Posted by: csdailyblog | October 9, 2009

Collecting Seeds in the Conserve School Community Garden and Prairie

Autumn is the time to collect and dry seeds from the Conserve School organic garden and nearby restored prairie. Students disperse some of the seeds and start others indoors in the spring for setting out in the garden as soon as the weather is warm enough. Our small prairie was established in an area disturbed by construction. Student and staff efforts to bring the prairie along year by year has resulted in more and more native plant growth. This summer we saw the most flowers ever. Andrew Milbauer, Science Teacher, writes about yesterday’s activities:

Students in the prairie collecting seeds

Students in the prairie collecting seeds

We were collecting and scattering seeds in the prairie to help increase species density and dispersal within the prairie with the Applied Ecology class.  Plants we worked with included big bluestem (aka turkey foot), coneflower, asters, black eyed susan, milkweed, Canada rye, and cup plant.  These plants create deep roots which will help the old construction pile continue to build up a thick layer of topsoil over the years.  By using the seeds harvested in the area we are helping to select for varieties that are hardy in our colder climate.

We also saved seeds in the community garden. These seeds will be  started in the spring to help provide food for the bees and butterflies in the summer, and the birds in the fall. By saving seeds we select for traits that are better adapted to our short summers and chilly nights. This practice also promotes preserving genetic diversity.  The marigold seeds are in fact a French heirloom that is over 100 years old.  It is higher in secondary compounds than modern marigold varieties, helping to repel insect pests from the nearby vegetables.  (The Sustainability Campus Service Team was working in the garden Wednesday afternoon, cleaning up dead plants, and the students were remarking on the strong “skunk” smell the marigold plants give off.) We will start the seeds in class in the spring with the ultimate goal of moving them out into the gardens in May. This is the beginning of the unit in which we discuss agricultural practices, the Dust Bowl, soil conservation and the Green Revolution. While this class explores the science of the Dust Bowl, Michael Salat is covering the history of the Dust Bowl and the the Green Revolution, and Kathleen is covering the literature of this period with Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

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