KU Student Farm: Growing Sustainability

Our First Planting
July 8, 2010, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Our First Planting

Hello all!

Watering our new plants

We had our first planting on June 28, 2010! It is so exciting to actually SEE the Student Farm become something tangible. Now it’s not only a name…it’s a place with a row and a half of tomatoes and onions. There were three people in attendance-Greg Beverlin (the other coordinator), Nolan

(my extremely helpful boyfriend), and me. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain to readers how we planted the rows. It sounds easy enough… 1) get plants, 2) go to farm, 3)dig hole in ground, 4) place plant in hole, 5) cover hole, etc., but really it is so much more carefully laid out than that. There are essential steps to growing food organically (and successfully 😉 ) that I had no idea about until I helped out with the KU Native Medicinal Plant Research Garden. These steps may seem elementary to some, but they are crucial to keeping the plants healthy. I think everyone should understand the process:

Starter plant

1) Bring plants. The plants were grown under Greg’s supervision in the greenhouse before they were planted at the Student Farm. We acquired some from Kelly Kindscher as a donation. All plants were starters and looked something like the image to the right.

2) Hoe the area where the plants will be. We are lucky to be on Class I soil in the Kansas River bottom. It is very rich soil that is easy to work with. It is similar to sand-not too tough to break through and perfect for packing around the plants once they are in the ground. I sat back and watched as Greg hoed and Nolan pushed through the soil with a shovel. The land had already been disked (a soil preparation method that breaks up the soil in order to uproot weeds).

3) Lay out the measuring tape and mark the increments where the plants will be placed. For the tomatoes, the increments were about every foot; for the green onions, every half foot. This works well if you have two or more people. As Nolan was marking the increments and creating holes in the soil for where the plants would go, I was making sure the lines were straight as I put the plants in the holes. I covered them and packed down the soil around the plant to keep it from tilting. (Note: You should be planting north to south so that as the sun moves from east to west, all the plants receive even sunlight.)

4) Set down several handfuls of alfalfa pellets around the base of the plant. Alfalfa pellets are great organic fertilizers. They enrich the soil and help in the development of healthy plants.

5) Next, lay straw around the plants. Straw keeps the weeds out and away from your plants. It also keeps the ground moist and breaks up the soil as it decomposes.

6) Put down wood chip and leaf mulch on top of the straw. It provides an additional layer for moisture retention, holds down the straw and decomposes more slowly than the straw.

7) Water the plants until sopping! We knew our starters would need to adjust a lot because they had been in a protected environment—the greenhouse. We helped prepare them for the sun’s rays by giving them plenty of water to hydrate and protect them. If you would like to know how you can help out with the Student Farm, such as watering the plants, harvesting, or transporting the vegetables to a food bank, please email me. We would love to have your help!

Thanks for reading!


Kim and Greg

PS—For more pictures please friend the University of Kansas Student Farm and check out the album “First Planting.”  🙂