At Interlochen Elementary School, we really had our work cut out for us when we decided to revitalize several of the outdoor raised beds to cultivate more vegetables than the indoor hydroponic garden in the school library could support. Just outside those library windows where the kale and nasturtiums grow in a nutrient solution under fluorescent lights, there are ten large raised beds. The beds had been left to their own devices for about 2 years and as one 2nd grader described it, “It looked like we were just growing weeds.” Needless to say, there was a lot of weeding to do!
With the help of volunteers and students, we successfully weeded five of the ten beds, removed three, and relocated two. Then we added about 1 inch of compost to each one. To make weeding easy, one person first loosened the soil using a digging fork or a broadfork. This broke up the dense root structures below the surface of the soil. Then, we proceeded to weed using hand tools, strong hands, and sheer will power. Well, many hands make light work – and within several hours about 300 square feet of gardening space was made ready for planting!
The one complication that remains at the Interlochen Elementary School Garden is the underground system of tree roots that have begun to penetrate the soil in the raised beds. Let this lesson be learned: Watch out for trees when planning your school or home garden, as their roots can find their way into your beds and compete with your plants for soil nutrients and space.