CHICKERING GROWS

WHAT IS CHICKERING GROWS?

​Chickering GROWS is a PTO-sponsored community initiative that encourages students to learn about gardening and gain hands-on experience growing their own plants at home while connecting with the Chickering community. Students develop important life skills like patience and responsibility as they care for a living thing. We offer different grow kits each season for ALL AGES. No green thumb required! Students, teachers & staff and Dover Council on Aging (COA) members connect with one another through our Chickering GROWS website, Padlets, and newsletters. While we cannot grow together in the school garden, it is fun to all be growing the same things in our homes and classrooms and share with one another the beauty and fun of gardening!

 

WHAT DID WE GROW THIS FALL? 

We grew bright orange ZINNIAS in a self-watering bell jar garden, explored hydroponics, and discovered how and why plants are able to grow without soil! 

 

WHAT DID WE GROW THIS WINTER?

We grew big, beautiful winter-blooming AMARYLLIS and learned all about bulbs! 

WHAT WILL WE GROW THIS SPRING?

We will be growing an edible garden from seed to harvest, featuring TOMATO & BASIL SEED-BALLS. Together we will learn the basics of planting, transplanting, and harvesting, as well as about seed-balls and companion planting! One of the joys of growing an edible garden is to share the fruits of your labor with those you love! 

 

ALL ABOUT TOMATOES & BASIL! 

A perfect unblemished, sun-ripened tomato is a nostalgic garden treat. This fresh fruit (yes, it is considered a fruit, not a vegetable) can be eaten straight off the vine like an apple or enjoyed in a number of recipes, from soups and salads to sauces and sandwiches. Basil is the perfect companion plant to the tomato. Basil is an aromatic, vibrant herb that repels insects and is believed to improve tomato’s yield! 

 

ALL ABOUT SEED-BALLS! 

Seed-balls, also known as seed bombs, earth balls or clay dumplings, are a mix of clay and compost filled with seeds. They are an easy way to disperse and cultivate plants with optimal conditions for germination and growth while protecting seeds from pests and weather extremes. The history of seed-balls dates back thousands of years to the Ancient Egyptians! Seed-balls continue to be an important aspect of natural farming and conservation around the world. 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

What are Seed-Balls made from? Our seed-balls are made from natural clay mixed with three kinds of compost to optimize nutritional chemistry:

 

  • Bokashi & Bokashi Compost Tea. Bokashi is produced through a traditional anaerobic Japanese fermentation method. The bokashi is lightly composted in aerobic conditions to break down the compost. It has a low pH.

  • Vermicompost. This well-digested compost has loads of available nutrients for the seeds. It also has a lot of wood fiber which helps hold the seed balls together. It has a high pH.

  • Coconut Coir buffers highly active chemistry as well as boosts moisture retention.

This mixture not only provides a wealth of nutrients for the seedlings but also a special community of naturally occurring microorganisms. The microorganisms further break down the organic matter in the seed-ball making additional nutrients available as the plant grows! 

How many Seed-Balls do I need? You are growing a small garden, so you will only need 3 seed-balls. Each seed-ball contains lots of seeds! If you want to double the plants, double the balls - but keep in mind you will need a larger pot! If you want to grow directly outdoors, you can toss 20+ seed-balls per square meter in your garden or raised bed. If you really enjoy seed-ball gardening, you can plant an entire meadow with 500+ seed-balls! 

How do I plant Seed-Balls? Your kit will arrive with 3 color-coded seed-balls, soil, a pot, and plant labels. The red ball is tomato, the green ball is Genovese basil, and the yellow ball is Thai basil. You simply press the balls ⅔ the way down into the soil. Label each ball so once they germinate and are ready to transplant, you know which plant is which! 

Do I need to water my Seed-Balls? The seed-balls in our spring kit are being started indoors so YES, they will need to be watered every 1-2 days. You just need to moisten the soil. The roots need air too so do not flood the plant. Once they are transplanted outdoors, you may need to water more often as garden tomatoes typically require 1-2 inches of water a week! 

When will my Seed-Ball begin to sprout? The seeds will not begin to germinate until the environment is right. Once the seed-ball is planted, the temperature is right, there is sunlight, and the clay fully soaked, you will begin to see sprouts within 2 weeks. As we have learned from our other grow kits, patience is important!

How many sprouts will I see? On average, you can hope to see approximately 10 sprouts per seed-ball. Not all seeds will germinate.

 

Do I need to thin the sprouts that grow from the ball? No, the seed-ball begins to grow as a cluster of plants, but will later disperse once the clay disintegrates. 

Do Seed-Balls need to be broken up? No! Once water permeates the clay, seeds slowly begin to germinate inside the ball. The seed-ball should be left intact so as not to damage roots. 

Why are we planting with Seed-Balls and not just seeds? Planting with seed-balls gives you an opportunity to learn about a new kind of gardening! We also like seed-balls because they are easy to handle for young kids and seniors since you do not have to work with tiny seeds. We know from experience that to get good at something, you should always start small. Begin with a few seed-balls - and then expand if you enjoy it and have success! Starting small helps you learn how to garden without getting overwhelmed. 

 

Why is Seed-Balls effective for natural farming? Seed-balls are resilient and versatile. The protective shell protects fragile seeds from predators and weather extremes which guarantees a safe delivery to wherever it lands. Seed-balls also retain moisture, which facilitates germination and growth of the seedling! Seed-balls are a simple and effective method of rehabilitating damaged lands and facilitating restoration without the need for plowing or drilling. You can throw, sling, or fling seed-balls much further than you can individual seeds. This makes it ideal for people with achy backs!  After scattering seed-balls, all that is left is for the sun and rain to do their work. 

What are the benefits of planting with Seed-Balls? The plants grown from seed-balls contribute to biodiversity and provide color and food sources to different landscapes. Plants sown from seed-balls can help increase bee, butterfly, and other garden wildlife populations! Seed-balls improve soil fertility with nitrogen-rich plants. They also help enrich the landscape in neglected areas, like roadsides or abandoned lots. At a time our ecosystems are under threat of habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change, it is amazing to consider that throwing a seed-ball can help fertilize areas we never thought possible, helping bring back some of what has been lost!

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS 

Every plant carries its own special meaning and symbolism.​ This rings true to fruits and herbs! Did you know that the tomato plant is known as pomme d’amour (in French) or the Love Apple! The name basil is of Greek origin meaning "royal, kingly". In India, holy basil, also called Tulsi, is a sacred plant associated with purification, protection, love, and eternal life! 

INTERGENERATIONAL GARDEN PROGRAM 

Chickering GROWS welcomes Dover Council on Aging (COA) members to grow alongside our students. Our shared goal is for students and seniors to experience increased wellness from the therapeutic qualities of gardening as well as create lasting and meaningful connections with one another!

SHARE YOUR PHOTOS ON CHICKERING GROWS PADLET 

We cannot wait to see photos of your edible gardens as they progress on the Chickering GROWS Spring Padlet!  Visit https://padlet.com/chickering/GROWSSpringPadlet to post and view photos of your growing projects! 

© 2021 by Dover PTO 

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