering of them along each channel is a good way to manage their size and germination needs.

Making soil blocks is a really great way to get the most out of space, not only can you fit many small seedlings in a tight space, but on a note of sustainability, no plastic cell pots were used or will have to be recycled. To make the soil blocks you need to have good strength to really pack the dirt in, as well as good focus to sustain concentration and interest in completing a tray (or as much as possible).

After germination, there comes transplanting into larger pots. This spring has been a killer with cold nights, so we are not taking any chances and are growing our seedlings in the greenhouse as long as necessary. We have some floating row covers up for two purposes now. One is, we started some flats of cool-weather crops and placed them directly outside, under the row cover. The second use of the row covers now is to harden off cool-weather crops that we started earlier in the greenhouse. Once they have acclimated to the fluctuating outside temperatures, we will be able to put them in the ground.

The "transplant table" today

The “transplant table” today!

So far, so good. We have many things slowly growing, and a few things quickly growing (especially the dandelions). Since rain is in the forecast today, we will be seeding and transplanting in the greenhouse, except when we take a break to go check out the sheep shearing in the Teaching Barn. Not a bad Friday!

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About Green Chimneys Garden

Green Chimneys was founded on the belief that children will benefit from their interaction with nature and animals. Horticulture comes to life in our educational school gardens, allowing Green Chimneys students to heal, learn, and grow. Learn more about about our nature-based approach to special education by visiting www.greenchimneys.org
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3 Responses to One size does not fit all

  1. zmusashi says:

    Wonderful, wonderful post. I also learned a lot.

  2. garden98110 says:

    Great post. Instructive, informative and a healthy sense of humor.

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