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.
Tag Archive for gardening with kids
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.
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.
Don’t you just LOVE zinnias? I do. They are a burst of long lasting color all through the summer and fall. They are one of the ONLY plants that doesn’t succumb to our horrid heat here in Oklahoma AND they are tolerant of our drought like conditions that are all too common here.
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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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.
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!
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.
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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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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- You can take it with you. If you move, your garden can be moved with you if you should so choose.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!
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.
You wouldn’t believe what wheat means to me. I can’t tell you the memories I have of planting it, harvesting, taking it to the elevator for sale, and any number of other things. One of my fondest childhood memories is of sitting in the back of the wheat truck when the combine would come up beside it and dump wheat all over us and bury us. That’s good stuff!
We would chew the wheat for “gum” while we worked hard in the fields at my grandparent’s house during harvest time. After all the wheat was cut, we would go back and cut straw from the stems that were left in the ground. Farming wheat is in my blood. These fun memories were at my grandparent’s house and they were some of the best times of my life.
My grandparents, great grandparents, and great-great grandparents were wheat farmer’s by trade and my uncle and cousin still farm wheat today. It’s an important part of my history. My Mom’s Grandfather ran in the Oklahoma Land Run with his parents to get their family land.
I was raised in the city, but the memories of what went on at the farm always cried out to me in the back of my mind. The cows, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, grandma’s big ole garden, and the wheat and alfalfa grandpa grew are part of my upbringing and are part of who I am today.
Kids should know where their food comes from.
Click here to see how you can teach them that.
My mom is a smart woman and has so many skills from her time growing up on that farm, it’s amazing. She has talents and abilities as do her brothers and sisters that would amaze you.
I make all the bread I feed my kids from scratch and I make it from freshly ground flour. I use local, top quality wheat berries to make my flour so my kids get the very best I can give them Click here to see why I don’t feed them store bought bread and click here for my everyday bread recipes if you want to make your own.
Many people talk about gluten intolerance and grain free food, especially gluten free, but I really feel that what makes a lot of people sick and tired is not the gluten or the wheat itself, but the massive amounts of chemicals in the bread products that wheat is made into and you have a recipe for some pretty serious diseases and illnesses. I’m not sure it’s the gluten for all people, although I KNOW it is for some. I think much of it is the process we’ve done to the wheat.
I wanted to show my kids where those wheat berries come from. Although I don’t plan to grow all of our wheat as cleaning it is quite a chore that we don’t have the equipment for, I wanted to grow some wheat to show them the source of those beautiful golden nuggets of flavor.
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We took some of our wheat berries we grind for flour and planted them back in November. Previously, I tried to grow wheat with the kids, but I didn’t remember that you grow it throughout the winter here in Oklahoma (no natural instincts for growing), so I talked to my cousin Joe about what could have gone wrong. He said to have your wheat in the ground by November 30th. This is called winter wheat and it’s the only wheat you can grow in Oklahoma. It’s too hot here for anything else.
Winter wheat or hard wheat is good for making bread or other products that are made with yeast, spring wheat or soft wheat is good for pancakes, muffins, and things that don’t contain yeast.
Last year, we met that goal and watched our tiny wheat grass grow throughout the winter a tiny bit at a time. Once the days started getting longer, our wheat took off and now it’s making seed heads. Our rows aren’t straight like on the farm, but we are farming this wheat nonetheless. We have a 3 x 10 bed of it growing and will harvest it when it turns golden and the seeds will shake out of it. I’ll come back and update the blog when that happens.
Steps to growing wheat:
- Find your wheat berry seeds. Research what type of wheat will grow in your area and when it needs to be planted. If you are in or around Oklahoma, do what we did, and get winter wheat in the ground by the end of November.
- Prepare your soil and make a trench about 2- 2 ½ inches deep. If you have a huge area to cover, you can broadcast your wheat seeds and then till them into the ground to about 2 inches. If you are planting spring wheat, you will need to plant it around 1 inch deep instead. Cover the seeds with dirt and pat down the earth gently to remove any air pockets.
- Water weekly until grain stalks and heads begin to turn golden and heads droop toward the ground.
- Check your mature grain weekly. Shake a few seeds out of the head and taste them. If they are doughy, they are not ready, but if they are firm and you can chew them for a while without them disintegrating, they are ready. Remember the “wheat gum”?
- Store them for a few weeks in a dry place until they are ready to clean. They will be dry and won’t dent with your fingernail when ready.
- Beat the heads on the inside of a trash can until all of the seeds fall out of the heads. Then winnow the seeds by pouring them from one container to another in the breeze or in front of a fan until all the chaff blows out of the seeds. Get them as clean as possible before use.
- Store them in an airtight container so moisture or bugs won’t be able to reach them.
I can’t wait to see how excited the kids are and how much they learn when we harvest our little wheat patch and grind it up into flour to make bread. What a wonderful learning experience for them that will stimulate all of their senses. Sensory experiences are the best way for kids birth to three to learn, and can you think of anything else that smells as good as homemade bread coming out of the oven? It can carry you away.
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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!
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.
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!
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.
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?
What do you do with all of that leftover material you have in your yard in the fall? There are so many ways to use it. Why not turn it into mulch? PLEASE don’t throw yard waste in the trash to go to the landfill. It’s full of vital nutrients that can improve your yard and garden.