As the temperature drops and the leaves start to fall, October is the ideal time to tuck in your school garden for winter! Mulching a garden bed has a multitude of benefits. Spreading a thick layer of deciduous leaves or straw on the surface of the garden keeps soil from freezing and protects the roots of any plants that are overwintering in the garden. In areas with heavy precipitation, a layer of mulch prevents nutrients in the soil from washing away and depleting soil of organic material. Mulching will also prevent many weeds from taking over your garden, as the thick layer of leaves or straw blocks sun from reaching the surface of the soil. Once the soil warms up in spring, the top layer of mulch can be easily removed, and the lower layer that has started to decompose can be worked into the soil along with some compost, well-rotted manure, and organic fertilizer. Fall rains usually keep leaves in place, but if they are in danger of blowing away, lay bamboo stakes in an “X” across the bed to secure them. Read more to learn how to out your school gardens to bed for winter.
The task of mulching can be done with any grade level, but it’s especially easy and fun for the youngest students! Have the kindergarten class collect as many leaves as they can and “tuck the garden into bed” for the winter. Leaf collecting makes for great art projects as well. Have students choose one favourite leaf and dip in melted beeswax, then hang with clothespins on a string to celebrate the colours of fall in the classroom.
Intermediate students can research creatures that are decomposers and scavengers, such as worms, centipedes, potato bugs, and spiders, to learn what will be living under the mulch layer during the winter. Have students peek under the mulch on sunny winter days (when soil is warmest) to see these creatures at work!
See you outside!