Archive for 2014

Preparing Soil for Winter

Monday, October 27th, 2014
Leaves are falling and the air is crisp; fall is definitely here. Another year eaten, canned and preserved! The garden season is over. It’s time to put away canning supplies, garden tools and prepare for winter to come. The garden looks barren and boring. I already miss the color and purpose of this space. In preparation for spring, consider Ward Upham’s, K-State Extension Agent’s, advice: “Fall is the preferred time to prepare garden soil for next spring’s vegetable garden. Spring is often wet making it difficult to work soil without forming clods that remain the rest of the season. Fall usually is drier allowing more time to work the soil when it is at the correct soil moisture content. Even if you work soil wet in the fall and form clods, the freezing and thawing that takes place in the winter will break them down, leaving a mellow soil the following spring. Insects often hide in garden debris. If that debris is worked into the soil, insects will be less likely to survive the winter. Diseases are also less likely to overwinter if old plants are worked under. Also, garden debris will increase the organic matter content of the soil. Working the debris into the soil is easier if you mow the old vegetable plants several times to reduce the size of the debris. Fall is an excellent time to add organic matter. Not only are organic materials usually more available in the fall (leaves, rotten hay or silage, grass clippings) but fresher materials can be added in the fall than in the spring because there is more time for them to break down before spring planting. As a general rule, add 2 inches of organic material to the surface of the soil and till it in. Be careful not…

Educate Your Community & Earn Money For Your FFA Chapter

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
Attention FFA Chapters and FFA Advisors: Educate Your Community & Earn Money For Your FFA Chapter. The Nutrients for Life Foundation is accepting application for the 2014-2015 Helping Communities Grow program! The Foundation wants to partner with FFA chapters to educate the local community about the importance of crop nutrients in food production.  Fertilizer is responsible for 40-50% of the world’s food production. It is a key ingredient to reducing and even eliminating famine. Ford West, former president of The Fertilizer Institute, tells how valuable fertilizer is to humanity.   “There are signs, though, that the day is closer than ever before when famine could be eliminated. Untold numbers of smart people are applying themselves to developing the science of crop production all around the world. Advances in crop genetics, plant health, and production technology all contribute to the ability of modern agriculture to produce more than ever before. But, in the midst of that progress, it is still fertilizer that feeds the world. Land use, human nutrition and the carbon cycle form an intricate set of relationships. Healthy plants use carbon dioxide, give off oxygen and increase soil organic matter, thereby enhancing soil fertility. Harvesting crops removes nutrients in the form of our food, and those nutrients must be replaced to nourish the next crop. For these reasons, soil fertility and fertilizer will remain key components of feeding the world’s hungry population. Our overall standard of living is made possible largely by farmers’ work to produce abundant, high-quality, affordable food. However, as agriculture has grown more productive, fewer people understand it. Agriculture should not become isolated from society. We cannot allow the idea that “food comes only from the supermarket” to take root. It is nearly impossible for people to make good decisions about any subject unless those decisions…

From The Ground Up: The Science of Soil Year Two Launch!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
Today we are launching new activities and features on From the Ground Up: The Science of Soil! Early in 2014, Nutrients for Life Foundation expanded its reach into the digital world through a partnership with Discovery Education, From the Ground Up: The Science of Soil (FTGU).  Together, the two organizations created a microsite with a collection of digital activities, interactive lesson plans, career spotlights and videos all about soil science and crop nutrients. FTGU is designed to extend the success of Nutrients for Life’s Nourishing the Planet in the 21st Century curriculum by providing cutting-edge, educational and dynamic multimedia content designed to engage 21st century classrooms. Now in year two, the Foundation is looking ahead and planning a virtual field trip, three new video segments, an interactive digital exploration activity, two additional fertilizer industry career spotlights, and two more at-home family learning activities. Family Activities More than ever, consumers are looking to buy high quality and responsibly sourced food. There has never been a better time to get into agriculture-related fields, but many students and their families are unaware of the myriad careers in this sector, particularly those that relate to science, technology, math, and engineering. This fall, a family activity will introduce students and their families to different career paths related to agriculture and soil science. Students will work with their parents to assess their skills and interests and then match those skills and interests to different career options, such as engineering, fertilizer blending and spraying in the agriculture sector. Another family activity will feature an overview of the ‘farm-to-food’ supply chain. Farmers are the first step in the food chain that feeds the world. Every part of the farm-to-food supply chain requires human and/or natural resources and, when one part of the chain is affected, they are all…

FFA Friday: Louisiana

Friday, October 10th, 2014
Ponchatoula FFA Takes First Place Award Honors, Central LaFourche FFA Wins Second, and St. Amante FFA Wins Third Place Happy FFA Friday! Louisiana had six participating chapters in the Helping Communities Grow Program this year. Congratulations to the top three chapters, Ponchatoula FFA, Central LaFourche FFA, and St. Amante FFA. Ponchatoula FFA won first place by creating and presenting exhibits for community events. The chapter presented fertilizer and planting demonstrations for strawberries to over 10,000 visitors at their town’s annual Strawberry Festival. The chapter also volunteered at a local organization for people with disabilities, helping them evaluate thefertilizer needs for the soil in their  raised bed gardens. Central LaFourche FFA won second place for their nutrient lessons for fourth and fifth grade students. The chapter split into teams of two and visited classrooms demonstrating the soil components, they discussed which nutrients are required to help plants grow, and raised awareness of coastal erosion. They used the Nutrients for Life curriculum to design experiments for the students, including a bean plant and soil layers experiment. The St. Amante FFA chapter won third place for developing hands-on workshops for elementary school students. The workshops focused on plant development, soil testing, planting vegetables, and how to apply fertilizer to gardens. They also taught the students how to track how fertilizer increases plant production. Congratulations to all the chapters that participated! The Nutrients for Life Foundation program in Louisiana is supported by the program’s founding sponsor, PotashCorp. FFA chapters, remember to complete step 1, by November 14, 2014, to participate in the 2014-2015 program! Details can be found at here.

Nutrients in the Garden 20: Pumpkins & Peanuts

Monday, October 6th, 2014
We did it! For the first time ever, we grew pumpkins and peanuts! Adding new crops to the garden keeps our fingernails dirty and our interested peaked. From one seed packet, costing $1.99 we picked 15 pumpkins!! If I had bought 15 pumpkins at $4.00 each, I would have spent $60. Growing the pumpkins was relatively easy this year. I fertilized twice, watered regularly, hoed weeds A LOT, and didn’t have any insect problems. We are definitely going to plant pumpkins again next year. Who knew they would be so heavy? I didn’t know anything about growing peanuts. I wanted to try something new and peanuts were for sale with the other seed last spring. I said, “let’s try it,” and threw the packet in the shopping cart. I am so glad I did. We have been talking about the peanuts all summer, anticipation of what it growing beneath the soil. Our plants were just beginning to turn yellow and that is when the seed packet said to harvest.  We pulled the plant up and much to our amazement, there were cute peanuts attached to the roots. We shook the soil off and studied the little nuts! Although they are harvested, the peanuts have to dry before we can eat them. We are going to hang them in the garage for a month. Oh, I hope they taste good and don’t disappoint my hopes! I think we will try them raw and roasted.  Did you know that it takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12 ounce jar of peanut butter? Could this be the beginning of a Halloween costume? I would recommend adding pumpkins or peanuts to any home or school garden. Kids easily related to the big orange squash and the delicious taste of peanut butter. Both of…

FFA Friday: Kansas

Friday, October 3rd, 2014
Inman FFA Takes First Place Award Honors; Clay Center FFA Wins Second, and Ellsworth FFA Wins Third Place Welcome back to FFA Friday! Kansas had nine participating chapters in the Helping Communities Grow Program this year. Congratulations to the top three chapters, Inman FFA, Clay Center FFA, and Ellsworth FFA. Inman FFA took top honors by partnering with their local schools and community members. All 84 chapter members helped to increase the size of their local garden and produced four videos played on their local television channel. The chapter also visited elementary and middle school classrooms to teach lessons about healthy lifestyles and growing plants. Clay Center FFA won second place by partnering with the local school district and Wilbur-Ellis representative. The chapter participated in Farm Safety day and GROW IT. GROW IT included four stations focusing on information from the Nutrients for Life curriculum. Ellsworth FFA won third place by creating plant science lessons for elementary school students. The chapter also created a coloring contest for the students. The coloring sheets featured facts about plants and agriculture. Congratulations to all of the chapters that participated!  The Nutrients for Life Foundation program in Kansas is supported by the program’s founding sponsor, Koch Ag and Energy Services, LLC.  FFA chapters, remember to complete step 1, by November 14, 2014, to participate in the 2014-2015 program! Details can be found here.

FFA Friday: Iowa

Friday, September 26th, 2014
Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA Takes First Place Award Honors, South-Tama County FFA Wins Second, and Westwood FFA Wins Third Place We are back with another FFA Friday post! Iowa had eighteen participating chapters in the Helping Communities Grow program this year. Congratulations to the top three chapters, Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA, South-Tama FFA, and Westwood FFA. Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA took first prize with their fertilizer and seed germination experiment project. The chapter developed lessons and activities to do with elementary school students. During the experiment about the students saw how plants germinate. .The experiments also showed how different levels of nutrients in the soil affected plant growth and development. South-Tama FFA won second place by starting a recycling and composting program at their school. FFA members gathered food waste and placed it in a composter. They presented their composting project and results at an Ag Expo during National FFA week. Westwood FFA won third place by doing a variety of activities about plant nutrients and fertilizer. The chapter visited elementary school students and taught lessons on the vital nutrients plants need to grow and develop into a consumable product. The chapter also created an interactive game called “Feed the Corn” to learn about the nutrients plants need to grow. Congratulations to all of the chapters that participated! The Nutrients for Life Foundation program in Iowa is supported by the program’s founding sponsor, CF Industries. FFA chapters, remember to complete step 1, by November 14, 2014, to participate in the 2014-2015 program! Details can be found at here.

FFA Friday: Illinois

Friday, September 19th, 2014
Prairie Central FFA Takes First Place Award Honors;  Cuba FFA Wins Second, and Maroa Forsyth FFA Wins Third Place Welcome back to FFA Friday! Illinois had 22 participating chapters in the Helping Communities Grow program this year. Congratulations to the top three chapters, Prairie Central FFA, Cuba FFA, and Maroa Forsyth FFA. Prairie Central FFA won first place for a three part project including an elementary educational program, an informative breakfast for students and staff, and a community booth titled “Harvesting Hope.” The educational program taught elementary school students about the role of fertilizer in growing plants. The breakfast highlighted the farmer’s role in feeding the world. The community booth had games and handouts for all aged showing the positive aspects of fertilizer and maintaining a food supply. Cuba FFA won second place by leading various activities throughout the year. In the fall, younger FFA members grew a 1,800 square foot garden and older members grew 200 acres of corn and soybeans. In the springtime, members gave back to their community by planting flowers in planting beds. Third place goes to Maroa Forsyth FFA for growing plants in their greenhouse and hydroponic system. With their new knowledge, members taught fourth through tenth graders about soil and fertilizer. Congratulations to all of the Illinois chapters that participated! The Nutrients for Life Foundation program in Arizona is supported by the program’s founding sponsor, CF Industries.  FFA chapters, remember to complete step 1, by November 14, 2014, to participate in the 2014-2015 program! Details can be found at https://www.nutrientsforlife.org/helpingcommunitiesgrow.

10 Ways Soil Nutrients are Similar to Human Nutrients

Thursday, September 18th, 2014
“Show me your hands! Wow, they look too clean! Let’s get them dirty!” School is way more fun when the students get to dig in! I am a regular volunteer at our school garden and the students love to see me in the hallway because they know they are going to get dirty while they learn. With almost every garden lesson we talk about the importance of fertile soil. To make it relevant to the students, I often compare their needs to the needs of plants. Humans and plants both have nutritional needs. Whether you in the garden, the kitchen, or at school, you too can teach the importance of human and plant nutrition. Here are ten ways soil nutrients are similar to human nutrients. Nutrients for plants mainly come from the soil. Nutrients for humans primarily come from food, often food grown in the soil. Potassium helps human control muscles and the rhythm of the heart. In plants, potassium helps plants control and use water efficiently. In the context of plant requirements, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen are called the non-mineral nutrients. People need these too. The full list of essential nutrients both humans and plants need includes manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, iron, copper, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and chlorine. Nutrition labels & fertilizer bag labels give a clear breakdown of the nutrients provided. If only I didn’t have to worry about pesky calories like a pea plant! All of the essential nutrients plants and humans need can be found on the periodic table of elements. Iron in humans helps move oxygen. Iron helps the body make hemoglobin that moves oxygen and hemoglobin through the blood. This is similar to phosphorus moving energy around the plant. Calcium equals strong bones for humans. Whereas in plants, nitrogen helps grow strong stalks.…

FFA Friday: Idaho

Friday, September 12th, 2014
Another FFA Friday post!  Idaho had eleven participating chapters in the Helping Communities Grow program this year. Congratulations to the top three chapters, Salmon FFA, Hansen FFA, and Genesee FFA. (more…)

Nutrients in the Garden 20: End of the Season

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Here we are at the end of another garden season. The hail set me back, for some of you it was grasshoppers, deer or disease. As I harvest the last of the summer veggies, I am taking notes on what grew well and what didn’t.   (more…)