Category Archives: Gardening

Children should have a garden

Having A Garden…The Simplest Way To Teach A Child To Respect The Earth

What better way to teach children to respect the Earth then to let them dig in it. Not sand box sand but the dark damp earth, full of wiggling worms. Having a garden provides an opportunity to do this. It also teaches children the value in protecting the Earth. Having a garden will make them good global stewards.  Here are three specific reasons children should have a garden.

1) Children should know from where their food comes.

It makes me sad when I see nothing on the school lunch tray that resembles real food. When children participate in the gardening process, checking each day for new fruits and vegetables they are eager to eat real food. They learn the names of bush beans, zucchini, spaghetti squash, and more. Later on when they see big companies trying to sell over processed junk as food they will be able to call them out.

2) The bees!! Don’t kill the bees.

For the love let’s all please save the bees. Children should be cautious of bees. Who wouldn’t want to protect their children from stings but we must as a society put the pesticide down. Children who garden will learn that we need bees to make food. We have butterfly bushes and milk weed growing around our garden to invite the pollinators. We consider ourselves a little safe zone for our honey making friends and we have learned to co-exist with them.

3) A garden, like life, takes patience and perseverance. This is important.

We dig the holes, plant the seeds, and water the garden with zealous excitement. Then we wait and wait. We start to give up. Then all of a sudden we have five foot high peas and we have to make more bamboo climbing poles. More than once the kids have pulled a plum or an apple off the tree before it was ripe because they couldn’t wait anymore. There are many life lessons to be taught in the garden.

image

My little gardener

Maybe I should have been annoyed, but I loved walking into the backyard and seeing this. Four paper plates full of mud and seeds. Andrew copped to it. He explained that as he was helping me in the garden he had tucked away a few extra seeds and wanted to plant them.

He put them in some great organic potting  soil in a compostable starting container under full sun and gave them a good soak.

I did explain how there wasn’t room for the roots and helped him move his garden over to a spot of soil next to the playhouse. I hope it takes off. It will be fun to figure out what is what as they grow.

 

image

It’s about to snow…get out and garden!

This afternoon’s sun lit up my hopes for the summer garden. Despite the warm weather, there is still snow in the forecast. My dad taught me to go green by St. Patrick’s Day so today I rushed outside to get my early spring seeds planted.

Early spring plants must be planted early enough to harvest before the summer heat. They can be planted before the last frost and can handle a little snow. 60 degrees is optimal for growing but a few of these weird snow days won’t stop their progress.

With the help of Andrew I planted peas, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, bok Chou, spinach, Swiss chard, and kale right into the garden (direct sow).

Inside we started tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cauliflower, and ground cherries.

In three weeks I will do another planting of greens. In May I will plant my squash, melons, cucumbers, and beans into the garden and transplant the seedlings that will be growing inside.

 

kale

The Winter Garden

By the end of December in Maryland there is not much growing. I chair my son’s elementary school’s gardening club, and every time I walk by the dead mums and pansies I remind myself I need to clean the beds up, but it is so cold outside. So how do I keep my dinner table from looking as bleak as the flower beds? With some planning and creativity.

Eating local is a big deal. Eating local ensures a sustainable and healthy food supply. Thanks to modern shipping you can buy produce from all over the world at the grocery store. I am not suggesting that anyone give up their Florida oranges, but I do think we should all think about the carbon footprint of seasonal shipping. Produce must be wrapped up and shipped across the country, requiring containerizing and fuel. Despite the best methods, most produce can lose quality and nutritional value during shipping.

The Winter Garden: Growing a winter garden is a great way to have fresh veggies on the table. The picture featured above is of kale that is growing in my garden right now. I took the picture a few days ago while it was snowing. We also have Swiss chard growing as well though it is not as strong as the kale. Last year we had carrots and winter blend lettuces growing alongside the house. Brussels sprouts are another vegetable that can survive a mild winter.

Stocking Up: Winter squashes and apples, as well as many root vegetables will stay stable in a cool dark place for up to eight weeks. This year we had finished all the squash and apples we had squirreled away by Thanksgiving, but next year we will have to put more in reserves.

Harvest Preservation: With good planning you can prepare foods that wouldn’t otherwise last the winter. This includes canning, dehydrating, fermenting, and freezing. In my family we relay mainly on freezing. My father on the other hand is able to set aside the time to preserve cases and cases of jars of vegetables and fruits. Dried or canned produce can by cooked with locally grown poultry to make soups and broths.

Green House: If you have the land for a green house I say build it! What a treat to be able to extend the growing season for your area. Even if you don’t have a green house, you can plant a few favorites indoors. This works well for herbs.

IMG_0487

Planning for Winter: Around the same time we start running out of produce, the seed catalogs start to arrive. I keep a stash under my mattress like a teenage boy keeps girly magazines. I circle the plants I want the way my kids do toys when they go through the toys-r-us mailers.  I’m thinking of the tender sweet plants of spring and summer and the bright colors of the flowers I will plant. Using your garden to sustain your family requires year round planning though. However the summer harvest turns out, a good portion needs to be preserved for winter. Also, I need to make sure I have enough of the summer beds harvested and turned over to sew the winter seeds.

So back to the fact it is the end of December and  it is too late now to plant your winter garden. Don’t be discouraged. Check your supermarket for local produce or visit the local farmers market. The good news is Spring will be here soon. My asparagus and rhubarb start coming up in late February, which is when I direct sew lettuce, spinach, and peas.

I am a coffee person. My kids know not to task me with anything too difficult until I’ve had the chance to at least sip my coffee. Usually one cup, maybe two, is enough for the day though so last year I put the new-must-have coffee device on my Christmas wish list. My husband bought me the Keurig coffee maker, as well an assortment of K cups. He even remembered to get the Fair Trade Certified brands.

Oh my Keurig

Oh my Keurig

Once the thing was set up and I brewed my first cup, I took the used K cup to the refuse bins. Recycle or Garbage- which one? I hated to do it, but this thing was plastic, foil, and food waste. It went in the garbage but over the next few days it began to pile up. So I did some experimenting. Despite what Keurig’s website says…you CAN recycle these cups.

Question
Are K-Cup® packs Recyclable?
Answer
The challenge of protecting the freshness of roasted coffee while using environmentally friendly packaging is one that both Keurig and the coffee industry are committed to overcoming. We are very sensitive about the waste created by the K-Cup® packs and are investigating alternative materials. Finding a solution for this is a priority for us, and one we hope to have before long

The process works best if you wait until you have 10-15 cups ready to toss. We put the used ones in a bowl next to the Keurig. When it is full we prepare the empties for recycling. Here are the steps:

Step 1- Peal the foil off

Peal the foil off

Peal the foil off

Step 2- Shake out the grounds. We like to shake them into house plants. Coffee grinds make great compost matter. Hypothetically if you had enough it would be worth the trip to the outdoor compost bin. Coffee grounds are also bug repellents so that is another reason to put them in the house plants.

Shake out grounds

Shake out grounds

Step 3- Rip out the paper liner. Not all K cups have this. Some have a plastic disk at the bottom which you can pop out with your finger nail. It depends on the brand but I haven’t come across any filter methods I couldn’t remove.

Peel out the filter

Peel out the filter

Step 4- Recycle or Re-purpose. In my county we have a great recycling program. I have noticed that other counties don’t though. If you can’t recycle here are some ideas for re-purposing K cups.

Ready for the recycling can

Ready for the recycling can

Platter or dish holders. They are sturdy and can handle heat.

Holding up a plate or dish. They can handle heat and are very sturdy.

Holding up a plate or dish. They can handle heat and are very sturdy.

Sorting cups for small items like pills, beads, change, etc.

Sorting cups for pills, change, jewelry, beads, toys.

Sorting cups for pills, change, jewelry, beads, toys.

And my favorite idea by far…
Seed starters. They are the perfect size and already have a drainage hole. Line them up in a tray, fill them with 3-4 tablespoons of dirt, and put a seed in each cup. You can label the seed right on the cup. Give them water and sun and yout garden is on it’s way.

Seed starters

Seed starters

Speaking of Peas

By tomorrow these babies will be crawling up their poles

By tomorrow these babies will be crawling up their poles

They are finally up! I dug their bamboo teepee poles out from alongside the garage this afternoon so they can start climbing. Peas are such a great crop with which to start and end the season. Because they are hearty and fast-growing kids enjoy planting them and watching them climb and bare pods. My kids love to eat the whole pods right off the plant. 

 

This is the time of year where I really need to dig deep and get my second wind. I’ve already sowed and reaped two harvests and now I need to nurture my winter garden. This is the first year of our “expanded garden.” Stay tuned for a blog post on how we built a garden where our neighbor’s used to have a pool. Here is a teaser…it was a ton of work. I have to remember there will not be a whole lot of local organic produce at the store this winter.

Kale...or as the kids say..."more green stuff please."

Kale…or as the kids say…”more green stuff please.”

Right now I have lots of kale and coming up. The spinach I planted is not doing so well. I have some lettuce but plan on planting more. I also plan on seeding more carrots. I plan on sowing some radish too. No one in my family really likes radish but they pop up fast. It is kinda like a home pregnancy test “yes your garden is growing.” Because we do our own composting you never know what will start growing where. We do have some random lettuce and potatoes starting to grow here and there as well. Last year I planted lettuce and carrots alongside the house and they grew through much of the winter. Kale and swiss chard can both take a frost and even a little snow.

20131006_173340

Tomorrows battle is to fight the mildew

Tomorrow’s battle is to fight the mildew

The wintersquash is full of potential. Beetles got at my summer squash. After losing that crop we planted a ton of marigolds and the beetles got lost. However today I noticed some mold on the vines. Any tips?

I will be excited if this beautiful plant bears fruit too

I will be excited if this beautiful plants bears fruit too

A lot of plants from earlier in the season are still doing well. The broccoli is just now starting to bolt. The heirloom tomato plants are heavy with big green tomatoes. This year on a whim I put in a tomatillo plant and it looks cool, about 4 1/2 feet tall with lots of foliage and but no fruit yet. The pepper plants are yielding the sweetest peppers ever. The funny thing is they are only about a foot high. We grew them from seeds from peppers we bought at the store and started them inside back in May. They grew so slow I was sure they were duds. Then one day there were peppers almost as big as the plant itself.

 

These pepper plants are tiny but the yellow and orange peppers are delicious

These pepper plants are tiny but the yellow and orange peppers are delicious

 

There is a watermelon plant that we transplanted from the back yard. My dad calls these plants volunteers. I think the kids were spitting seeds early in the summer and one took hold. Steve asked me to clean up the yard so he could mow and I spotted it. The vine has since grown long but t won’t last through a frost so if it is going to grow fruit it is now or never.

Here goes nothing

Here goes nothing

Because we are still building up the beds from nothing (sand and clay) we are trying some new this year called green composting. I bought a small bag one pound bag of winter rye. The plan is to let it grow in the beds over the winter and come spring till it in. From what I have read it sounds like the plant will pull nutrients up from deep in the soil to the top layers where our spring crops can thrive. I am sure I am over simplifying that process but like I said this is a new one. I’ll keep you posted.