Tag Archive for seedlings

How to Plan your Garden Like a Rock Star!

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.

garden planning list

*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.

planning your garden

garden plans

garden planning sheets

plans for the garden

sheets for planning the garden

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?      

 

 

Tips for Gardening with Very Young Kids

Tips for gardening with Very young Kids


 

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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.

children's garden

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.

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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.

gardening with very young kids

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.

gardening with kids

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.

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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.

gardening with children

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!