Tag Archive for gardening

How to Choose What to Plant

It’s the time of year when seed catalogs start pouring in. I read a book one time where they called them farmer porn. They are pretty juicy and appealing. You could spend a thousand dollars and get more seeds than you could ever plant easily. Be careful and put some planning into what you are going to get to make sure you have room to plant it and aren’t wasting your money. Chose what to plant wisely.

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Ordering Seeds, Stay Organized

Ordering Seeds, Stay Organized

Do you ever get so excited about ordering seeds that you double order? I do. It’s so frustrating! I pour over catalog after catalog. I make lists. I map out my garden. (Click here to see how to plan your garden) Later, I get all misty eyed at some garden ad or a new catalog I’ve never seen before, and I accidentally order something I’ve already ordered.

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What Can I Plant in Winter?

There are so many plants you can plant in winter in Oklahoma. February is a busy month for spring plantings. Check out the OSU extension chart for what goes in the ground from Feb 10-March 10. There are quite a few things on that list. If you are not in Oklahoma, check your local county extension office to find out what you should be planting at that time. 

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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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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!

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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 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

Raised beds are fairly popular among gardeners these days. 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.

  1. Raised beds help your soil warm up faster in spring and stay warm longer in the fall. Why? Because they are up above ground level. This helps the sun to reach more of the surface of the soil and warm it quicker when you are waiting for gardening season or wanting to extend it later into fall.
  2. Raised beds can be a great fix for terrible growing soil. In my area of Oklahoma, I have about a half inch of silt, then underneath there is about 6 inches of clay, then about 8 inches of shale and under that, boulders. There is not a lot of good growing medium involved there. You cannot grow in straight clay. It will drown all your plants because it doesn’t drain. I can amend my soil, but for the clay we have, which you could sculpt, it would take a lot of organic matter and a lot of time and effort. I can build beds on top of my land and have great growing medium much sooner. many benefits of gardening in raised beds
  3. Raised beds are also helpful in areas where soil is contaminated. A barrier can be placed on the ground and the bed built above the contamination so people can still grow safe, healthy food in those areas.
  4. Raised beds can keep out some animals such as turtles that would eat all our strawberries. The height of them can be a deterrent to some pesky hungry critters.
  5. Raised beds can help gardeners manage floods. I live on a flood plain, so if I gardened in the ground in our first garden area or our expansion area, that ground would be under water 1-2 months of the growing season. Raised beds are higher up and they drain well, so that lets us garden the whole growing season. Last spring, we had torrential rains for months. Many gardeners planted and watched the rains wash away their gardens multiple times and then gave up growing for the year. I didn’t have to do that because our beds protected our plants and seeds. In the area I live, this is a great help. raised bed benefits
  6. Raised beds have less weeds. Bringing in planting medium that is free of grass and other weeds gives you a leg up on the weeds when you begin. In my book anything with less weeding is a winner. You can also place a weed barrier under the bed before you build it to keep out future grass.
  7. You can take it with you. If you move, your garden can be moved with you if you should so choose. gardening in raised beds, benefits
  8. Raised beds are more accessible. Gardeners don’t have to bend over quite as far to work the raised bed and that helps save your back and knees from extra stress. Beds can even be built super tall for physically impaired individuals. That sounds kind of awesome!
  9. Raised beds are beautiful! I love the look of the cedar ours are built with. I love wood. I love decorated beds and plain ones and everything in between. They are works of art.
  10. Raised beds can be as simple or complicated as you would like them to be. They are functional, beautiful and practical for use. You don’t need to be a carpenter or have any skills to be able to build them, check out how we built ours with NO skill whatsoever by clicking here
Building raised beds is simple and effective.

raised bed gardening benefits

We have an online class coming soon that will show you step by step how to build a simple frame, so stay tuned.

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10 Key Benefits of Gardening in Raised Beds

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. 

 

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