Due to COVID-19, Dr. Brandon Noel's environmental science class at GPS was unable to continue its partnership with Crabtree Farms, where the girls obtain first-hand experience and training from the farm's experts about how best to tend and raise plants. Through this partnership, Crabtree would plant some brassicas (multi-harvest) veggies the girls would have eventually transplanted into the GPS garden.
"But due to the pandemic, we were forced to forego this experience," said Dr. Noel, "and the girls were tasked with researching the best root crops—those that require direct seeding into the garden—to plant." Each student tends her own garden bed (beds are 4' by 8'), which facilitates the recommended six feet of social distancing.
This week the girls were instructed how best to thin or trim their plants. "By thinning/trimming the seedlings, they make sure the stronger plants are getting the nutrients and not competing with other plants for space or nutrients," Dr. Noel said. "It is important to thin plants at the base of the soil instead of pulling each individual seedling out. Pulling the entire plant up can often disturb the root structure and ultimate viability of the root crop you are intending to grow."
The girls are growing a collective of root crop varieties of carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, and even some beans. A few carrot varieties include Bolero, Purple Sun, Atlas, Yaya, and Naval carrots. The turnip varieties include Scarlett Queen Red Stem and Hakurei turnips. The beet varieties include Red Ace, Babybeat, Chioggia Guardsmark, and Subeto beets. The radish varieties include Red King 2, Crunchy King, Nero Tondo, and Pink Beauty radishes. Lastly, they've planted Frontier and Guardsmen onions (two varieties) along with Fino fennel, Albion parsnips, and Dulcina beans.
"Hopefully by the end of November or start of December we'll have a plethora of root veggies to donate to the Chattanooga Food Bank, and we'll take a break from gardening before planning for a nice productive spring and summer garden," Dr. Noel said.