Learning from Kid’s Gardens

What We Can Learn from Kids’ Gardens

Learning From Kids Gardens

There are tons of books and articles on how to teach kids about gardening. And it is lots of fun to teach young gardeners and show them how to pull a carrot or find an earthworm. But kids who like to garden do it for the fun of it…so there’s a lot that we serious grownups can learn about gardening from kids.

Forget the rules. (or hold them loosely.) Plants grow more easily for kids than for adults. The first time I helped with a children’s garden project, we were planting peas for a Peas (peace) Garden. I had prepped the soil along the fence and about 20 kids of all ages came in and willy-nilly planted their peas. I attempted to teach a few about how to plant peas, but everywhere I looked peas were being thrown about or stomped into the ground. After all the kids left, I asked their teacher if I should replant some of the peas so the kids wouldn’t be disappointed when their plants didn’t grow. The teacher laughed and said, “They’ll grow….they always do.” Plants will grow for kids while adults who do the same thing will have failures. Sure enough. Peas planted 4 inches in the ground, or peas barely touching the soil, all sprouted and grew. Adults who have a playful attitude toward their plants, get better results than some of us who follow the rules too much.

More “Garden Candy”
Garden Candy is what one of the kids called peas because it’s what her grandma called them. Truthfully, we all want more strawberries and fewer cabbages. But they don’t have to just be strawberries. Cherry tomatoes and little round carrots and side sprouts of broccoli all have excellent potential as “garden candy.” Think of raw veggies naturally sweet and little enough for nibbling by small mouths. It may take some encouragement on your part to get the kids to taste the fresh peas or carrots and recognize how different they are than the cooked veggies they know.

More PlayLearning From Kids Gardens 03.25.16a
Besides a colorful fences around the garden, kids know to mix art and plants together everywhere. And they know some plants aren’t just for eating. Beans for example. Sure you can grow them in little bushes or perfect t-post trellises, but they taste even yummier when grown on teepees trellises that you can also hide inside on a hot summer day. And why grow plain beans with white flowers when you can grow scarlet runner beans! Kids always choose our Festive Rainbow blends of carrots or radishes or lettuces. More color please. More shiny brightly colored sparkly things in the garden, please.

 

 

More Art
Learning from kids gardens 03.25.16bSure, a Sharpie on an ice cream stick marks where your vegetables are. Adults don’t have time to make magnificent Martha Stewart plant labels. However kids know garden markers from Michaels’ and little drawings on rocks make great art. So do a few “container gardens” planted in old boots and bright plastic flowers stuck in the ground.

Tall Sunflowers are a Must.
Even kids who aren’t all that into vegetables know instinctively that sunflowers are beautiful and make people smile.

Be Proud of your Garden.
Your friends come over and you start apologizing for your weeds. Your kids however are pulling on the adults saying, “Come see my garden” because there’s one lonely marigold in full bloom.

Learning from kids gardens 03.25.16c

Only Plant what You Love.
You don’t see eight year-olds planting some vegetable they hate because they know they should. They plant flowers based on their favorite colors and they plant peach pits and apple seeds. And they learn to love kale because the red curly one is so cool.

Don’t Forget to Invite the Fairies and Garden Sprites
A little fairy garden is a delight for all ages (and for the fairies.)

Learning from kids gardens 03.25.16d

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits
https://www.parentmap.com/article/15-garden-crafts-for-kids
https://whidbeyschoolgardens.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/love-our-scarlet-runner-bean-teepee/

 

In a Vase on Monday

 

In a Vase on MondayIn a Vase on Monday

03.21.16a

Oh Welcome Happy Spring! After our snow dump of 15 inches this weekend and now 60 degrees of sunshine today, Spring flowers are erupting everywhere. Cutting a few flowering branches to bring indoors is always a favorite Spring thing to do, but this week I am inspired by UK garden blogger Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who has inspired many across the internet with her habit of gathering natural materials from outdoors for a vase in her home every Monday.

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“In a Vase on Monday” fits in well with what I call the spiritual practices of gardening. It’s another way Nature entices us to slow down and notice what wonders are going on around us. In the scurry of busy lives of getting to work or school or the distraction of worrying about the week, we can get disconnected with nature. A ritual like a Monday vase helps you practice noticing. Sort of mindfulness before mindfulness was the in thing. If your Mondays are too hectic you can prepare your vase on Sunday. What I find is that once you start a practice like this, you’ll start noticing good candidates for your Monday vase all week. It also helps me get in that needed pruning and garden work on Saturday…just so I can have more material for the Monday vase.

03.21.16b
Take a quick walk in your yard (or neighborhood) to gather what might be in bloom. Here’s what I have to work with today:

Plum branches, little grape hyacinths, wild violets, daffodils, forsythia, some early pussy willows, catkins from a birch, euonymous branches.

Here are some pictures this week from people who practice this habit in March of “In a Vase on Monday!” Be inspired.

In a Vase on Monday

https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/03.21.16e
https://pbmgarden.wordpress.com/tag/flower-arranging/
http://krispgarden.blogspot.com/2015/04/in-vase-on-monday-spring-splendor.html

 

Kelp: A Gardener’s Best Friend

Kelp: A Gardener’s Best Friend

by Sandy Swegel

Kelp Forest

Sunlight through kelp forest

Our local garden club invited a rose expert from Jackson and Perkins to give us some winter inspiration this week. Rose growers are like tomato growers….they have their own little secrets and rituals to make their roses the best and the biggest. Our expert showed us pictures from his own garden that made me a believer in kelp. His plants treated with kelp and fertilizer were bigger and more robust than plants treated with just fertilizer If you are going to use soil amendments in your garden, kelp should be at the top of the list right after organic fertilizer.

So what does kelp offer?

Sea Minerals.
Kelp and other seaweeds are good sources of trace minerals that are often deficient in ordinary garden soil. So kelp is a good ingredient as a fertilizer…but not a substitute for your regular fertilizer.

Plant Growth Hormones.
OK, this is the real reason gardeners love kelp. Its natural plant growth hormones (cytokinins) stimulate extra growth in our plants and in our soil microbes. This is the “secret weapon” part of using kelp in your garden. Kelp stimulates roots, plant growth, flower production by virtue of the hormones even more than because of the vitamins and minerals.

Plant Health and Resilience.
Plants treated with kelp showed more drought resistance and bug resistance. Aphids in particular don’t like the taste of kelp and avoided kelp sprayed leaves. Anecdotally, I have found that a kelp foliage spray reduces powdery mildew.

Kelp Seaweed

Kelp Seaweed

How to Use Kelp
Kelp comes as kelp meal and as a liquid. An interesting thing about kelp is that when you apply kelp changes what kelp does for your plant. If you want sturdier roots, add kelp meal when planting to stimulate root growth. If you want more flowers on roses or tomatoes, apply it as a spray when your plants were budding. (Thanks researchers from the marijuana industry for these studies.) Some tomato growers use kelp weekly once tomatoes start to flower. If you are trying to improve your soil, apply meal or liquid to the soil once soil temperatures are above 60 or so when soil microbes are active. I like to use a weak kelp liquid spray weekly during hot spells in summer and spray all over the tops and undersides of leaves. It perks the plants up and gives the garden a lovely ocean smell. Plants absorb kelp better through leaves than through roots.

How Not to Use KelpKelp
More kelp isn’t better than small amounts of kelp. Don’t just throw it on your garden thinking more is better. Think about what effect you want. Do you want more tomatoes? Then applying kelp when the tomato is growing leaves but not making flowers yet will give you more leafy growth, not more tomatoes. On the other hand, a little kelp spray on your greens will increase the number and vitality of leaves.

Do Your Own Experiment
If you are going to add kelp to your repertoire, try a science experiment. Select a plant that you give kelp to and one a little further away that doesn’t get kelp. Do they behave differently?

 

Cabbage and Clover Husbandry

Cabbage and Clover Husbandry

by Sandy Swegel03.14.16

St Patrick’s Day is this week…a traditional day for planting peas. But you know that….so get ready to plant your peas. This year I’m thinking about Ireland and two plants usually associated with Ireland: cabbage and clover (not necessarily the four-leaf variety.) A little internet browsing led to an interesting connection to these two plants. One…they both like to grow in cool humidity like Spring and Fall. Cabbage is a cool season crop. Two… old country wisdom and modern science show that cabbage and clover are excellent companion crops.

Books in England dating back to the 1700s recommend cabbage “Husbandry” the old word for farming. Cabbage was highly regarded because it lasted well as a stored food for winter and because cows and sheep that ate cabbage in the winter made sweeter milk than those that ate turnips. Standard practice in England in the olden days was to plant a clover cover crop and follow that with cabbage or potatoes. Turns out that cabbage that grows in clover or where clover had been grown and tilled under are larger and have significantly fewer pests included the cabbage looper. Cabbage moths are still the bane of cabbage growers. Modern no-till farmers have adopted this centuries old wisdom to plant cabbage right into a field of clover.

03.14.16 looper-caterpillar1-2

Besides being good for cows and sheep, cabbage is healthy for us and a staple in many cuisines. I am particularly fond of the red cabbages because they are pretty! Here are a few tips to grow cabbage:

It’s a cool season crop.
That means you have to get it in early. Or plant it in mid-summer for fall harvest.

They do well from transplants.
Start seeds indoors or in a cold frame 8 weeks before last Spring frost. Then transplant it about 2-4 weeks before last Spring frost. Cabbage is a “heavy feeder” so you need good soil or extra fertilization and regular irrigation.

Watch out for pests.
Cutworms and cabbage loopers love cabbage too…but they are pretty easy to pick off if you stay after them. Little paper collars protect transplants from the cutworms. If you don’t like to pick off the worms, it is a good organic control.

Cabbage make great microgreens.03.14.16 red-cabbage-microgreens-in-soil
Cabbage germinates in about two days in your warm kitchen. Another superfood from the brassica family.
For more on the science of intersowing clover and cabbage and other brassicas
http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/IP-27.pdf
http://www.modernvictorygarden.com/apps/blog/show/2015631-in-praise-of-cabbages
http://microgardening.newearthmicrogreens.com/red-cabbage-microgreens-vitamins/

 

Mini EZ Hoop House

Mini EZ Hoop House

by Sandy Swegel

03.11.16 cloche tunnel

03.11.16 Covered-Low-Tunnel

Do you have little hoop houses in your garden? If no, Why Not?

They are super easy and there are hundreds of DIY plans on the internet.

Judging from the number of articles in garden magazines on DIY hoop houses, everyone is very interested in these. But looking at gardens around town, no many people get around to using them.

03.11.16 low tunnel

You can be different.

Mini Hoop houses or low tunnels will give you an extra month of growing right now.

Your seeds will germinate better.

You’ll have fewer flea beetles and other pests.

You’ll worry less about watering.

03.11.16 hoops
Here’s my five minute hoop house:
6 pieces of 2 ft rebar
¾ “ irrigation hosing cut into 5 foot sections.
Plastic cover. (I get leftover scraps from a nearby market farmer, but painter’s plastic will work for a year or two.) Simple row cover works too. Or plastic wrapping from a mattress. It doesn’t take much to keep all that heat from escaping.
Old bricks or rocks to hold down the plastic.

03.11.16 easy tunnel

 

 

Here are some super simple designs to inspire you.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/low-tunnel-construction-mini-hoop-house.aspx

The best part about the popularity of mini hoop houses or low tunnels is that you can now buy pre-made, fold up tunnels for less that $25 at garden centers, hardware stores or online

Really, the garden wants you to come out and grow your own food. It’s really easy to get a head start!

 

Why You HAVE to Grow Watermelon Radishes this Year

Words barely do the watermelon radish justice.
Vibrant. Brilliant fuchsia. Magic.OrgRadishWatermelon_BBB

We just started carrying the watermelon radish seed this year and it is one of the first seed packets I snagged this Spring. I’m not a big radish eater although I like them eaten raw with breakfast eggs as is common in some Persian cooking. I’ve always liked to grow them because they germinate so fast. I’ve done the old trick of seeding them with carrot seed because the radishes mark where the row is while you wait a long time for the carrots to germinate.

Watermelon radishes are a game changer. Yeah sure they are super nutritious, full of lutein and beta carotene. Broccoli family. Good for hydration. Low in fat. Etc. etc. But they are stunningly beautiful and fun to eat.

These pictures are the reason I’m growing watermelon radish this year. Seed them and in only 50 days you can be having these great meals.

 

Watermelon Radish Thinly Sliced

Watermelon Radish Thinly Sliced

http://www.veggiefixation.com/2014/02/raw-watermelon-radish-ravioli.html

 

Watermelon Radish Pickles

Watermelon Radish Pickles

What’s a watermelon radish, and what do I do with it?

 

Watermelon Radish Rainbow Salad

Watermelon Radish Rainbow Salad

http://eat-to-thrive.tumblr.com/post/73353326416/rainbow-salad-bowl-deliciousness-baby-kale-baby

 

Watermelon Radish Mini Tacos

Watermelon Radish Mini Tacos

 

Watermelon Radish Appetizers

Watermelon Radish Appetizers

http://camillestyles.com/food-and-drink/morning-meals/herbed-goat-cheese-radish-tartines/

 

Watermelon Radish Roasted

Watermelon Radish Roasted

http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/kitchen-assistant/roasted-vegetables/roasted-vegetables_5

 

Aphids Q&A

Aphids Q&A03.2.16 Aphids

By Sandy Swegel

We got a great question from a customer this week about controlling aphids. Her frustration resonates with most of us who garden.

Q. Aphids are terrible, tiny creatures and I fight them every year. I’ve been looking for the best ways to make sure they don’t screw with my garden this time. I thought I had a good way; planting garlic around the plants. “Aphids don’t like garlic,” one link said.  “Aphids love garlic leaves, said another one. Soap mixture, Neem oil, rubbing alcohol mixed with soap and water, importing good bugs that love to eat the aphids. I refuse to use chemicals that poison everything, it makes growing organic pretty pointless. Does anyone have any SURE FIRE, tried and true methods?

A. The key to reducing aphids in your garden is to understand their lifestyle. Controlling aphids is like cleaning house. You can’t just clean a house full of people once and expect the house to still be clean a week later if you didn’t keep picking up stuff all week. When you use any treatment you might kill most of the adult aphids that day. But the ones you missed or who were eggs that wouldn’t hatch for another day, are still eating and reproducing. Reproduction is the key to aphid success. Aphids reproduce both sexually and asexually. They lay eggs to survive the winter. And they have life births in warm weather. Each aphid can create up to 100 new aphids per month.

My best sure-fire, tried and true method (or as close to that as one can get) is this:

Accept that you are going to have some aphids. To kill them all, even if possible, means you would also kill all the beneficial insect pollinators and you don’t want to do this.

Understand how aphids die. Warning: graphic content ahead.
It is super easy to kill aphids, which is why plain water spray works great. Aphids feed by attaching to the plant with their mouths. When you spray water on the aphids, the force of the water tears the aphid off the plant. The head and mouth parts stay attached to the plant, instantly killing the aphid. Even just brushing off all the aphids on a leaf with your finger decapitates and kills all those aphids. That’s why you don’t have to poison them….if you can just mechanically remove them.

Be vigilant (every few days) about checking for aphids. 03.02.16 Aphids
New aphids are hatching in leaf litter or being birthed by the aphids who were hiding out in the weeds next door. You have to spray the aphids every time you see them in large numbers. Each aphid can have dozens of generations….They are baby-making machines. You have to keep after them at least until you see you are no longer getting infestations.

General Advice about aphids.
If you start to watch your aphid population, you will often find that lots of aphids are followed in a week by lots of lady bugs who eat them. Nature does provide a natural balance if you have a healthy garden that supports beneficial insects. If you are aggressively treating aphids with garlic or neem sprays, you are also killing all the other insects that eat aphids.

Learn more about aphids.
You can alter the conditions in your garden that reduce the number of aphids.

Don’t over fertilize. Aphids love nitrogen. Every time you add nitrogen to your plants, you will get a little aphid bloom. Reduce the nitrogen and you don’t have so many aphids.

Encourage earthworms and use earthworm castings. Earthworms produce an enzyme chitinase to help digest their food. Aphids are repelled by chitinase. Unfortunately the chitinase doesn’t last long enough to be the only deterrent.

Encourage good environmental conditions like air flow and temperature. This works really well indoors. In my greenhouse I can reduce aphids by keeping a fan going and shading the plants from really hot afternoon sun. Aphids are often in greater numbers on plants that are stressed.

Finally if you do want to use “organic” sprays, simple soapy water works well. (1 teaspoon per gallon). Some people use the kitchen spray with garlic and tabasco sauce. I think the science is not clear on neem. It definitely works but it works by disrupting insects hormonal systems and I’m not convinced it doesn’t adversely affect beneficial insects. Some studies say Neem only kills sucking insects. I would try gentler methods first before turning to Neem.

 

Photo credits:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphid
https://theaphidroom.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/aphid-twit.jpg
http://www.myrmecos.net/tag/aphids/