Spring is just around the corner, and like the plants that are being reborn all around Pathfinder, the garden is getting revitalized, too! Spring cleaning has begun and the garden is getting a fresh make-over.
All hands are on deck as Pathfinder gets ready for the warm weather and 50th year celebration in April. Maintenance began a project in the front lobby to try and get some plants growing even earlier than the cold would allow; and it worked! Live in a cold place, or have soil with little to no nutrients? Check out our experimental hydroponics system. Hydroponics doesn’t require soil. Instead, the plants are placed in plastic containers (drill holes through the sides and bottom) that are filled with shredded coconut medium, which absorbs water and nutrients from the water basin that it’s submerged in. We used an old plastic bin, recycled yogurt containers, an aquarium pump, and 6 gallons of purified water. Instead of daily watering, with hydroponics you can simply add 1 gallon of water every two weeks!
Not only can plants grow year round when protected from the elements outside, but you can also save both space and water! In our experiment, the basil is flourishing but our spinach is not. Try it at home and post the results of your own hydroponics system on our Facebook page. We’d sure love to know!
Another project a few Naturalists have been working on is our compost. As the weather gets warmer, and we want to grow many more things than will fit in our hydroponics system, we need soil for our plants to thrive in. As old plant matter breaks down, it creates fertile soil which you can use for planting. This decomposition harnesses the power of the circle of life. Why buy something you normally just throw away each day? Use those food scraps and start your own compost. Your garden will love you for it!
Have you ever composted before? If not, here are a few tips from our resident garden expert, Rain:
1. Dig your compost pile down at least a few inches. This makes the pile easier to turn and keeps heat in. Keeping the pile warmer will produce soil sooner.
2. Cover your compost. Again, this keeps it nice and warm which breaks down material faster. This also helps to keep unwanted critters away.
3. Turn your compost. There are plenty of fun ways to do this, including rolling it around in an old trash can! The reason is simple..all those microbes and other organisms like earthworms that help the food turn to soil need the help of oxygen.
4. Add nearly everything! Add any food waste that comes from plants: bread, veggies, fruit cores and peels, pasta, french fries, coffee grinds, tomato sauce, leaves and twigs, and even old paper, napkins, and tea bags! (Did you know it takes less energy for the paper to break down in the compost than to be recycled into new paper? Plus this added carbon helps the compost to be more nutritious and less smelly!)
New projects are springing forward to make this year’s garden the most beautiful and bountiful yet! We’ve had some amazing 4th-6th grade gardeners already come and help plant many new crops. How about you? This spring you too could revitalize that little plot of green space or an empty windowsill into a lean, mean food producing machine!
Thanks for reading,
Your Pathfinder Ranch Naturalists and Staff
The springtime sunshine and rain showers have helped our plants and grass grow tall and green. The animals (and Naturalists) have many tasty greens to eat from the garden!
The horses have been enjoying their lush, green pasture to nibble on. Lucas, one of our older horses, has his own special “snack bar,” next to to feeding troughs.
In the Nature Center, the snakes have been shedding their scales and the box turtles have been busy nibbling on their lettuce leaves. Kelso, our Desert Tortiose, has been splashing around in his Vitamin C bath after munching on his leafy greens!