Tag Archive for gardening

Amazing Garden Tools to Try RIGHT NOW!

Amazing Garden Tools to Try RIGHT NOW!

Is there a garden chore you just hate? What is the best way to get through it? For me, it’s having the right garden tools for the right job! I know I could not live without my knee pad and my gloves. I have super nice gloves that fit well and are sturdy. That would be the number one thing I would recommend getting the best you can afford. You get what you pay for. 

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How Long Will Seeds Last in Storage?

How long will seeds last in storage? Where and how can seeds be stored?

I don’t know how many times someone has asked me how long will seeds last in storage. It’s a good question. I know seeds of grain have been discovered in ancient tombs and they actually germinated when planted. Isn’t that amazing? Thousand-year-old seeds are still alive?

There are many ways to store seeds, and some are better than others. If you want your seeds to last in storage the longest time possible, you definitely have to go to some effort to keep them dry. Keeping them out of the light is a good idea as well. Let’s start with how seeds work.

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How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes are a tasty, starchy tuber similar in flavor and texture to potatoes. They taste sweeter than potatoes though. The great thing about them is you can harvest them in winter when there is not much else to harvest. The plants are pretty, the smell nice, and they produce like no one’s business. In fact, they can be very invasive. Have you ever heard of them? I hadn’t until I was researching what kind of perennial plants we could plant in our preschool garden.

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sunchokes-jerusalem-artichokes-straight-from-the-ground

jerusalem-artichokes

Plant Jerusalem Artichokes in spring. 


Order some tubers and get a large container filled with soil. You don’t want to plant these babies in the ground or they will take over the whole area you plant them in. They are planted in spring. Plant them like you would plant potatoes, about 5 inches deep and about 12-18 inches apart. Click the small image above for buying choices if you want to get some tubers to start your own plants.


sunchokes-growing-in-a-bucket

The tubers will grow all summer. They grow a tall flower similar to a cluster of small sunflowers. They smell nice and fragrant and look lovely in the garden. Harvest them after the first frost. A friend tells me if you harvest before a frost, the sunchokes will make you gassy. Nobody wants Jerusalem artichoke gas!

jerusalem-artichoke-plant

Another fun fact about Jerusalem artichokes is the flowers smell slightly like chocolate. Who doesn’t love a sunflower that smells like chocolate? You can take a few petals from the flower and rub it in your hands and smell a chocolatey smell. Sensory experiences are so important for kids, especially under age three. This is a wonderful sensory stimulus.

Sunchokes grow back.

Your Jerusalem artichokes will grow back year after year. Once you do the initial planting, you will have food for years to come. We have tried them raw. We are going to harvest most of ours after we get a frost and try them cooked. You are supposed to prepare them like you would potatoes. You can bake them, mash them, or however you enjoy your potatoes. 

freshly-harvested-jerusalem-artichokeskids-harvesting-jerusalem-artichokes

The kids really love the treasure hunt of digging for food under the ground. Carrots, radishes, potatoes, and Jerusalem Artichokes are super fun for kids. What kid doesn’t love digging in the dirt? I know I still do. The tubers are small and clustered together. They are easy to dig up all at once.

One tip i have learned is to wait until after a freeze to dig them. They taste sweeter and more flavorful and some gardeners have said if you dig them before the frost, they cause lots of gas when you eat them. So….  

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how-to-grow-jerusalem-artichokes

How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

I really really really really hate squash bugs! They are the bane of my existence. We scarcely ever even get a single squash from a single plant in our garden. If there was a way to remove those suckers from the face of the earth, I sure would do it. They are disgusting! Boo!

I have heard 100 tales of how to rid my life and garden of those creepy creatures, and I have tried every single one. Rotate crops, intercrop, hand picking, use Seven, even that doesn’t work! I have not tried it but a friend of mine used it when our first year gardening and I handpicked mine and we ended up with the same results, a million more came. It seems like there is nothing, and I mean nothing that will rid my life of squash bugs.

Squash bugs STINK!

Squash is attacked early in the season in Oklahoma by the squash vine borer. These little monsters are a black and red wasp looking bug that lay their eggs in the stems of the squash and when they hatch they eat the stems from the inside, killing the plant all at once within a few days.


Squash bug damage

squash bug

They are stinky little bugs. When I was a kid we always called them stink bugs. They make a yucky smell when you squish them. I have heard hand picking in the best way to decrease the population. Last year after we picked thousands of them, we went out and saw thousands more. Squash bugs are relentless.

Hand pick squash bugs.

The best way to hand pick them is wrap your hands in duct tape with the sticky side out and just press it onto the adults, nymphs or eggs and they stick right to it. You can do it until your tape is full and then make another “sticky glove” and start again.

squash bug eggs

Another method for hand picking is pick and smash, this is a little much for me. You can also hand pick them and throw them in a bucket of soapy water and they will die immediately.

Many people have said if you rotate your crops, they will go away. I rotate every year, but in the case of the squash bug, I really think you would have to rotate to China to outrun the suckers.

Some people have suggested planting a large variety of squash and the squash bugs will eat one kind and leave the others alone. I have planted 10-20 types of squash yearly and they eat it all, they eat summer squashes first, then winter, then onto the cucumbers, then the melons and finally whatever else is left in the garden. Those things are evil.

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Try everything you can think of. 

This year I decided to do an experiment and test the numbers. We planted 15 kinds of squash all over the garden in different places than we planted squash last year. We planted one kind in the three sisters plan, with corn for the trellis, beans for the nitrogen and they climb up the corn, and the squash grows on the ground to shade the roots of the other plants. The other plants are supposed to deter the pests of the squash plants.

I had placed pumpkins all around the perimeter of our fence on the outside last fall after our trunk or treat at church and let those sprout up on their own. I thought maybe the bugs would go there and stay outside of the garden. Sadly, the borers took those out very quickly.

growing squash

 

We also did an old wives tale where you let the seed sprout, then you cut and x in an aluminum pie pan. Then you feed the seedling carefully through the hole in the pan. The pan is supposed to deter the bugs from getting to the plant.

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In addition, We did a method where you inter-plant your squash with white icicle radishes. So we had five different factors to check.

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No squash ever survives.

I will report to you that no squash survived in our garden. The variety did not seem to help as all of the squash is eaten. The pumpkins, of course went first, then next to go was the pie pan method. I don’t know if the pans and the hot sun burned those up or what but inside the garden, they were the first to go.

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Next to die off was the three sisters squash. The corn and beans did great, and the beans are still going strong, but we got no squash from there. Last but not least, the longest lasting squash survivor were the ones that were planted with the white icicle radishes. We planted the radishes all over our garden where there were squash, melons, or cucumbers after that. Not many of them germinated because it’s so blasted hot right now, but I do think it will help deter the little bugers. So far it has anyway. We are just now losing our cucumbers to them and usually we never get to harvest this long.

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Plant a lot of squash.

We planted new squash plants all over the area as well, hoping maybe to get some type of harvest later in the season. In Oklahoma we have a really long growing season, so you never know. It depends on when old man winter decides to show up. Quite frankly, it’s hot and I miss him a lot! Hopefully it was not too hot for the seeds, but we will try to plant again in a few days if we get a cool spell of under 95 degrees. Maybe they will have a chance then.

Some people suggest using Diatomaceous Earth to cut down the population. It’s a great natural product and does help with the nymphs but not adult squash bugs. Also, it can harm pollinators, so you have to be careful not to get it in the flowers. Another draw back of DE is that you have to reapply when any moisture gets on it. Here, it’s so humid, that means everyday. Click here to see more about DE. 

I won’t lie and say any of these methods are sure fire or give you hope you can totally get rid of them. I’m being honest, some methods help and some don’t. I know that being vigilant and removing as many as you can is your best hope. Also, at the end of the season, clean up your garden well so they won’t have places to hide and winter over.

The best advice is to do these things early and often to have the best season possible. Be vigilant, and don’t give up because gardening is fun and you get to have veggies. 

If you have a great idea of how to get rid of these awful creatures or at least slow them down a bit, I would love to hear it! 

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How to Get Rid of Squash Bugs

 

10 Key Benefits of Gardening in Raised Beds

10 Key Benefits of Gardening in Raised Beds

Raised beds are fairly popular among gardeners these days. What’s all the hype? Why do you need them? There is nothing wrong with gardening right in the ground, but raised beds offer some different options to gardeners as growing spaces. Building raised beds can be expensive and it does take time to build them and fill them. They can also fix a whole host of gardening problems and for us at Little Sprouts, they work.

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Gardening with Kids

Gardening with kids is one of the most amazing and rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. I have been a family childcare provider for 21 years and over the course of that time, I have tried and tried to grow things with my kids. I come from a long line of farmers and have always been interested in growing food, but I just had no instincts.

Gardening has a million benefits. There is nothing better to teach your kids. 

 

Five years ago, I was invited to a class to teach childcare providers to garden with their kids. I was so excited and immediately fell in love with everything about it. I set the goal to teach as many kids as possible to grow food, to teach as many people as possible to teach this to kids, and to grow as much of my kid’s food as possible here at our house.


I failed so many times over the years because I didn’t know the basics of how to garden, and Doug, the gardening teacher in the class, changed all that for me with the information he shared with us. 

kids harvesting kohlrabi

How we got started

First, I got help from a daycare parent to build some simple beds and mix dirt, then we got our free bed from the garden class, then we built more beds, and then we asked the neighbor for some land and built and expansion. 

Overall, we have over 50 raised beds, some are as small as one foot by two feet and some are as large as 3 feet by 10 feet. It’s a hodge podge. We built many from discarded materials, got a small grant, collected money from local businesses, daycare parents, and family members, and put a ton of money into it ourselves, but we built a paradise to teach kids. Click here for more details about how we did it. 

You certainly don’t have to go this big, kids can learn a ton in a couple of five gallon buckets full of dirt. You can plant a lot in a 3 by 3 foot bed and so much learning can happen with that. You can have one tomato plant and find dozens of learning opportunities with just that. Please don’t feel overwhelmed by the volume we’ve chosen here. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It can just be something!

healthy living-gardening with kids

The garden has ups and downs

There are so many things you can learn in the garden and if you don’t know how to garden yourself, you can do like we did and learn while you teach your kids. We are by no means experts, but we have a lot of fun figuring it out. My husband is a big help and I certainly could not do it without him. 

 

What is Permaculture?

Have you ever wondered what permaculture means? I have wanted to learn about permaculture for so long. I have learned bits and pieces of it, but nothing to really tell me how to do it.

permaculture gardening

I had the opportunity to review the book “Permaculture for the Rest of Us, Abundant Living on Less than an Acre”, by Jenni Blackmore and I jumped on it. Send me the book! I was so excited to learn more about this interesting method of planting.


abundant living on less than an acre, gardening, permaculture

The main premise of permaculture is that plants, animals, and insects can all live in symbiotic relationships together in harmony and support and build each other up, like how nature does it on its own. Land can actually heal itself if left alone.

Imagine a big tree in the woods, lightning strikes it or, more likely, someone comes and chops it down. The tree falls. The tree lays there lifeless. Over time, it begins to deteriorate. Bacteria, bugs, and animals all help break it down. It finally decomposes, and becomes fertilizer for the earth to have more fertility and the place it was can no longer be seen. The place it once was is unmarred by its presence again. Nature heals itself.

So, if this can happen in nature, how much more can it happen when we work with nature than against it? How can we do this? Permaculture teaches us how.

permaculture for the rest of us

So back to the book. Author, Jenni Blackmore tells about her disgust for slugs which started her on her journey towards permaculture and I loved hearing about her journey and how she got to where she is today. In the book, she teaches about building soil and how to work it. She also tells about important things you need for success, what animals have to do with it, and where to begin.

My favorite chapter was the one that talks about the permaculture principles. I have always wanted to learn them and she presented them in such a way that I could understand them clearly. I can’t wait to learn even more about them with some further study. I love how the author, Jenni Blackmore presents her information in a laid back way that is not intimidating even to beginners like me. She presents and anyone can do it attitude and that’s just what I need to learn.

permaculture design

I learned from the permaculture principles that I have a lot of natural instinct on how to plant to balance nature. I have no natural growing instincts, so it was so cool to see that some of the things I feel drawn to do are helping nature help me. At least I’m not slow at every part of growing.

I hope you will order the book for yourself right away so you can learn how you can practice permaculture even if you are living on a city lot like me. Click the picture below to check it out.

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What is Permaculture

 

 

How to Grow Kohlrabi

I was amazed when I found out what kohlrabi was. I didn’t think there was a vegetable we could grow that I had never heard of, but my garden mentor, Doug, told me about this crazy alien looking veggie and I could not love it any more than I do!

Some of the kids never tire of picking. Zealous for gardening. :)

Some of the kids never tire of picking. Zealous for gardening. 🙂

Kohlrabi is AMAZING! It takes like broccoli stems, only a little sweeter. I love it raw, steamed, sautéed, or roasted and I love the leaves as well. The kids really love growing it and most of them like it as well. They much prefer it cooked over raw though.

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When I decided to start growing kohlrabi to see what it tasted like, everyone I told about it had never heard of it, so I thought I would share about it here in case you never have either. It’s so much fun to watch it grow. It takes a relatively small space so you can grow quite a few in a pretty small area.

planting kohlrabi with kids

When we grow kohlrabi, we start the seeds inside. We sow some directly into the soil outside but we always have better luck with our indoor seedlings. Last year, somehow we killed all of our seedlings, so we had to buy starts from a local nursery.

Kohlrabi grows fairly quickly compared to Brussels sprouts or broccoli. We like fast at Little Sprouts, the faster the better!

kohlrabi

The kohlrabi grows on a small root and right above the ground a strange bulb comes up and forms just above the soil surface. You continue to let it grow, and cut it off at the ground when it’s about baseball size. I have seen some as big as softballs, and I have seen some smaller than a baseball, but baseball size is just about right for maximum deliciousness in my book. Click the image below to order your own kohlrabi seeds.

I have seen green and purple varieties. We have grown both. I love showing the kids different colors of veggies, like rainbow carrots or Easter egg or watermelon radishes. I love to see the awe and wonder they show.

kids harvesting kohlrabi

We have been growing kohlrabi since our first gardening year and we have fallen in LOVE. The kids LOVE how funny it looks too. It’s an adventure in the garden.

Click here to see what we are growing in our preschool garden. It’s tons of fun.

Share in the comments what you are growing in your garden and if you have heard of kohlrabi before now?

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