kids

Updates

Remember the horrible squash washout?  The one where someone–Mother Nature, mystery visitor or something–washed the end of my squash row to nothing?

Well, I solved the mystery.  I didn’t tell you, but it happened again. Twice.  The first time I thought it may have been the rain, but the second? More

What the Heck Happenend?

Yesterday morning I strolled out to the garden, ready for a day of transplanting tomatoes and peppers.  You may recall I started my seed trays a month or so back and now felt ready to settle the little darlings into their new home.  The kids had their cousins over for a sleepover and I’d enlisted their help. Gardening is BIG fun for those kids without their own garden at home (though I was pleased to learn their public school has a garden).  As we strolled down the rows, tomato trays in hand, we stopped short.  There, in the middle of my perfectly lined walkway was a pile of mud.  Looking further, we noticed the entire end of squash were washed out.  I mean, seriously washed out.

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I’m Ready for Fall Gardening!

And I have a new secret weapon.  But first, how did I get to the point where I needed a new secret weapon?  I mean, I’m organic, I rotate my crops, my soil is in tip-top condition, right?

Yes, well, just when you think you have it all figured out, the bugs find you.  The ones you can’t see.  The ones that lurk beneath the surface and devour your plants one by one–even as you plant them!  It’s awful.  Discouraging.  My spring garden was not what it could have been.  So I solarized the beds to kill the varmints and now I’m ready for fall planting.  Yes, those are my plastic-covered rows plus everything but the kitchen sink.  Do you know how hard it is to keep that stuff down during an afternoon storm in Florida?

It’s not easy and I have no shame in using whatever it takes to keep my paper down–bricks, tiles, rusted iron rods–you name it, I used it.  However, when I pulled back the black sheets, my soil didn’t look so good.  Now “they say” that solarizing the soil helps to release the nutrients within.  Hm.  Funny, but it didn’t look that way to me.  Rather than healthy nutrient-rich soil, it looked like a bunch of hot sand to me. 

So I decided to amend my beds.  Now I have a compost pile, but it’s nowhere near enough to cover my garden.  As you can see, my garden is big — 100 X 40.  And I have a big appetite for this fall’s garden.  You might be thinking that I marched right down to the “compost store” and loaded up on the stuff.  Nope.  I’ve been hearing rumors about something better.  Similar, but better.  It’s called mushroom compost and according to those who have gardened with the stuff, it’s simply AMAZING.

And cheap.  We were able to buy a trailer full of the stuff for $10.  Yep.  No kidding.  $10.  Enough to fill the entire bed of a full-sized pickup truck.  (In Central Florida, we contacted Monterey Mushroom Farm–but they have branches across the US.)  Once home, it was time to unload the secret weapon.  Caution:  mushroom compost stinks.  Raking it into beds is not only hard work, but stinky.  As you mix it in, it’s not so bad.  But take a couple of tips from me.

***Rent a tiller.  You’ll still have to shovel the compost into your row, but rent a tiller to mix it in.  Unless you want your workout for the week to count as one day in the garden and then you’re good to go.  🙂

***And use the commercial-grade paper to line your walkways, NOT the black weed paper.  It disintegrates.  If you double it up, like I did here between my squash and zucchini rows (pictured below).  It will hold up better, but trust me–raking those beds was like déjà vu.  Feels like I’ve done this before!

As it stands, I have my red beans, okra, squash and zucchini in.  Here’s another tip:  instead of forming individual holes for your beans, make channels down the length of your bed–like you do for carrots, only deeper–and then drop the beans in, about 4 – 6″ apart and then cover with an inch or so of dirt  .  We used organic compost to cover the beans, hoping that it will hold the moisture better than that depleted-looking sand next to it.  Normally, I form wells around my newly planted seeds, as seen above with the squash and zucchini.

The kids helped with this one and the job went much quicker.  (Yes, this Labor Day weekend we labored.)  I formed the channels, she dropped them in, he covered them with compost.  The white dots you see are snail bait.  This was last season’s tomato row and I didn’t have time to solarize it, nor do I think that red paper helped in dissuading the varmints from taking up residence.  

But our efforts will prove worth it.   Ultimately, once I uncover all the beds, I’ll use the heavier black paper to replace the lighter-grade paper you see her walking on above.  I enjoy gardening, but I do not like to repeat my efforts when I don’t have to–it’s not smart!

And we’re smart gardeners. 🙂  I’ll keep you posted on how my magic mushroom compost works out!

We’ve Broken Ground for Our School Garden

Actually, we broke all the weeds out of our garden and it’s looking good.  Thank you, Middle Schoolers!  They are the brawn of the group. 

(Brains, too!) And boy can they do some damage to some weeds.  This color-coordinated gal is weeding garden beds.  One glance at the photo and you know we’re not talking any small amount of weeds.  But after an hour of fun in the sun…

It was just about weed-free.  Amazing, isn’t it?  Truly, they did outstanding work.  Even harvested our summer crop of peanuts!  Then Lower Elementary came onto the scene and tilled a row and prepped it for seeds.  Remember, plants like soft beds (just like kids!), so we had to be sure it was tilled to a fluffy-fine perfection. 

Next they formed holes, plopped the seeds in and covered well.  Water in and we’re good to go! 

Up next was Upper Elementary and these boys and girls may give Middle Schoolers a run for their energy bars, because as you can see, they cleared our pole bean fence in no time flat. Previously home to our sunflowers, the pole beans will enjoy the space and deposit some much needed nitrogen into the dirt.  Cucumbers will make the fence their home come spring and they need their nutrients. 

As organic gardeners, we rotate our crops so you’ll never find the same veggie in the same spot come next season.

For their lessons this week, the Middle Schoolers received the “Organic Gardening Essentials” handout while Elementary students received “Starting from Seed” — LE = lower elementary and UE = upper elementary.  All lessons can be found in our Kid Buzz section, under Lessons in Organic Gardening.  Feel free to copy and share!

And follow along, won’t you?  It’ll be fun! 🙂

Peanuts! Peanuts! Get Your Peanuts!

It’s that time again when peanut blossoms take center stage.  Gorgeous and delicate, these sweet yellow beauties are the sign of good things to come.  Below the bright green leaves are spindly legs—better known as “pegs”—bend down in search of soft dirt.  Once found, they bury themselves for the process of forming peanuts.  Like carrots, they prefer loose soil (makes it easier to reach down and form nice full shells).  At this point, you may want to mulch around their base, much like you do for your potatoes.

Memories from last year’s crop drift into the forefront of my mind.  I love peanuts.  Not only because they’re easy to grow, low maintenance—what, we’re growing peanuts?—partial toFlorida’s heat and practically pest resistant, but because they remind me of my childhood.

Football season is right around the corner and my mom used to treat us to pots full of boiled peanuts.  She’d add salt, despite my suggestion to the contrary (her mother was from South Georgia and I don’t believe these folks ever met a dish with too much salt) and let him soak stove top for hours.  Me?  I like a bit of Cajun spice in mine.  Salt only makes me retain water and that I can do without!

If you’ve never grown peanuts for yourself, you should.  Kids love peanut butter and it’s a recipe they’ll enjoy making at home, not to mention hubby may appreciate the boiled or roasted version—as they mix quite well with a frosty mug of sudsy beer. 

When planting your peanuts, be sure to include rich organic compost and/or composted manure.  And throw in a hand-full of crushed eggshells.  These nuts really like the calcium kick!  Here in Florida, we grow Valencia peanuts which take about 3-4 months until harvest. 

If you remember, we simply cracked open the shell and buried the peanut.  About two months after bloom, when your leaves begin to yellow, you’ll want to lightly dig down around one of your plants to check their progress—easy to use a fork to lift the pegs from the dirt.  A ripe peanut will feel firm, its outer shell somewhat dry and “papery.” 

Once ready, gently pull entire plant from the soil, shake off the excess dirt and lay on a screen in the sun for 2-3 days before shelling to cure.  This is for the purpose of longer storage.  If you’re boiling your peanuts, you want them green.  Do not attempt to boil roasted peanuts.  They’ve already been cooked!

But don’t worry—if your peanuts have already dried out and you get a craving for boiled peanuts, you’re in luck!  By soaking dried nuts for 24 hours you can “re-hydrate” them prior to the boiling process.  Check my recipe section for details.

Aflatoxin is listed as a concern with raw peanuts, mostly when there’s too much moisture.  Most sources I read suggest this risk is reduced by drying and more so by roasting.  Boiling may eliminate this problem altogether! 

Hey…   Maybe that’s why it started?  Peanuts are also healthier when cooked—something about the heating process releases their nutrients for easier absorption. Either way, peanuts are a great crop.  They’re easy to grow, easy to harvest and make for a great fall season snack—roasted, boiled or even eaten raw (with caution, of course).

How to Make the Most of your Garden with the Kids

Please welcome Laura Clarke to my blog today!  She’s a keen blogger and loves making the most of the garden, especially when it comes to the kids.  Currently, she’s working on behalf of Tiger Sheds, a company out of the UK.  If you’re “in the area” why not stop by the website and take a look see?  Something for everyone there… 🙂

How to Make the Most of your Garden with the Kids

Kids love to be outside at this time of year and there are plenty of things that need to be done in the garden that the kids can help you with and enjoy! Whether it’s sowing seeds, picking out the weeds or watering the plants there are plenty of activities that will keep your kids entertained and also keep your garden looking great at the same time.

Grow some vegetables

No space is too small to grow your own vegetables, fruit or herbs and kids will love watching the plants grow to have edible produce that they can enjoy. Tomatoes are favourites with children as they can easily grow in a grow bag in a warm garden shed or greenhouse. Strawberries can also be grown in hanging baskets and herbs in small pots. Cooking with their own produce will give children a new-found appreciation for the lengths it takes to get food to the table.

Let them plant your pots

Show them how to fill your pots with soil and how to sow the seeds and bulbs and then get them to water them. They might not be the cleanest gardeners, so beware of soil scattering everywhere, you could even get them to sweep up the mess they made. Teach them how from tiny seeds or bulbs big plants will grow and how they have to be looked after by giving them plenty of water to drink and sitting them in a nice sunny spot.

Get them to weed your flower beds

Weeding can be a chore at the best of times so by having some little helpers on hand could save you precious time. Kids gardening kits are easily available and are great for little hands. As we all know kids love digging and playing “grownups” so they will really enjoy doing this. (Just make sure you brief them fully as to what constitutes a weed–we don’t want any plants uprooting!)

Give them the task of watering the plants

Giving children jobs to do in the house in return for their pocket-money is nothing new, so why not extend the jobs into the garden and have them water the flowers. Filling up a watering can and watering the garden can be a great game–they will forget it’s a job.  Receiving their pocket-money at the end of the week will be so much more fulfilling.

Create a child’s garden

Depending on how big your garden is depends on how much space you can give to the kids. If you have a small garden, give them a large window box to look after or for large patches, why not give them a flower bed? Tell them it is their responsibility to make sure their patch looks as good as the rest of the garden and show them how to keep it tidy. They will be very happy once their flowers bloom and they see their hard work pay off.

Getting your kids involved in garden maintenance means they’ll be less likely to dig up your favourite plants, plus they’ll feel pride in looking after their very own. So get outside and let’s start gardening as a family!

And the Summer Splash Winner Is…

Congratulations go out to Colleen Kosinsk!!  And a big thank you to ALL who entered and followed along with the Summer Splash Bog Hop not to mention a HUGE thanks to our host blog, “I’m a Reader, Not a Writer.” Be sure to check with her site often as she offers a ton of giveaways and wonderful recommendations for your next read.

Hope you enjoyed my garden humor and for those of you like romance and women’s fiction, be sure to check out my author site ~ Dianne Venetta.  And if you liked the garden-themed T-shirts for kids, they’re available for purchase.  Check here for details.  Happy Gardening!

Last Day of School

Today is our last day of school and while there’s not a frown in sight, they are sad to say goodbye to their garden.  And who wouldn’t be? Gardening is BIG fun–especially during school hours!

“You mean we get to go outside again?”

“Yes pumpkin, you do.”

Speaking of pumpkins, our summer “crop” of students will do the honors this year and plant our pumpkin patch. Waiting until August is simply too late. Too late if you want pumpkins to carve for Halloween, that is. Or how about a pumpkin stand? Our seed sale fundraiser last week was a rip-roaring success. We raised an amazing $285.00 for our garden!  Isn’t that awesome? Now each student will have a tool to work with in the garden (no more sharing between friends) and we’ll ALL have gloves that fit.  For bonus points, we’ll throw in some magnifying glasses to use for leaf study, bug discovery, infection inspection–it’ll be super!

But before we go, how about one last check on our tomatoes (we’ll pull these out over summer and replace them with peanuts). 

Our first batch of which have already begun to sprout.

 

All over the place!

 

Gorgeous.  Simply gorgeous.  Come fall, we may host another seed sale, or send some home to parents as thank yous!  My summer plan is to create a full-fledged garden curriculum for the students, one that will coincide with the botany and science lessons they’re learning in class. With a seamless approach to their education, hopefully the students will be the big winners.

So if you’d like to incorporate gardening into your child’s education, sign up for new blog post notifications and you won’t miss a minute of the fun.  All lessons will be free for he taking!

Pullin’ Carrots…

So my son and I weeded the carrot and beet section this weekend and next thing I know, we’re harvesting.  “Hey, Mom!  Look at the size of this carrot!”

I turned from the row of squash and sure enough, there was huge carrot in his hand.  “Wow.  I guess the carrots are ready…”  At this point I could have reminded him that he was supposed to be weeding and not harvesting, but as any experienced gardener knows, there’s no greater excitement than harvest time—with the exception perhaps of the fresh burst of sprouts—especially when it comes to kids.  When it comes to the garden, these little ones are all about action.

But before I could utter another word, he’d already pulled out a second.  “Look at this one!”

It was a beauty, I had to admit, albeit a malformed one—shoots poking out every which way.  The next one he pulled took the cake (carrot cake). Rather than one interesting shape, it was more an interesting intertwine, like two carrots growing simultaneously out of one.  Guess a gal could look at this as a nice pair of legs! 🙂

Silly wabbit.  Tricks are for Mother Nature!  Not only will she swirl carrots together like this but I’ve seen her do much the same with tomatoes and onions!  Crazy old broad…

But stay on her good side—if you know what’s good for you—because she can make a gardener’s life downright miserable if she so chooses.  Which is why I try to obey her rules at all times.  Take companion planting, for example:  my beets and carrots are planted together because they work in harmony with one another AND the glory of nature. 

And don’t you think my son left any beets in the ground, either.  Oh no, they came out right along with their carrot friends—filled a whole wagon full!  Now I know what to do with carrots.  What I’m not making into the fluffiest carrot cake you’ll ever want to taste, I layer them in damp sand for long-term storage.  But beets? I usually save those for my Dad.

Would have cooked them up for Easter supper too, had I an ounce of energy to do so.  But lagging behind after spring break with the kids and playing catch-up on work and laundry, “no could do.”  They’ll simply have to sit in the refrigerator a few days more until I can come up with some edible concoction to serve the family. Any ideas?

I’m all ears!

Garden Inspired T-Shirts for the Kids!!

As we welcome spring, I’m launching a line of garden inspired T-Shirts. Your kids will love wearing these 100% cotton Tees that tell the world:  Leave them be — they’ll bloom in their own SWEET time!  Made from 100% cotton, they’ll wear comfy and cozy and be able to keep up with the most active of lifestyles giving your green-thumbed kids a fun way to share their love of gardening. 

Choose from bloomin’ beauty and bloomin’ sprout, each broadcasting their own message on the back, a timeless statement that speaks to a child’s personal sense of worth and well-being.  Bloomin’ beauties are for girls only, but sprouts work well for both boys and girls.  Make great gifts!

Price for each is $14.99 and includes shipping and handling.** 

For ordering, click on Garden Inspired T-shirts under the Kid Buzz section.  Questions or comments?  You know where to find me! gardenfrisk (at) bloominthyme.com

**International shipping rates will vary.  Please email me for exact amounts.