By Kristen Roewer, Seattle Youth Garden Works Program Coordinator
“Bring on spring” is the collective chant heard echoing around the Seattle Youth Garden Works (SYGW) urban farm this month. We’re shaking off winter and welcoming spring by weeding out beds, amending our soils, digging furrows, and planting seeds. It’s an arduous process, but one that yields great rewards. And, after nearly nine months of involvement with the program, SYGW’s young farmers are experts at prepping and planting and they’re eager to share their new found knowledge. Below, youth team members explain and demonstrate our process on the SYGW farm for preparing beds to plant.
Quackgrass and dock are the most impertinent of all weeds on our farm, but they’re no match for our hardworking Dock Removal Team (DRT). “Make sure to remove all of the roots!” explains one youth farmer.
Step 2: Farm the soil
Amending freshly weeded beds with loads of compost in the spring helps to keep our soil healthy and our plants happy all season long. The SYGW farmers practice good soil management as a way to ensure healthy food production for seasons to come.
Using a rake to chop in compost, aerate the soil, and shape the beds is the next step in getting the farm ready to plant. Suggestion for success from a young farmer: “Always make sure to be thorough and remove any loose weeds and rocks.”
As a way to direct water towards the plants’ roots and diminish weeds, we make furrows in the soil before adding seed or transplants. Using a furrower or the corner of a flat rake is the best tool for this job.
At the SYGW farm, we use a homemade fertilizer that’s specific to our soil’s needs and includes organic linseed meal, gypsum, kelp meal, and agricultural lime. After adding fertilizer to the furrows, don’t forget to chop it in before planting.
Directly sow seeds in the ground or transplant starts; pay close attention to space and depth specifications required for your crops. We transplanted these beautiful onion starts that we got at Seattle Tilth’s March Edible Plant Sale. Be sure to visit the University District Farmers’ Market later this spring and take home a bunch from the Seattle Youth Garden Works’ farm stand and say “hello” to our youth crew!
The Seattle Youth Garden Works crew brings you 23 unique and hard-to-find varieties of tomatoes at Seattle Tilth’s May Edible Plant Sale on Saturday and Sunday, May 4 & 5 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in Wallingford. Look out for the SYGW table inside the sale and also in the vendor area and check out their plant list ahead of time for a preview of their offerings.