Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teaching Kids to Garden (& Surviving to Tell the Tale)

A: Because we can't afford another generation of children who grow up without the essential knowledge of how things work.

A: Whether they have a garden or not when the grow up, it is SO IMPORTANT to give them an appreciation of their food and a respect for the people who grow it. 

This being said, there is nothing more TERRIFYING than teaching a room full of 23 children (all under the age of twelve) how to plant seeds.  Sounds pretty simple, right? All you have to do is fill up
a cup with wet dirt, put a seed in it, and take care of it.  Easy, right? ... RIGHT?


Recently, I visited one of the after school day care programs to teach children there how to start seeds and take care of them.  I do this each spring and it is always a very rewarding experience because the kids appreciate trying something new and getting a little messy in the process.  

***It is also important to note that kids have the amazing, incomprehensible ability to amplify their voices 20x's louder than mine while thrashing about in a massive swarm of arms, legs, and dirt.  Children travel in swarms, did you know that?  

This is not to assume that children are always crazy and difficult teach!  They absorb information like little sponges and remember every. thing. you. say... so be careful.  Besides, kids are generally interested in how things work as well as what it takes to grow a big pumpkin, an itty bitty pepper, or a pretty  petunia.  Out of the massive swarm of children, a few of the kids took a big interest in gardening and asked me all sorts of questions about how things grow.  

Children who had experience with gardening told me stories of growing cucumbers with their grandmas, picking oranges from their old backyards in Puerto Rico, and finding HUGE worms in between carrots and beets.  

Gardening has a lasting affect on kids which (hopefully) carries on into their adulthood.To this day, I still remember weeding around the hostas with my mom and carrying stones from the woods and laying them around the garden beds.  Gardening is a life long process and you never stop learning and teaching others about it.  

IN CONCLUSION. Teach your kids how to grow food.  Teach your friends' kids how to grow food.  Teach your friends', friends' kids how to grow food!  And don't be scared of swarming children as it is just their natural habitat... but do bring earplugs.  

An image from Penrose Kid's Art Garden in Detroit. 

ALSO! Encourage kids to make art in the garden.  Have then paint stones to look like bugs, beetles, or bundt cakes.  Cut up old garden hose and paint them to look like snakes!  Make sculptures out of paper and mud and watch as the water washes them away.  Use old broken dishes and make a mural.  There are so many ways to engage children in the garden; all we have to do is use our creativity!  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Growing Food in Containers

I grew up in the boonies.  There were hundreds of acres to choose from where I could pick a little plot to grow anything under the sun.  Needless to say, the concept of container gardening is somewhat new.

A view from my parents' home.

Now, after 5 years of moving around from apartment to apartment, I have begun to understand that most people living in the United States do not have the access to land in which to grow on.  Community gardens and yardsharing are all great answers to this problem, but what if there are none around you?

Lo and behold container gardening!!!!  Maybe not the perfect solution, but it is a great and super simple way to supplement your grocery bill and bring a little greenery into your life.

Here are some basics on container gardening to help you on your conquest to world peace!!!  Or where ever it is you're going next.

Figure Out Where You're Going to Grow:  Plants need light (in case you didn't know) so pick the sunniest spot in the house if your starting (and/or staying) indoors.  Preferably, choose a south facing window or invest in grow lights in case you're home is lacking in natural vitamin
Picture gleaned from
D.  You can actually use normal houselights to supplement natural light, but they are not effective as lights made specifically to mimic the sun.  

Choose the Right Container for the Right Plant:  The container must be large enough to support the plant you're growing, and it must allow for drainage.  Don't feel restricted to using store-bought pots: You can use 5-gallon buckets, cracked coffee mugs, window boxes, etc...

Pick a Good Soil Mix:  Purchase a good quality soil mix from a local provider or make your own by following the link in the heading. 

Create or Purchase an Eco-Friendly Fertilizer: There are recipes all over the internet for compost tea and other useful fertilizers.  Or make friends with farmers who have animals or a horse backing riding establishment to glean manure from them. 

Water: It's a pretty simple concept.  If you don't water often then your plants will die but if you water them too much then they will also die.  If you don't understand this then you don't deserve to have plants.  
Illustration by Elayne Sears of Mother Earth News

Please click on the links throughout this post to get a thorough understanding of container gardening!  Container gardening is a great way to bring the outdoors inside and to create a healthy environment to live in.