weeding

Weeding Can be Fun!

Beats reading, writing and arithmetic, right?  Nah, I wouldn’t go THAT far, but the kids do seem to enjoy their garden time and work quite well together over the beds as they weed. 

These kids know that if they leave these weeds be, they’ll rob their veggie plants of nutrients and that’s just plain unacceptable.  I mean, these boys and girls know exactly where they planted their seeds and watch over them like hawks!  (Now if only they’d eat grasshoppers like good flying predators do, we’d be all set.) 

Just kidding, kids! 🙂  Plucking them from the leaves will do just fine.  And look at the work they’ve accomplished.  Why this bed was covered with tiny green weeds only moments ago.  But these guys and gals are quick and learned a new method of weeding. 

Basically you put your fingers into the soil and twist.  I call it the roto-rooter method (though I’m not sure exactly why) and it does wonders for unearthing the tiny weeds that prove problematic for tools.  Okay kids, twist and turn, twist and turn, twist and turn–1-2-3!

They do enjoy rhythm in the garden.  They also like helping teach one another the finer points in gardening.  Just look at this young man teaching his fellow students how to pinch tomato plants.  An expert himself now, he has their FULL attention.

And it’s working.  These tomatoes are growing into some real beauties.

But speaking of beauty, these black bean blossoms will give those tomatoes a run for their title as “Most Glorious in the Garden.”  Mother Nature has her gems!

Weeds, Seeds, Sunflowers and Wildlife

The kids have been very busy getting their garden back into shape.  You can imagine a Florida summer of weed growth combined with a garden coordinator missing in action, well, it wasn’t pretty.  But it is now! 

I mean to tell you these weed warriors are serious about their business of weeding–even discovered a bit of wildlife along the way.  One unhappy toad escaped before I could photograph him but this trouble maker had to be relocated. 

These kids are a humane bunch when they’re not squashing and dispatching, but it’s better than poisoning with pesticides, right?  For both the insects and the humans!  As organic gardeners, we don’t want them to suffer and we don’t want our bodies to become sick.  Definitely not.

Slugs and snails are not our friends in the garden.  But lizards are okay!  Though we accidentally unearthed this egg, we were careful to move it to a safe spot for hatching. 

Momma will find him, I’m sure of it.  While we were weeding we were feeding our compost pile.  Growing dirt is easy and fun and GREAT for our plants so with every weed we pulled we fed the dirt baby. 

As good plant caretakers, we do want to give our seeds every advantage in life.  And while we’re working in the garden, it’s so nice to look good, isn’t?  I mean, when we look good, we feel good. 

Have you ever seen a more adorable gardener?  This girl is pretty in pink–sparkly, too!  And speaking of pretty, we’ve decided to expand our garden this year to include sunflowers.  Tall and sunny, these flowers will be a happy addition to our vegetables. 

Thanks to our kindergarteners for planting the seeds!  Won’t they be amazed when these beauties soon tower over them?  What fun.  And gardening is fun.  We’re even thinking of adding a butterfly garden, but must beware:  at some point in the life cycle of the butterfly they are caterpillars–and bad for the vegetable garden.  Caterpillars are hungry and eat a LOT.

So we’ll find a nice spot for the butterflies far, far away from our vegetables. 🙂

I’m sure they won’t mind.  And neither will these little tykes, each and every one of them on their way to becoming gardener-extraordinaires!  As for lessons, this week the upper elementary are preparing for peanut harvest while lower elementary is learning our school garden motto “know what you grow.”  And for kindergarten?  How about a pretty sunflower color page? Sweet!

Garden Gloves Galore

Spring flowers are blooming across the country and vegetable seeds needed sowing so let’s get geared up and ready for action–beginning with some garden gloves.

Do you need to buy a pair, but don’t know where to begin?  Check out this month’s Prize Pick for a jump-start on your garden glove shopping.  From florals to paisley, latex to leather, there’s a garden glove out there that’s right for you.  And with so many patterns and styles to choose from–you’d better get busy. 

Mother Nature won’t wait for long.  While forgiving for first-timers, she won’t wait on you forever!  So get off your husks and get cracking, before you miss first dibs on the best selection available.  You do want to look good out there, don’t you?

Of course you do!  (The neighbors are watching.) And don’t forget the kids–not only will they need a pair of their own, it’s great incentive for them to get gardening.  We parents do need to stay one step ahead.

The Kids Are Back in Action!

And boy have they been busy!  They have to be–with all the rain we’ve had in the last week (did you hear about Florida’s wet weather on the news?). 

Of course, they had a little motivation.  Take a look at these strawberries!  Large, plump and juicy.  “I’ll weed!  I’ll weed!”

So they weeded and mulched and ran and jumped–the latter two WITHOUT proper authorization, mind you. But it was hard to contain their excitement. 

I mean, it’s been over a week since we were last in the garden!  Who can stand to be away that long?  Not me.  Not these kids.

And they really did a great job.  If this scallion section isn’t proof positive, I don’t know what is!  Here’s the before.

Enter magic weeding hands and voila–weeds almost completely gone!

We also discovered this lovely cauliflower…but lavender

Who planted that?  Don’t remember.  Hybrid broccoli?  Snuck into the seed tray at the garden center?  Doesn’t matter.  We’ll keep it.  Next to that, we pinched tomatoes.

Checked on our cucumbers and they’re ready to climb the fence behind them.  Corn is progressing well, and so are our beans.  In general, all is well. 

Time for our sweet reward. Ready, set–everyone grab a berry!  Okay.  We didn’t really set them loose.  They lined up and then we set them loose.  In an orderly fashion.  After all, even though it doesn’t look like it, we are still in school!

Kids Say the Darndest Things

My kids have completely different styles when it comes to weeding the garden.  My daughter gets in, gets out — quick as she can.  The girl means business when it comes to weeds and she doesn’t like to waste her valuable free-time dawdling among the weeds!

My son, on the other hand, lingers.  He daydreams. 

Dawdles.  It’s not his thing, he says. 

Mine either.

He doesn’t prefer to weed.

Me neither.

So while in the garden recently, my daughter long gone, the dog uninterested in sitting with us out in the full heat of the sun (spoiled boy decided a swim in the pool would be a better use of his time!), I once again noticed my son idling amongst the rows.  He wasn’t pulling anything free from the ground.  Translated:  he wasn’t weeding.

Pausing from my task of planting garlic bulbs, I calmly asked him, “What are you doing?”

“Enjoying life.”

I raised a brow.   Really, now.   “Enjoying life, are you?”

“Yes.  I’m building an arena.”

Wondering if I heard him correctly, I repeated, “Building an arena?”

“Yep.  And these are my lights.”   He looked over at me with clear invitation in his eyes.    “Wanna see?”

Of course I did, so I rose from my spot and joined him along his row. 

“See.  There’s the arena and here’s my light.”   He bent a twig-like hay strand with his fingers to simulate a street light.   “This is the light part and this is its post.”

“Ah….”   Peering down into his creation, I said, “Looks good.  Who’s it for?”

“Ants.”

I chuckled.  “Do ants enjoy going to the arena?”

“Oh, sure.  And here’s their door where they enter.” 

Sure enough, there was a hole opening in the ground forming a tunnel for the ants to enter.  I nodded.  “Perfect.”

And it was.  Creative and wonderful, it was an awesome rendition of his current priority:  sports.  Returning to my row, I pondered over his imagination.  Never short on ideas, I thought, kids sure can create anything out of nothing.  Which is a good thing.  Even better, I liked that he thought to consider a break from his chores to simply “enjoy life.”  I think it says a lot about his state of mind, his outlook and for that, I’m proud of him.

A little while later, I noticed he still had yet to weed.  Almost finished with my business in the garden, I knew he wasn’t going to take kindly to sitting out in the garden alone — weeding —  so I nudged him a bit.   “How are you doing?”

“Not great.”

“No?  What happened to enjoying life?”

“I still have to weed.”

“Yes, you do, but it’s not that much.  You can manage.”

He tossed a hay twig to the ground.  “It’s not fair.  You try to enjoy life, but it comes right back at you!”

I laughed.  Such observation from a seven-year-old!  “You’re right.  It does, doesn’t it?”  I shook my head at his wisdom.  When it comes to the “weeds” of life, it most certainly seems to — until you fully adjust your attitude cap;  a feat he’s still working to master.

“What the heck–why even try to enjoy it then?”

“It’s all about attitude.  Enjoy what you’re doing, whatever it is.”

He huffed in disagreement.  “I’m gonna go throw the football with Dad.”

“Yes you are — right after you finish weeding.”

And such goes life.  Despite his every effort to the contrary, my son learned it’s not all fun and games.  There are parts of life that feel like work, no matter how hard you try to make them feel like play.  But we push through.  We persevere. 

As a mother, it’s reassuring to know we’re not only growing vegetables out here in the garden, but building character to boot.

Progress Report

The kids are going strong.  Crops are coming in, as well as weeds — but we’re on top of them.  First, we loosen their grip in the soil and then we pull them free, forming small work piles ultimately headed for our compost pile. 

Granted it’s not the most exciting part of our garden, but it is a necessary one!  These weeds are battling for the same sun and water as our plants and we are rooting for our vegetables to win out!

Go veggies!

And there is plenty of weeding to go around.  While we mulched these corn stalks to prevent weed growth, they still have a plethora (abundance) of weeds growing around their base.  Most of these should be removed.  A few survivors won’t hurt, but  a “carpet” of weeds is definitely not helpful to our plants.

Maintenance is the key at this point.  For our tomatoes, we learned how to pinch the suckers from the vines.  These small growths at the elbow of main stalk and branches “suck” away energy from the main branches.  Very bad. 

We want our efforts directed toward tomato production, not branch production!

As the tomato plants grow larger, we must also stake them.  This basically means to tie the stalk of the plant to a sturdy stake (we used bamboo) so that when to tomatoes start coming in, they won’t topple over our plant. 

We could have used a cage, but using ties is easy and allows the plant plenty of space to breathe and spread its branches.  You can also utilize a trellis, encouraging the plants to climb.

As usual, we’re always on bug lookout.  It only takes one day for a hornworm to devour an entire plant.  Which would be wholly disappointing after all our hard work.

This little brownish varmint below had to be removed else he do damage.  I’m not sure exactly which type of worm he is, but we take no chances when it comes to saving our tomatoes!

If we’re lucky, we’ll spot a ladybug.  Maybe a frog, or two.  But so far, nada.  Could it mean we have nothing for them to eat?

Probably not.  We have holes in our poles bean leaves so something is chomping.

Another task is training the pole beans to grow up the fence.  We do this by gently tugging the leading vine toward the links of our fence and winding it through.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

Our sweet peas aren’t ready for training, yet.  As it is, they’ve only just peeked out from the ground.  But once they get going, we’ll do the same for them.

All in all, I’d say we’re off to a great start!

Learn something new everyday

Gardening with kids can be enlightening.  Fun, entertaining, eye-opening.

The key to successful garden management is to do a little bit everyday.  More specifically, working in small batches is the key to keeping the kids on top of their garden chores.   Let’s face it, some tasks aren’t fun.  They’re simply necessary.  Take weeding, for example.  The kids don’t enjoy it.  It’s not their favorite part of gardening.  It’s just another job that must be done.  So what do we do to distract ourselves from the tedium?

We tell stories!  We take turns and create them as we work down our prospective beds, alleviating some of the boredom.  It’s actually quite fun when you here how your children’s minds work.  My daughter’s stories tend to focus on girls; their likes and dislikes, their squabbles and resolutions.  My son on the other hand, veers toward the action-adventure.  Go figure.

So it makes sense when he comments on the bees buzzing nearby his row that he would compare them to an action-adventure movie, right?

“Hey, Mom.”  He pointed to the enormous bee hovering about the broccoli florets now bursting with bloom.  “Do you know what that is?”

“No,” I played along. 

“It’s a drone bee.”

The boy’s an avid fan of Star Wars and sees everything in terms of warriors and epic struggles.   Why not bees?   “Really?”

“Yep,” he stated matter-of-fact, as he states most things.  Boys, I’ve learned, like to have a handle on the facts.  “He’s the defender.”

I suppressed a smile.  As his mother, I’m a firm advocate for his imagination and encourage him to go on.  “Wow.  I didn’t know they had defender bees.”

He promptly left his row to come over and explain.  “He’s not a worker bee.  His job is to protect the queen bee.”

“What about the other two.”  They were much smaller than the larger one under discussion.  “Are they worker bees?”

Walking back for closer inspection, he nodded and pointed.  “See how they fly into the flower?  They’re collecting pollen so they can spread it around.  I remember this from primary.  That was a year ago and I still remember it!”

“See,” I told him.  “That means you learned the information.  That’s great!”

Proudly, he strolled back to me and expounded upon his drone bees, the queen, and all the workers, then decided he wanted to take their picture, which I offered to do for him.  “Let me do it, honey.  So you don’t get stung.”  My camera is NOT a toy and well-intentioned as he may be, is off limits to the lad!

That evening, I relayed the story to my husband.  “It was so cute.  He called it a drone bee, like Star Wars.”  I shook my head.  “I think I’m going to comment on it on my blog.”

My husband turned to me.  “You might want to check your facts, first.  I think there is something called a drone bee.”

There is?”

He nodded.  “I believe so.”

I glanced away and laughed.  “And to think I thought it was one of his stories.”

Hmph.  Apparently, one of us learned their botany lesson better than the other!  Sure enough, I went online to check my facts and there it was — drone bees.  While not the defenders of the queen but her fertilizers, I was duly impressed — for real, this time.   The kid knows his stuff!

Yet another reason I enjoy gardening with the kids.  Not only do I enjoy listening to their creativity, I learn things along the way.  Bonding, 101.  Our visitor may actually be a carpenter bee, as he was diligently working the pollen, which from my understanding, drone bees take no part in.  But this fellow is definitely a worker bee.

On another note, the kids noticed some interesting developments in the garden.  “Hey, look at this!”

I gazed down at the sprout and wondered, How did that get there?  It’s definitely not a bean.  Zucchini, squash…cucumber?  I wracked my brain to remember which vegetables we recently threw in the compost pile that could have produced this little guy.  At the rate we eat vegetables, it could be any one of them!

Hmmm…  Either way, it needs to be moved.  I run a tight garden and my rows are not only evenly spaced, but organized according to family and flavor, and staked out to differentiate between planting dates!  This way I can track how long each plant actually takes from seed to harvest.  I know the information can be found on seed packets and planting sheets, but I’ve come to learn those are “guidelines” at best, as my real life experience has often proven otherwise.

With the busy garden season at hand, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us tomorrow!

Gardening — share the adventure with a child.