Always eat your colorful food first (and I don't mean fruit loops!)
Naturally, all natural, unprocessed food fills our plate. The carrots are usually the go to for kids.
Growing your own garden of any type offers endless possibility to go beyond the grocery store offerings. The expected hue for a carrot is of course, orange, but did you know that carrots come in a rainbow of colors? I love this picture from Summer Tomato
- a great blog by the way!
If you're like me and you can't wait to get out in the garden, good news!
carrots can be directly sown in the garden 2-3 weeks before the last frost date in your area. For me, that's now!
Carrots are so much fun to grow. The seeds can be a bit tricky though. So super tiny, not only is it tricky to isolate just one, but it's also difficult to tell where you've placed it once it hits the soil. Carrots are greedy and needy when it comes to space. Think about it. A carrot is a root. All plants prosper with enough space to spread their roots, but root crops specifically will fail when crowded. In order to maximize your seed germination(how many seeds actually sprout and are successful) the spacing is key. Johnny's Seeds has this nifty little hand seeder. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/images/Product/medium/9136.jpg
The most exciting thing about carrots and other root crops is the surprise! Who could resist grabbing the greens and giving a slight tug to reveal the tasty tender root?
Warning.....this may be more information than you'd like to know
I recently attended classes on bionutrient farming. Wow! so much information on soil conductivity and biology. Should you be interested in learning more seehttp://bionutrient.org/news/farmers-advancing-agriculture
The premise is healthy soil = happy plants. It makes a lot of sense, right?
Just add a little fertilizer. It's not that simple. Commercial fertilizers are like junk food for your plants. They are typically "quick release" meaning the nutrients are in a form that the plants can digest. (on the bag this is indicated a "water soluble". Slow release fertilizer is a healthier diet. Think a well rounded meal, but of processed food. The healthiest meal of fresh and organic ingredients picked at the peak of their ripeness is of course, the best choice.
Soil is made up of many minerals. In order for the plants to be able to absorb or "take up" these nutrients, the minerals must be digested by bacteria and fungi.
In order for the bacteria and fungi to survive, they need food. That's where compost comes in.
Compost does several things. It provides nutrients (humus) for the plants and organisms living in the soil. It increases the ability of the soil to retain water and adequately drain. And it loosens up the soil so that oxygen can penetrate and be available to the plants and organisms.
Now we are getting back to the mineral content of the soil. If a soil is rich in minerals (rock dust) and also healthy biologically (beneficial bacteria and fungi),
the plants will have all that they need to thrive.
Most of our topsoil has been depleted of the essential minerals plants need to thrive.A soil conductivity test will provide the information needed to understand what amendments are necessary to correct the imbalance.
Once the balance of minerals is restored, and the soil life is fed and happy, the plants will be too. And the best part is that this eliminates fertilizing!
Every 3-5 years you should have your soil tested, as it will grow hungry again.
It's getting it right from the get go rather than a quick fix. It's worth it in the long run.Thriving includes the ability to ward off pests and diseases. It creates a strong "immune system".
So feed your soil like you'd like to be fed.
Fresh, organic, ingredients. And think of the minerals as the "protein" which will sustain your energy level.
Rather have someone else do it? Contact me.
We have endless mint in our garden. A friend (or dare I say otherwise...) gifted my first mint plant. She had plenty to share. Now I know why. And know better than to introduce mint to an un-contained space.
You must know the saying "grows like a weed", no? Mint is a fine example of that.
A weed, by definition, is a plant out of place. So a weed could be really, anything growing where you'd prefer it not be. If you need to fill in a space quickly, plant mint.
Mint sends out runners underground, with an incredibly strong root system. A small patch of mint, say, one square foot, will almost double in a month. If you have an open space, great. If you plan on incorporating a bit of mint in your garden, forget it. The mint will soon become your nemesis! Every two weeks I attack the mint which seems to appear winding it's way through every perennial, rose, and shrub in my border gardens. Tearing out the mint can be a jarring task. In order to save my wrist, elbow, shoulder and back, I've resorted to snipping each stalk at the base. I feel as if I've won the battle, though not the war, knowing it will be back in full force for another round.
The one great bonus... endless mint for your kids to harvest and turn into teas and potions. You'll never say no to picking mint! And if you have crazy dogs always running through your garden, like we do, at least their romp through the mint will release a heady perfume. Did you know that there are endless varieties of mint?
From the common peppermint and spearmint to orange mint, lavander mint and chocolate mint to name a few, see Mountain Valley Growers.
Be care of planting different varieties close together. They will cross pollinate and you'll lose that distinct taste and aroma specific to each.
I guess mint isn't all that bad. Mint will crowd out other unwanted "weeds" and does flower. Curly mint is as beautiful in the garden as it is as a garnish in lemonade or something stronger. But in my next garden/life, I'll keep it in a pot.
Nothing says summer like a sunflower.
And certainly nothing can be more awe inspiring than watching a tiny seed grow 12 feet. It's time to sow those sunflower seeds. Depending on the variety, in 50 to 70 days you will be rewarded with golden splendor!
The standard sunflower that often comes to mind has a brown or golden center fringed in bright sunny petals. Actually, with 76 varieties the sunflower comes in many colors, textures and heights. The favorites in our garden are fluffy "teddy bear
", dainty "frilly
" , and towering "kong"
. But with any sunflower, you can't go wrong.
Sunflowers, of course, mean sunflower seeds. Once the blooms have faded and petals frizzled in the summer sun, the seed heads are revealed. Soon song birds will thank you with their visits to feast! If you'd rather munch yourself, try the seed snacking
variety. Sunflower seeds are rich in both antioxidants (vitamins B6,E and folate) and minerals (iron, manganese, selenium, phosphorous); as well as an excellent source of protein and omega 6 essential fatty acids (the good fat your body needs!).
But let's get to the fun stuff! 1/Sunflower Races
Own your sunflower! Give it sun, water and soil and track it's growth.
Whose sunflower grows more quickly? Taller? The most flowers? The largest flower heads?2/Build a Sunflower House!
Chose a sunny spot and plot the shape of the house you imagine. If it's in the middle of the lawn, remove the sod to expose the soil 3 inches deep and 3 inches wide. Loosen the soil and plant your sunflower seeds as indicated on the packet (depth and spacing). In no time, you'll have a wall of sunflowers!
For an extra shot of color, plant morning glory and four o'clock seeds in between the sunflowers. The vines will climb the strong sunflower stalks and weave a web of great display!
For an excellent example see this!
The Green Village Initiative presents - So You've got a school garden. Now What?
Workshop created to inspire educators and parents to create school garden programs in their respective schools.
Little lettuce leaves are a tender treat and fun for little fingers to pick. Requiring little space or depth, lettuces can be easily grown in containers. A galvanized wash tub
with a few holes in the bottom for drainage makes a lovely salad bowl!
Lettuce is a delicate vegetable that will burn in hot sun. If you have a long spring, sow lettuce seeds after the last frost. Indoor seed starts are the best way to give lettuce a fighting chance to mature before he summer heat sets in, which will cause the lettuce to bolt, or go to seed too early, giving the lettuce a bitter taste. The next opportunity for another bounty of greens is the end of the summer for a fall harvest.
For more information see the Garden of Eaden
There are five types of lettuce; loose leaf, crisphead, butterhead, romaine and stem.For an extraordinary collection of 113 (who knew?) varieties and blends of seed, see Johnny's Seeds.
Make salad assembly an art project and temp salad shunners to taste their creations. A canvas of green waiting for a sprinkle of color and a drizzle dressing,salad combinations are only limited to the imagination!
The perfect starter veggie for the novice gardener, peas are simple to sow, fast to sprout and grow, and fun to pick! Some seeds are so tiny that following the spacing and depth guidelines can be tricky, but peas are perfect for little fingers. Place the peas in rows spaced one inch apart until your area is covered. Next invite your children to poke each little pea about one inch into the soil and cover. Poke and cover, poke and cover.
While you are waiting for the pea pods to grow, enjoy a few baby pea shoots - delicious thrown into a salad or quickly sautéed (see recipes). Let little fingers pull up a pea shoot that is about two inches tall and notice the pea still attached.
For the first fruit of the season, June is strawberry picking time! Far sweeter than any store-bought berry, homegrown strawberries are truly nature’s candy. High in anti-oxidants and fiber-rich, strawberries are a treat you can feel good about serving to your children. And it’s rare to find a child who doesn’t love strawberries!
Strawberries are perennials which over winter and come back to life vigorously in the spring. Give them a little room and they will spread quickly by sending out runners to give birth to “daughter” strawberry plants. Yes, growing like weeds.( nb. the wild strawberries trying to take over your lawn.) Depending on your climate and choice of container or bed, you may need to tuck them in for the winter with leaves or straw for protection. There are many varieties of strawberries, and Burpee
has a nice offering with an explanation of each to help you choose.
Equally as happy in a pot or patch, patio strawberries are perfect for the novice gardener.
A classic strawberry pot will have opening on the sides as well as the top for you to poke your plants into, taking advantage of vertical growing space. Your local garden center will usually stock these. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at your local garden shop, try SimplyPlanters.com.
For a truly vertical approach, hanging grow-bags like those from TOPSY TURVY
offer another alternative for tight spots. Much more fun and productive than a typical hanging basket!
If you’re ready for a strawberry patch, Gardener’s Supply Company
has an easy to assemble 3-tier strawberry bed that can sit on your patio or fit into a garden setting anywhere. How easy is that?
What ever you do, don’t waste time! Strawberries need a year to acclimate to thei r new home before they begin to produce. Plant a few now and next year you’ll be picking your own!