Lettuce Challenge | Are you ready for your plants? | Update 2.20.2015

Dear Lettuce Challenge Participants,
Behind the scenes, delivery schedules and volunteer sign ups are being finalized, and lettuce seedlings are growing and being transplanted by volunteers in the Garden Education Center Greenhouse for the first annual Lettuce Challenge. Green Schools reps will be getting emails with more opportunities to help. Here’s a prep checklist for the classroom. We are one week away from delivery. Today is the last chance to order a sub-irrigated pop-bottle planter for your windowsill, you can pick up this $10 Family Nature Play kit at the GEC after Thursday, 2/26, and join in the Lettuce Challenge at home. You’ll be supporting the Lettuce Challenge, and can submit a photo of your final plant for our community day on April 19th.

ARE YOU READY FOR YOUR PLANTS?
Thanks to the Stamford Lettuce Challenge and G.I.V.E. for providing answers from their work with the Stamford Lettuce Challenge, many of our answers are from their school resource “HINTS TO GROW LETTUCE.”

Q. On the day of delivery what will we receive?

A. A Green School Rep will deliver small lettuce plants that have been nurtured in the GEC Greenhouse, and transplanted into premium soil in 2 ½ inch peat pots.

Q. What do we need to provide to help these lettuce plants thrive?

A. You’ll need four things to get started, here’s your CHECKLIST

________1. TRAYS AND WATERING CANS
Peat Pots should sit in a waterproof tray with an appropriate amount of water. It’s a great way to see the capillary action, as the soil draws up water up from below.

Q. What can we use as trays and watering cans?
A. Green Schools recommends you recycle containers to use as plant trays (egg carton covers, veggie/meat trays, aluminium trays, dishware, etc.). We hope you’ll share your clever ideas. For watering cans, just think about how will you refill the trays when they need more water? Example: empty yogurt cups, reusable water bottles, and we hope you’ll send us photos of your water cans too.

Q. How much water do they need?
A. They should not be always sitting in a puddle of water. The soil and peat pots will tell you when to water, as they should not be allowed to dry out.

“Remember to water pots throughout growing process. Always try to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Check the moisture level by touching the top of the soil.” – Stamford Lettuce Challenge

________2. ADEQUATE LIGHT

Q. Do we need to use grow lights?
A. “Using electric grow lights is not absolutely necessary, but it is recommended that your new plants receive at least 12 hours of light per day. The following sites provide information on using grow lights: http://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Vegetables-With-Grow-Lights; http://www.gardeners.com/GardeningUnderLights/5080,default,pg.
html” – Stamford Lettuce Challenge, Hints to Grow Lettuce

________3. APPROPRIATE TEMPERATURE

Q. What environment is best for our lettuce?
A. You will need to keep plants cool.

“For best results, keep in mind that lettuce is a cooler weather plant; keep the growing container from getting above 75 degrees. Higher growing temperatures will not harm the plants, but the temperature will have a tremendous impact on how well the lettuce is able to ball into a pronounced head. Pots kept outside, in cool, not cold, weather often do the best.” – Stamford Lettuce Challenge, Hints to Grow Lettuce

_______4. AMENDMENTS
Q. What else will my plants need?
A. Amendments are optional. However here are some notes from the Stamford Lettuce Challenge if you want to experiment. Take notes of what you’re adding. Compost and in-classroom vermicomposting workshops are also available from the GEC.

“If you chose to fertilize your lettuce
-Lettuce has a lot of green so choose a fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen (N)

-Look at the package label that identifies the proportion of N (nitrogen- for leaves, greening), P (phosphorus- for root
development) and K (potassium- for flowering)

-An example of high nitrogen would be 30-10-10; organics like Espoma Organic Plant-Tone would have a 5-3-3 proportion; generally organics are preferred, and you want to avoid “excessive” nitrogen

-If plants seem to be stalling, this means they may need a bit more fertilizer but refer to package for directions on fertilizer use.

_________5. SPACE AND TIME FOR YOUR PLANTS
Q. Where does this fit in my classroom?
A. This is our pilot year trying this in Greenwich and we want to from teachers about where and how a lettuce challenge fits in best. The simplest thing you will need is space on your windowsill. The extra time you are giving to water plants, or to make connections in your curriculum are meant to be shared and celebrated. Thank you for your interest. Please post any questions below or send them to youth.director@gecgreenwich.org and ptacgreenschools@gmail.com. We’re excited you opted to take part!

Q. What’s my goal at the end of six weeks? What should the plants look like?
A. Look for more information about buttercrunch in the next week. In the meantime, remember, a lot can happen in six weeks. More than perfect plants, we are looking for the experience and think it’s a great opportunity to tell a story, make observations, share in a community project, and try something new. Thanks again!

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