Germination is an AMAZING process. A seemingly dead, dry seed is placed in the ground and water is added and like magic, a seedling appears. There is not much skill needed to sprout a seed, God does all the work for us in the little miracles He makes for the production of plants.
At Little Sprouts we learn about all the parts of the process of growing food. For kids to become master gardeners in their life time they need to understand how the process works.
We got these cool seeds from our Seeds of the Month club membership so we wanted to get to growing them right away. Seeds of the Month is super cool, you just order your membership and you get a surprise seed order every month for as long as you want to order. They are all heirloom seeds, which we love at Little Sprouts! If you want to check out their membership, click here.
Seeds are alive! Inside of each seed there is an embryo. If the conditions in which the seed are stored are good, the seed will protect the embryo until it is placed in moist soil or water. The seed will actually die if it gets wet before it’s time to plant it, or if it gets too hot. Once the seed is moistened, the embryo comes out of dormancy, and then eats it’s “lunchbox” or the remainder of the seed inside of the seed coat. Kind of like a baby chick consumes the contents of the egg.
Once the seed eats it’s “lunchbox”, it will break through the seed coat and sent a tiny root to anchor the plant in the ground. Once the plant is anchored, the seed will send up a small shoot. That shoot will unfurl two tiny cotyledons or leaves and reach for the sunlight. Once these leaves open up, the seed will send roots downward. Those roots continue to grow until they reach the water and nutrients they need and then the plant will go back to work on leaves. It will produce two more leaves that are true to the plant called true leaves. The plant will then grow from there.
This is a fairly complicated process and hard for me to grasp as an adult. Can you imagine the difficulty in teaching this to children? So what’s a girl to do? There are clear boxes that can be purchased to show kids what goes on under the soil when planting a seed, but they are expensive and I have not had great luck with them in the past. The most inexpensive and easiest way to show the kids what happens is to plant seeds in zip lock bags. Here’s how we do it at Little Sprouts:
Take half of a paper towel and moisten it. Wring it out until it is not dripping wet but more than just damp. Give each child a moist paper towel and a zip lock sandwich bag. Have the children place the paper towel inside the baggie. Next give them three or four large seeds to place in the bag. I use large seeds because they are easy to handle and easy for the kids to see. Beans, corn, squash, or other large seeds work great. Have the children make sure the seeds are touching the paper towel. Next, write each child’s name (or if they are old enough, have them write it) on the baggie and tape them to the window. After a few days you will be able to see a small root begin to grow and you can watch the process the seed goes through under the ground happening inside the baggie.
We used these greenhouses because we happened to have them. Someone gave me a pack of 30 a few years ago and we had 7 left for this activity. A zip lock bag works just as well.
It’s an amazing process to watch! I have learned so much from this activity. It’s hands on. Kids learn so much more from doing than from watching and this is a great activity they can do. I promise you will learn right along with them. Even if you don’t work with kids, I encourage you to try this experiment. Learning what’s happening under the ground will help you understand the process you’re watching in the garden.
This activity is teaching kids life cycle science as well as fine motor skills and observation techniques. Patience is practiced when growing a seed whether it is under the ground in in a clear baggie taped to the window. There is so much that can be learned from a seed. Try growing something with your kids today!
Making a plan for your garden is one of the most important steps in success in growing. Each plant has specific sun, water, and size requirements in order to have optimal success. There are a few steps in planning that can save you a ton of heart break or disappointment later. Check them out below.
*The first step in planning the garden is to find your average last frost date in the spring. Click here to find your average last frost date. Once you have this date, you can start your seeds and seedlings accordingly. Your seed packets will tell you when is the best time to plant seeds and seedlings for tomatoes and peppers can be planted a few weeks after your average last frost date or when your soil temperature stays up above 50 degrees even at night.
*Next make a list of what you want to eat. There is no sense in growing things you don’t enjoy eating. Below is our list with the cold hardy or spring crops a the top and the warm season crops at the bottom.
*The next step is to make a list of when each plant can be planted. You can get a list of dates from your local extension office. I am in zone 7. You can look for Oklahoma Planting Times on Google to get the OSU extension list of planting times in Oklahoma. You can also click here to see how I keep my planting times straight.
*If you planted the previous year, you need to rotate your crops to a different area than that same type of plant was grown in the year before. Planting the same thing in the same spot year after year can cause pest and disease problems to reoccur. Draw out a map of where you had things planted last year so you can move everything you plant this year to a different area.
*Draw out a map to help you choose where to put your plants. You can use graph paper or do like we do and use the excel program to make a representation of your growing space. I like to have it be printable because I can reprint it and have a do over if I change my mind 100 times like I may or may not do. I use 1 square to represent 1 square foot of garden space. This way, when I look up how much space each plant takes to grow, I can mark off that many spaces on my map. I made the different spaces different colors so I would know the length of each bed when they are lined up in a row on the edges.
These are our two garden areas and the maps that represent them.
*Choose which plants to put together by their needs. Some plants retard growth in other plants, so you need to check out a companion planting chart before you plan your garden. Click here to see one. You can also get the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes” to have companion plant information handy all the time. In addition to companion planting, each type of plant also has certain water, sun, and nutrient needs. You can group plants together to help you care for them throughout the summer, such as planting carrots with tomatoes helps the carrots stay cool in the shade of the tomato plants as well as the carrots help repel bugs that eat tomatoes. But also, potatoes need less water than squashes and melons, so you could plant all of your melons, cucumbers, and squashes along one side of your garden and water that area more. Check out your seed packets to find out the requirements for each plant.
*If you want to plan to succession planting, or plant the same crop every two weeks for six weeks to spread out your harvest times, map that information on your map as well.
*Estimate the mature size of each plant and use your seed packets or plant information tags to find out how much space to block off for each plant.
*Write the names of your plants on your chart and then write down what you have decided to grow with the planting time next to each one. Then organize them in groups of the same time, so on that week, you will know what all you need to be doing in the garden.
*Track the varieties you end up choosing so when you find a favorite, you can plant it again the following year. A little bit of planning in the garden will go a long, long way in making your garden more successful and easier to manage. Do you have any tips or tricks for planning what you will grow?
I am very fortunate to have found my passion and what I am supposed to do with my life at a very early age. I started doing daycare at the age of 24 and I have never wavered from knowing that I know it’s what I’m supposed to do with my life. The majority of people flounder around looking for their purpose in life and trying to find what they are meant to do. When you are not doing something you love and care about, burnout is always on the horizon. Do you dread Mondays? Do you hate getting up each day when you think about what faces you at your job? We are not meant to live that way. You should look forward to your work, at least some of the time.
How do you go about figuring it out? Well, first of all, I believe we were not just meant to do one thing only. There could be many variations of what we were meant for that could all fit into God’s plan. I also think when you are reaching for your goals in life, you need to focus on an area of meaning and try to make what you spend your time doing, further that goal. In addition, many times we are meant to do certain things for a season and then meant to do something else at another time. And, I don’t think our calling is always our main 9-5 job. It could be something you participate in outside of work.
When I was a girl, I wanted to be, well, first, Wonder Woman. I would put on my skates and go down in the basement in my bathing suit (as a third grader, I thought that’s what Lynda Carter was wearing in the show) and put on my homemade bullet deflecting bracelets and tiara, get my little gold belt from my fairy costume mom made me for Halloween for my lasso of truth, and skate around pretending to be her catching all the bad guys.
I also had a passion for writing. My first grade teacher encouraged me to pursue that dream because I was good at it. I lost touch with it when it was discouraged later, but I always loved writing.
Later in my growing up years, when my career goals as a super hero fell through, I wanted to run a big company and be a strong, powerful, woman CEO. I wanted to make lots of money and have lots of power. So I went to business school to learn all I could about business.
Your life will not go as planned, no one’s does! You don’t just map out all your goals and just check them off one by one, you have to take a path to get there. It’s never a straight one. Have you heard the expression life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans? It is true. I never dreamed in a million years that I would work with children, but here I am having done it for 20 years!
When I think back on my life, dreams, and passions, I can see every single thing I have been through in my life has prepared me for where I am today. Think about the course of your life and see if you can see it too. I believe God brings us on a path that is best for us, but not always what we expect. Being a childcare provider IS a lot like being a super hero. There is so much expected of this position and not a lot of resources to get you there. Believe me, to do this job, you HAVE to be born to do it. It takes a unique individual to work very long hours for very little profit, balance a family with a business in the same space, open your home to complete strangers and trust them there, run the business side with professionalism and the daycare side with heart, and be rigorously dependable. You also have to support parents and guide them while being their partner in caring for their child, and be able to give the kids what they need for success as well.
Going to business school was immensely helpful to owning my own business from everything to accounting principles to typing and computer skills. This job involves A LOT of paperwork! The computer is an invaluable tool for that.
Video produced by Ever Change Productions. To check them out, click here.
If you are struggling to find your meaning in life, how do you find YOUR calling?
Step 1-Think about your passions.
What do you LOVE doing? What did you always love as a child that you have given up enjoying now? When you look forward to something, what is it? If it’s traveling, why? What about it do you love? If it’s gardening, is there a way you could turn that into more of a full time part of your life? Do you love being with children? Could you incorporate that into a career? Do you love helping people? There are so many jobs where you can do that. Do you love to create things? Organize? What do you wish you were spending your time on? What do you long to do? What makes you feel complete or relaxes you?
Step 2-Think about what steps you would need to get there.
Do you need to take some classes or get a higher degree to reach your goals? Do you just need to spend more of your free time doing what you love on the side? Do you need to adjust your lifestyle and pay off your debt so you can take a lower paying job? Don’t worry about the big picture and fret about how far away you are from your goals, focus on the tiny steps you need to take to get there, what can you do TODAY to change your future?
Step 3-Take the first step.
Put the first step into action, have faith in yourself and the dreams God placed in your heart and trust Him to help you get there. Pray about what needs to happen. Trust Him to lead you on the path you need to take and let Him ignite the passion for it even more in you.
I have been living my purpose for the past 20 years. It has nothing to do with any of my career goals as a child, but I could not have found a more perfect fit for my life. I love giving kids a great place to be. Growing their self-esteem and helping them succeed is so satisfying to me. Is there anything better than catching the eye of a child and watching their face light up and that big smile come over them as they realize you SEE them? Not to me. No, I don’t love cleaning up poopy diapers and barf, and I don’t love when parents pick up late or forget to pay, but I DO love being someone a child can trust as they learn to care for themselves and encouraging them along the way that they can do it. I also love giving parents a chance to work without worry and being a person they can trust and count on.
Today is my 20th anniversary in childcare. A couple of weeks ago we had a party to celebrate it. I invited all 75 of my past kids and their families to come and spend some time remembering things we had done. Many didn’t come, of course. People are busy and have lives to live, but the ones that came were a blessing and I really enjoyed seeing them. I have learned so much over the past 20 years about myself, children, relationships, and people. People always say, you teach the kids so much and give them so much, but I always say, they’re the ones that teach and give to me. My heart is blessed when I pour it into children. My life is changed. My soul is complete.
Here are a few things we did to celebrate and the reasons why we did them. It was a very special day. I hope you enjoy taking a peek into our celebration, and I hope you can take steps toward living the life you were meant to live. If you are there, GREAT! If you need to get there, take one step today in the right direction. We were meant to flourish in our life not just survive every day!
We had a greeting table set up with seeds to take home the kids had harvested from our garden last year, some pens for the parents, and Easter eggs for the kids to take home. Those were a nod to one of the favorite family activities we have annually. If you want to check out our garden story, click here.
Over to the left, you can see the poster from our 10 year anniversary party along side our new growth chart for the second ten years. I have a chart in my closet that I have measured all the children on and even teenagers and young adults ask to measure first thing when they come in my house to visit. It’s a lifetime memory for a lot of them. Since our first one was full and overflowing onto the door in the closet, I bought this new one and we broke it in at the party. The kid’s faces lit up when they saw it there.
We had yummy snacks and some fun door prizes to give away. People won lunch boxes, loaves of homemade bread, and packages of cookies from the cookie bar. I have several “world famous” cookie recipes that have been favorites over the years, so I baked some of each of them up for the occasion. To see the recipe for Monster cookies, click here.
Decorating gingerbread is another parent involvement activity we do annually. Parents come and hang out with their kids and spend time getting to know each other and being creative. Many kids tell me years later how much fun this was and it’s one of my daughter’s favorites. That’s her at 22 in the last gingerbread picture. We’ve been doing this since she was 4. To see more about our gingerbread parties, click here.
The memory book table was a favorite among the parents and the kids. We recreated a few of our old photos with the kids now. I had a scrapbook for the first 10 years and one for the second as well as yearly cookbooks we’ve made, garden journals and newspaper clippings. To check out what the cookbooks are all about, click here. I also had the photos from the scrapbooks printed up so families could take a copy of whatever photo they loved.
Yummy snacks were enjoyed by everyone and people had a great time catching up or meeting other families.
The Little Sprouts trivia game was a big hit, here is a family working hard to win. The prize was 20 flowers made of dollar bills for 20 years of fun and learning. We had a tie, so each person got 10 flowers to keep. Some of the answers were a real hoot, but I think everyone had fun trying to figure them out.
So for 20 years, 75 kids, 36 families served, I have been growing and learning along side these kids. I am blessed beyond measure. I am grateful to have been a part of each memory we celebrated. I don’t know what I did to deserve this life, but I do know I am unique, special, and loved. I was born for this. I couldn’t be happier to be staring down the chance at more years like these. My gifts, my talents and my passions are being developed even still as I celebrate my life. I am praying that YOU would find your passion if you aren’t already living it too.
These are a few of the kids who came to the party, some of them had already left when we got a group shot, but there are so many blessings in these faces. I’m amazed every day that I have the privilege of doing this job.
At Little Sprouts, I have provided care for kids ages 1-11, and teaching school age kids planting and harvesting is a little simpler than teaching younger kids. Of course, their motor skills are more developed as well as their critical thinking skills, so there is more logic involved. But even an infant can learn in and enjoy the garden!
One time we were planting a tray of broccoli in succession, which means we wanted to harvest it at different times so we had our seed tray set up and every two weeks we put in a row of seeds. We had some seedlings that were two weeks old and some that were four weeks old and we were putting in row number three. I had a new child that week and when it was their turn, they saw the rows of baby broccoli plants, and instantly started grabbing the tops and pulling out the largest seedlings one at a time, pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck, pluck! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! The shock and horror! We had been babying those things for months and now they were all laying on the table.
What can we do when tragedy strikes? What would they learn if I would have freaked out on the outside like I was on the inside? I’m sure they would not have gotten a positive image of gardening. I did react, I’m only human. But then I rallied and told them we want the seedlings to stay in the dirt. I put them all back in the tray as carefully as I could and then we talked about how careful we have to be. We proceeded with that child’s turn to plant seeds. Crisis mostly averted. And we went on to plant many things together after that. By the way, all of the seedlings recovered just fine to my surprise, and we learned something.
Another time, a few days after we planted our okra seeds outside, I found two little sweeties at the okra bed poking their little fingers in the ground all over the dirt. These two have done this many times, and I’ve asked them many times not to, so it’s hard to stay patient. They had poked about 30 or so holes in the bed while the other kids and I were picking weeds in another spot. I told them when you plant seeds, and the baby seedlings are trying to come up through the soil, they are very fragile and if you poke them, it will hurt them and we won’t get to eat okra. They stopped and a week or so later when all of our okra was up and the section where their finger holes were had nothing growing, I showed them how it made the plants go away. They understood it better and have not done it since.
Another time, we were picking some very ripe radishes that grew up huge while my family and I were on vacation. On the edge of the radish bed, we have a row of onions. This is the first time we’ve had any success growing onions and the bulbs are visible on the top. We are so excited, but they are not ready yet. Each person was taking turns getting a big old radish when I turn around and see someone with an onion in their hand. Look I got a radish! (Ah, that’s the onion I just told you not to pick when you asked me two seconds ago.) Oh sweetie, that’s an onion, see, smell it, let’s find you a radish to pick. It’s a process of learning things cannot be perfect. My suggestions is to plant extra so mistakes can be made and you can still have something to eat. Even for the bigger kids it’s tough to leave the plants alone long enough to get a harvest. It’s hard for any of us to wait!
Realize that a lot of the time in your gardening, you and the kids might look like an episode with Lucy and Ethel, but with 7 of them and 1 of us, we can’t make sure everyone is doing the best things for the garden every second. I don’t think any child should be made to garden if they are not interested. So for our situation, we got a couple of sets of big plastic animals and moved a table and chairs into the garden, so the kids who don’t want to garden have something to play with besides baby plants. That helped a lot. I do want them to be able to play in the dirt and experience the garden in many ways, not just my way.
I have a few tips that have helped me to help the kids be successful.
I taught the kids what their knuckles were and what they do for our fingers. I tell them to plant a seed one knuckle keep or two knuckles or whatever is appropriate for that seed according to the package. The older kids of course are bigger, so I tell them a different number, but when we are all planting, it works well. Even the littlest one year olds do well with the knuckle instructions.
With the littlest kids, try to let them plant the larger seeds. When I let them plant carrots and lettuce, it’s pretty much all in one spot, but that’s okay. If you want a better harvest, you can mix them with sand and let them sprinkle them out of a salt shaker or something like that. But if you give them larger seeds such as corn, beans, or squash, it’s easier for them to get them close to the right place. A good method that worked for us this year was an older child or I would place the seeds all over the bed where we wanted the plants to grow and then we invited all the younger kids over to help us push them in one or two knuckles deep, whatever the seed calls for. We found when planting a lot of seeds, as we did this year because our garden is pretty big now, it is very effective.
Don’t be discouraged, because over time, the kids do get better at knowing what a good thing is and what is not so good to do in the garden. Planting some super quick growing stuff helps the kids not lose interest in the garden. For instance not many kids like to eat radishes, a few do, but they are not a favorite, but they grow from seed to ready to eat in about 25 days. There is more instant gratification in something you get to taste sooner. Also, radishes can be planted as early as February in Oklahoma, much earlier than a lot of things. They can see radishes coming up out of the ground while they are still waiting to see anything happen with the carrots or green beans. Radishes are pretty fool proof as well. Throw the seeds, and you’ll get radishes. They move each other if they need more room, no need to thin them and every seed seems to grow no matter how you plant them.
I gave some seeds to my kids to take home and one little girl spilled her radishes in the car so mom threw them out on the driveway while she was cleaning her seat out. Earlier this week she sent me a message that they had radishes growing in their gravel driveway. Radishes will survive! Squash grows fast in the garden and okra does once it gets hot, so those are great to plant with the kids as well.
Make sure when you are gardening with the kids to keep it fun. They will want to garden if they see that you want to. Also, make sure to have your stuff organized before the kids come so you will have more chances for success. Don’t get them all out there and then think of where you keep your seeds.
Have a plan, work in small bits at a time, and don’t try to take on too big of a garden to start with. See how it goes before you add more. Remember you have to be willing to work the garden in your time off to help them. Kids love to plant and harvest, but picking weeds, not so much. A lot of the building and maintenance of the garden will be up to you when the kids are gone. Make sure you can see your garden spot from your play area so you can pick weeds a little longer after the kids get bored. They can run off and swing or slide and you can work a little longer and still watch them.
Have fun in the learning process. I am VERY type A and when we were first growing, I wanted all the rows straight and each seed to sprout and everything to be perfect. That isn’t going to happen. So enjoy the chaos, and the garden will teach you many things if you let it!
It takes a little finesse and a lot of patience to plant seeds for the garden with very young children, but there is so much for children to learn in the garden. The sensory experiences alone are immeasurable! Most kids love being in the garden while they are learning skills that last them a lifetime. A child learns 80% of what they will learn in their entire lifetime by the age of 4. That’s a lot of learning from birth to 4! It’s an important time we must capitalize on.
This is a very long post, but if you are interested in how we were able to expand, the information is here.
The minute my husband told me our generous neighbor was going to allow us to grow whatever we wanted, my mind started spinning one hundred miles an hour. This could really help us reach our goal of growing a lot of our own food. Consider food for a family of 10, since I have 7 extra kids here for 15 meals a week. The kids and I dreamed of all the things we could try and things we didn’t have room for now, like corn! Yummm! One thing I was interested in was growing more perennials like garlic, or crops like potatoes that you harvest all at once so we would be able to manage what we were growing.
Right now we are doing fine, except we are NOT managing the weeds AT ALL! But we aren’t giving up on that. It is tempting to go get a giant bottle of round up but I just cannot do that to the earth KNOWING that roundup is showing up in people’s blood supply now.
Anyway, back to the subject. The first thing I did was call my DHS licensing worker to see what parameters I would need to follow. She told me I needed to have it fenced in and I would have to be able to bring all the kids in, close the gate, work in there, and bring all the kids out. Even the big kids can’t go into the garden without me. OK. Then I needed a sturdy 4 foot fence with no holes the kids could climb through. OK. So, no, I can’t use the barbed wire that is already there? NO! OK. (I was just kidding of course) That’s not so hard, fencing in whatever space I want to use. But oh, we don’t have any money. Ok, Facebook, who has some old fence laying around? We had to consider that some of the area next to our house holds A LOT of water for most of the spring, and we needed easy access from our back yard or our front yard. We needed to leave space for a vehicle to drive through so the owner could get his tractor through there or his truck or whatever he wanted. The part of the space next to our house is very long and narrow, so the garden was going to be long and narrow. I measured off what I thought was the most I could take care of. I made a spreadsheet and penciled in what beds I thought would fit. I wanted to put narrow beds on the fence line so I could use it for trellis. I thought I could build a few beds each year until I filled it. The area from the front of my front yard to the gate in the back yard garden was about 80 feet, and we could go 20 feet wide and fit in 2 foot and 3 foot wide beds and still leave space on the side for vehicles. So we decided to do 80 x 20. According to my spreadsheet we could fit 40 beds ranging in size from 2 x 2 to 3 x 10 and a few containers. Originally my plan was for all of the beds to be 10 feet long and either 2 feet wide up against the fence, or 3 feet wide in the center with one 4 x 4 as part of the center feature and place to rest.
I posted on Facebook and my husband started talking to people at work about our idea. He had a friend who was cleaning up his yard and had a bunch of old wood and chain link he was taking to the dump the following day. Bring it on over. As I mentioned before there was some barbed wire fencing on the space, most of which was laying over and broken. There was about 60 feet along one side that was still standing. We removed all of the wire and wound it up so our neighbor could scrap it with other metal, and we set to work on getting the t-posts out of the ground. We waited until a good rain and went out and worked them out of the ground. We also found a few posts laying out around in other places and a little wire we picked up. My husband got the mower out there and mowed the grass and weeds down so we could work easier. We went to Lowe’s and bought 4 corner posts and bags of concrete. We measured the area off 20 x 80 and dug and set the four posts to mark our area. Then Mr. Kent’s friend Jason came over with his load for the dump. There was quite a bit of privacy fencing….we could cut that up and build beds out of it. There was also about 50 feet of chain link and some posts. We ran string along the four posts and banged in the t-posts we had found every 8 feet, and then we took the posts that were in the junk pile and set those in along another side every 8 feet. We used the hardware that was still on the roll of fencing and strung the back 20 feet side up with that and rolled the rest up until we could get some more chain link. We had one side of a garden!
Next we got out our trusty old hand saw and started cutting the privacy fence panels into three slat wide pieces. They are six inch slats, so that makes them about a foot and a half tall when made into a bed. They were different lengths but mostly around 6 feet long. Our neighbor was outside and heard us sawing and came over. Do I hear a hand saw? He asked. Yes. Do you want a real saw? Yes. So he brought his saw over for us to use and it made the work much less labor intensive. Steve is always helping us out.
We laid the panels out in sets that would build a bed and started cutting some of the panels in two foot lengths so we could make the sides. It ended up making 8-6 foot beds, 2-2 foot beds, and a giant bin to hold leaves for composting. Not bad for free!
We were short a few fence posts so we used a large piece of top bar that was in the junk pile cut into pieces to make the last posts we needed. The junk pile had 2 corner posts in it, which we used to frame the gates, and one gate. Another friend, Sherrill, saw my post on Facebook and brought us a couple of rolls of used chain link as well. We used it to string one of the long sides of the garden with some hardware that another friend, Suzanne, gave us and rolled up the rest to use with the leftover from the junk pile. We also found wood in the junk pile to make braces for the privacy fence beds to hold them together. We had a good start.
My plan was to build the 10 foot beds from 1 x 12 inch cedar planks. Danny had built our first bed out of them and it was doing great, so we kept building with them. But the supplies for 40 new beds was way out of our price range, so we needed some funding. Mr. Kent and I wrote a letter to some local businesses we thought would care about teaching kids and healthy living. We mailed out 40 letters. A couple of weeks later, Mr. Kent started going door to door to talk to the owners of the businesses about donating. We also contacted the newspaper and asked them to do an article. Most of the companies said no because we are not a public school or non-profit so the donations are not tax deductible. The paper gave no response, so I contacted a different person there, still no response.
A few businesses gave us some money to get started. We got donations from Dr. Weaver, Advantage Control, and Dr. Hoos. We bought the last roll of chain link we needed and a gate and enough landscaping fabric to line the whole space plus each bed for double protection. Mr. Kent insisted. Mr. Kent is my husband, my soul mate and my biggest supporter. I would have NONE of this without him. His support and super hard work help me with everything in my life and I’m super lucky to have him. I call him Mr. Kent because we are children’s pastors and have a daycare in our home and we are ALWAYS with kids, so after years of calling him that, it just stuck. Anyway, back to the first supply run, Mr. Kent had gone to Orchelen’s farm and home to ask for a donation and they said they couldn’t donate, but anything we bought for the project would be 20% off. They also said they had boxes of seeds we could have they didn’t sell the year before. He loaded them up and brought them to me. There were 5 HUGE boxes, over 2000 packets of seeds! What did we do with them? We sorted them and took out whatever we thought we could use, and then we made 5 big mixed boxes for the 5 community gardens in town. My mentor, Doug gave us the contact information and we gave them to the leader at each site. We made 30 “garden in a bags” for people to have. They had a variety of seeds in a Ziploc bag that someone could plant a garden with. And we had a big mixed box of seeds of all kinds that we charted and sent to whoever was interested on Facebook so they could choose seeds they wanted. We gave seeds to all of the daycare families, people in our neighborhood, mailed them to daycares and friends and family around the country, and people picked them up from Mr. Kent at work. After a few months of distributing, we set the last of them in a box at the front desk of the fitness center Mr. Kent works at and the rest were gone within the day. Our seeds are blessing people all over the place as far away as Vegas and all over Oklahoma. She said we could get them again this year. We sure will! Orchelen’s has blessed us tremendously.
As we were looking for funding and mostly being turned down, my friend Jason suggested crowd funding on the internet. We did some research and started a campaign with Indiegogo for three months. Most of my daycare parents contributed and some family members and even a few strangers. We raised enough money for the dirt to fill the beds and some type of material to put between the beds to keep us up out of the mud while we work and to keep down the weeds.
Another daycare dad, Dustin, had a bunch of leftover ends from fence planks that he cut off and some decking. He asked if we wanted them. Of course! There were enough planks to build 10, 2 x 2 beds. That saved us from having to get cedar for 2 of the long beds, more money saved.
We got a contact with the newspaper and my husband talked to him. He was excited to cover the project, but we never heard back from him so we never got any exposure from them. It’s a shame because it is a great community project.
During the time we were going door to door and running our Indiegogo campaign, I also sent letters to online garden companies and wrote any garden grant I could find. Most of them turned me down for the same reasons that the local businesses did, not a non-profit or public school. It doesn’t seem fair to me that barely a profit is not non-profit, but that’s the breaks. Then it happened. I got the call. I received one grant for $800 for wood from the Oklahoma environmental Education Committee. That was the rest of the funding I needed to make my dreams come true and I could buy ALL the wood to build ALL the beds if I used some of my Indiegogo money with it. We were so excited!
I called around to find the best price on the wood and we found a local Hughes Lumber yard here in town that would cut all the wood for us and deliver it for free. Plus they gave me a deal for buying it all at once and took a few cents off per plank to help us with the project. I would recommend everyone in town buying wood from them!
Over the course of a month or two, Mr. Kent and I put together all 40 of the beds of privacy fence, 10 foot planks, and 2 foot planks. We had been working all winter on these beds and spring was getting nearer. We left a space in the center of the garden to make a place of rest. As we were looking at what was left in the junk pile, we had quite a few landscape timbers. I had gotten a book from my daughter that had plans for things made out of what you already have, and there was a really cute herb tower made of landscape timbers I thought would be perfect use of them. Our cutting skills leave, well, a lot to be desired, so I asked Shane, one of my daycare dads to cut the timbers into pieces I needed to build the planter and then all we needed were some long screws. Mr. Kent and I screwed it together in a snap. Then we decided to use some 4 x 4’s to build a pergola on it and top it with a “ladder” made with sticks from a brush pile. It was really fun and we think it looks awesome. We lined it with fabric, filled it with dirt, and planted herbs in it. Then we put a table and some seats next to it to rest on. We also planted some sweet potato vines in the corners to grow up and make a little shade.
The next thing we needed was dirt to plant in. I called around and looked around at all the prices and sources and choose a Tulsa company called Gemdirt to deliver a load of garden soil. It was a mixture of river bed dirt and sand, composted manure, and compost. I bought the 12 tons that would fit in a truckload and they dumped it in the yard for us. Then we had the problem of how would we move this massive amount of dirt into the beds. So we had a dirt party and invited families to help on a Saturday. Shane and Gena showed up with the boys and in a few hours, we had most of the dirt moved into the beds with wheelbarrows. It was really cumbersome to get the dirt in the beds because the wheelbarrow got stuck on the sides with every dump, but eventually we got it done. It filled all but 5 of the beds we had.
As we were finishing filling the beds, we could see the weeds growing up between them and pressing the landscape fabric upward. We knew we needed to get the material in between the beds to block out the sun as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to use mulch because of the slope the area is on and the massive rains we get. I figured it would all wash down into the street and cause a big mess, so I needed something heavy. We decided on one inch river gravel. I ordered a load of that with the last of our money. We got 15 tons simply because I had ordered a truck load of pea gravel 15 years before for impact material in my play area and it was 15 tons. I hoped it would be the right amount. We had two more work parties for the daycare to move gravel, one on a Saturday and one on a weeknight. Cindy and the boys, Julie and the girls, Alesa and her boy, and Stacy and the girls came to help. On Saturday we filled the new expansion area, and on Thursday evening we filled the old garden area. We had some gravel leftover so we filled a flower bed. We probably had maybe 3-4 tons left that we gave away. My daycare parents ROCK!
After the rock was in place, the garden was ready to use. We started planting seeds and seedlings we had grown inside. We have enjoyed it so much and are eating lettuce, radishes, swiss chard, broccoli, herbs, peas and kohlrabi. The kids and I are learning SO much! The expansion lets us grow more variety of food and we feel so blessed to have it! It took a half year of super hard work to build it and a whole community to help, but we did it and we love it!
I always have a hard time sorting out all of the times for when to grow what, so I made a chart to help. I used information from the OSU extension website and combined it with information from several books and websites until I came up with a range of times I could plant things in my zone, 7a.
The chart is set with the date noted as the first date when planting should be okay. Some years are warmer or colder so the dates won’t be an exact fit, but these are basic guidelines on when to start planting. Most plants can be planted up to a month after the noted date.
I indicates that seeds can be planted in trays indoors, and O indicates that seeds can be planted outdoors. While this chart won’t work for other zones, I hope that I can help someone in my area to keep their dates straight. It has helped me tremendously this year!