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.
Tag Archive for 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.
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.
You won’t believe what happened in our garden one spring. Spring is springing and you want to garden. What should you be doing now? Here are a few things that should be happening if you are going to grow your own food.
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- Here in Oklahoma, the weeds are coming up in the lawn and it’s about time for the first mowing-ALREADY! We didn’t really have a winter this year, so I’m worried about the pest populations, but all I can do is watch and wait. The purple weeds are covering the lawn, which is cool because I have seen bees buzzing on them, but I don’t want them taking over my garden beds, so chore number one is get on those weeds before they get big! Click here to see how to control weeds without chemicals. One key is you have to keep after them, or they will take over.
- If you are planning new garden beds, it’s a great time to be tilling or building raised beds to prepare the ground for planting. Getting everything prepared for planting is an important step in garden success.
- Planning where you will plant which plants is really important to make your garden as good as it can be. Plan, plan, plan! Draw your garden out on paper and make a map of what will go where. Make sure to pay attention to how big each thing grows so they will have plenty of room once they get into full growth mode. A tomato plant, for instance, can be only a few inches tall, but it can end up being over 7 feet and sprawling all over a 10-foot bed depending on what kind it is. You want your plants to have enough room to thrive and not to be choked out by other, more aggressive plants.
- It’s time to plant the early season seeds. Many things can grow in cool weather including broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, beets, kale, spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes, chard, greens, and much more. Click here to see what all you can be planting from seed right now.
- It’s also time to plant seedlings for your cold hardy crops. We will be planting cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, and cauliflower as soon as it stops raining so we can get them in the ground. For us in our climate, we have better luck with cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage if we plant seedlings instead of seeds, so we do this as soon as the ground is workable.
Check out seeds of the month club for a great deal on seeds! I love my subscription!
- If you are planting any perennial plants such as fruit trees, bushes, strawberry plants or asparagus, those can be planted around this time. This year, we hope to plant a couple of pear trees and another apple tree. Let me tell you about the year we planted asparagus in the garden. Asparagus is awesome because you plant it once, and after a few years of patiently waiting, you can harvest it for 25 years or more. In fact, when I was a kid, we used to harvest asparagus in the country where my grandma lived that was actually planted on homesteads from the Oklahoma land run! Asparagus would grow along those homesteads that were since abandoned and grandma knew where to find it. That was some serious production from some plants. It’s a little effort, great reward plant. It will make you feel like a super success. When we planted our second asparagus bed here at Little Sprouts, we worked for a few minutes putting all the little crowns on mounds of dirt just like the instructions said. Then we waited, and waited, and waited. Over a month went by and there was no sign of life in those crowns. I decided to do some reading and after some research I realized…we had planted them all upside down. The little things I thought were the roots were actually the tops and the top nubs were what I though was roots. They had these little fuzzy things on them that I thought were roots. The roots of asparagus are actually very thick like fingers. I’ll tell ya how that turned out in a minute, but for now, let’s get back to our things to be doing in spring.
- Check all of your hoses and sprinklers and water supply and make sure nothing needs to be repaired or replaced for the upcoming watering season. There is nothing worse than realizing your garden is over dry, but not having the supplies handy to water and having to get everything done then.
- Check all of your tools and make sure you don’t need new things like gloves, shovels or a new hoe to get weeds with. Having your tools ready and clean helps you find success in your garden as well.
- If anything in your yard has overgrown and created too much shade in your garden, now is a great time to trim or prune it back so your garden will have plenty of sunshine.
A little bit of planning goes a long way for success in the garden. Get your garden chores done ahead of the busy garden season and you’ll find your garden to be delightful fun for you as well as more successful. There is nothing worse than getting overwhelmed with a ton of garden work and not be able to keep up with it. We have a 30 x 50 space and a 20 x 80 space with over 50 raised beds from 2 x 2 to 3 x 10 in size. We have to stay on top of it to be able to keep up. For us, it’s about all we can do. It’s our dream to grow as much of our food as possible for us and the daycare kids, so it’s a big job. The kids work in the garden, but it takes a lot of outside time as well. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had working my hiney off.
Now let’s get back to my asparagus story. I thought it was a total loss, but we decided to actually turn them all over after they had baked in the sun for a month. Can you guess what happened? They actually GREW and are still producing asparagus to today. This is going to be the first year we can pick the whole season in that bed and I’m super excited as the little tops have just started poking up out of the ground. It was definitely worth taking the time to try again. Remember there is so much to learn in the garden. You are going to make mistakes, and you are going to have success. As you learn you will have more success than failure and it’s a wonderful feeling!
What are you planning to do in your garden this week?
Do you ever wonder when in the world to plant your vegetables? I’m here to help with my vegetable garden planting guide. My Little Sprouts and I try our hardest to grow as much of our own food as possible. We like a wide variety of food, so we plant a wide variety of food. It’s hard to keep track of what to plant each month, so here is a guide to what you grow when.
Sometimes it’s hard to find enough space to grow everything you’d like to. There are some clever ways to grow more things in a smaller space, or even in your front yard landscaping if you just look for them. How could you find out how to make the most of your space? There are a few secrets that can help your food growing dreams become realities.
I love getting a new book. I adore books, and gardening books are my favorite. There is so much joy that comes from studying and dreaming about what things we could grow. This is our 5th year to grow food in our garden with success, and I am super stoked about what is to come this year.
Our first year in the garden we got way more than I ever dreamed, but I didn’t measure it in any tangible way. So we’ll just say we grew a wow amount of food. Our second year, we didn’t measure either, but we had a ton of fun.
In 2013, we started weighing our produce in order to measure our progress. Our year’s total was a whopping 664 pounds. At that time, we had a large pear tree producing and it put out 268 pounds of pears, the rest of that was garden fruits and veggies.
In 2014, we amped up our goal to 500 pounds of non-pear tree food and we smashed it with a total of 820 pounds of food!
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Last year our pear tree blew over in a storm and left us pear less. We were heart broken, but set our goal at 1,000 pounds of food overall. We have planted some fruit trees and they were loaded with fruit on their tiny frames, we had finished building an expansion to our garden, and we had all of the beds filled for the first time. This goal seemed doable. It was a year riddled with terrible weather, flooding and then incredible heat and drought. Many gardeners I know had no garden at all. Then we had an onslaught of animal pillages and bug overloads. Our goal of 1,000 pounds of food fell by the wayside as disaster after disaster struck our garden. We ended up with a very respectable 678 pounds of healthy, delicious, chemical free food. We were disappointed as well as blessed.
The goal at Little Sprouts is to grow as much of the food the daycare kids eat as we can. We want to provide them with chemical free, safe, and healthy food, and that’s what drives us. Check out more about why we are growing our own food here.
When I heard the title of this book, “Gardening Like a Ninja”, I was instantly interested. I knew this would help us make the most of our space. I went to Amazon and preordered the book and waited patiently for it to become available. When it arrived, the first thing I noticed is that it was stunning. The pictures on the front cover were so inviting and beautiful and as I flipped through the book, it was equally beautiful throughout.
Over the past few years we began tucking beautiful edibles into our landscaping to provide more food for us. When I saw “Gardening Like a Ninja”, I was so excited to find so many more ideas for how we can do even more of that. Many people have HOAs or other organizations that control what they are allowed to grow in the front yard. We don’t have such a thing in my neighborhood, but if we did, I know we could get away with growing how we are, because it’s just stunning. Check out my friend Shawna’s front yard garden by clicking here.
“Gardening Like a Ninja” is a guide to sneaking delicious edibles into your landscape. There are three parts to the book, why sneak edibles into your landscape, original edible garden designs, and plants that matter. The book covers all 4 seasons and how to create interest in each one. It also covers using your senses in the garden and different shapes, sizes and colors. There is even a section on garden basics for the beginner.
I love this book and have been pouring over and over every page for weeks. I have read every word and learned a ton of new ideas and information. I had never even thought about making my whole mailbox planter edible or how gorgeous strawberries would look in there.
The book addresses patio designs, small spaces, pathways, foundation plantings, corners, and all types of spaces. “Gardening Like a Ninja” also has information on different types of food such as peas, strawberries, melons, sweet potatoes, cilantro, sunflowers and whatever else you can think of that would look beautiful in your landscape design. I know I have used sweet potatoes as decorative plants many times. One year we planted them in our front flower bed and it was gorgeous all summer long. We got so many complements from the neighbors and my daycare families. At the end of the season, we dug them up and there were 89 POUNDS of sweet potatoes under all those gorgeous vines! WOWIE!
There is so much information packed into this book. It’s 175 pages of delightful photos and wonderful ideas about how to grow more food in little space. It helps us remember how gorgeous blueberry bushes are and how stunning asparagus ferns can be. Don’t forget to sneak some edibles into your landscape and enjoy even more food than you ever thought possible no matter how small your growing space is. We have ¼ of an acre here plus 20 x 80 feet in an empty field next door, and we are growing all of this food by making the best of the space we have. We still have to have space in the back yard for a playground for the daycare kids and we have a lot of very shaded areas back there, so we are doing a lot with a very small amount of land. Even if you are in an apartment, you can grow food in containers like my daughter is doing.
Get your kids out in the dirt and get your hands on this book right away so you can make the most of your space too!
Click here to check it out on Amazon.
Do you teach your kids to celebrate friendship. I don’t know about you, but my friendships are some of the most important things in my life! This past week at Little Sprouts we have been celebrating Friendship week. Its fun to do special events with kids to break up the everyday ho hums of long days at daycare.
I like to come up with special celebrations that don’t cost an arm and a leg and don’t kill me with a million extra things to add in to our day. This week was fun and fairly easy and I didn’t spend any extra money. If you are a daycare provider, you know those pennies are hard to come by.
Do you want to garden with your kids but don’t know where to start? Everchange Productions has produced an amazing video for us showing the basics of how to get started gardening with kids. You don’t have to have a green thumb to grow your own food.
It’s not that difficult to get started, you just have to know where to start. The video shares the basics for how to get everything you need together to be successful in your efforts.
Feel free to share this video with your staff, co workers, friends, family, whoever you think might want to start a gardening project. You don’t have to be an expert to do it, you just have to start.
I hope you will check it out and let it inspire you to get your hands in the dirt today!