Well, March is bitterly cold, just like it has been since early November. I don’t know if anyone remembers my old joke from the kid’s elementary school days but I can’t resist telling it again because it is so appropriate
So in silent mutiny against nature, my thoughts turn to gardening…again and again. I enjoyed gardening with my kids, heck even our dog joined in. For all his faults, Duke is an excellent gardener. I know that this seems to be an absurd statement but trust me. I speak the truth!
This last fall I was pulling out old grape vines around our property. Duke pushed me out of the way as I struggled to dig up roots and he proceeded to dig furiously with his front paws. Very impressive. He saved me an hour of digging, I’m sure.
As I pruned over head branches, I often only managed to cut half way through branches. I’d tug and pull but it was Duke’s who deserves all the credit for finishing the pruning. He’d leap incredibly high, grasp the errant branch with his teeth and then hang his whole ninety pounds on the branch. that dog saved me hours of work, yet again.
As part of an article for Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner, I included a top 9 list of favorite vegetables to grow with little gardeners.
Here are my “top 9” plants for children’s gardens, which are easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.
A must for a child’s garden. Plant just two or three. Sunflowers will sprout in 1 week, become a small seedling in 2 weeks, and should be 2′ tall in a month. In 8 weeks, the buds will flower with hundreds of seed kernels. Grow ‘confectionery’ sunflowers, the type grown for food. They will dry naturally in the late summer sun; the seeds can be roasted for snacks.
A quick, easy crop to give the child fast results. Lettuce likes part shade; keep soil moist especially during the first two weeks. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days; growing season is 40-50 days. You can grow ‘head’ (space 8″ apart) or ‘leaf’ (space 4″ apart) varieties; the leaf varieties will mature sooner, about 30-35 days.
Although the seeds are tiny and they are a pain to thin, there is nothing as fun as pulling your own sweet carrot from the ground, rinsing it in a bucket outside and chomping on it. Carrots also prefer cooler temperatures. They can be slow to germinate, so be patient. Carrots will mature in about 60 days. Keep them well-watered and thin to every 2″ because crowding will produce foliage but no root.
A quick-growing early crop, and fun for kids to eat right off the vine. They take about 10 days to germinate and mature in about 60 days. Peas prefer partially shaded locations in the garden; they should be sown closely, about 1″ apart at most. The pod is edible and since they are a dwarf plant they can be grown without support..
These are a fun crop for a child. Plant in full sun and buy young plants. Put in a 2′ stake beside each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Use lots of compos or manure. When you water, try to keep leaves dry. Growing season is 50-75 days. Cherry tomatoes can also be grown in containers.
bush green beans
Beans are so prolific. From one seed, the kids will pick handfuls of small, tender green beans which taste NOTHING like bought beans. They also grow quickly. Bush beans germinate in 4-8 days, and mature in 40-65 days. It’s best to plant a small patch, then another in a few weeks so you always have tender, young beans. Select the “low bush” types; these will be easier for children to harvest. Plant closely spaced, about 4″ apart. Grow in direct sun; water the soil but try to keep the leaves dry
These flowers are easy to grow and flower quickly, which encourages the young gardener. Nasturtiums bloom about 50 days after the seeds are planted, with orange, yellow and red flowers. They prefer sunny, dry locations and do well in poor soil.. Nasturtiums are pest resistant.. The flowers are also edible, and can be used to add colour to a fresh garden salad.
Potatoes, always grow well. Plant the red kind which mature faster. Children like them. Cut seed potatoes into chunks with at least 2 ‘eyes’ per. Plant in furrows, about 12-15″ apart, with eyes pointing upward. Mound soil up around plant as it grows; harvest when plant collapses.
pumpkin Another must for a child’s garden. Plant seeds in a small hill; poke three holes in the hill and put one seed in each hole. Seeds will sprout in about 1 week; after a few days, vine leaves begin to form and creep along the ground. Once there are 3 pumpkins on the vine, pick off any new blossoms. Pumpkins take 80 – 120 days to harvest: it’s ready when it feels hard on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped. These are exciting watch grow because if you give them a lot of water, you can literally see them grow larger every few days. Nothing like carving your own pumpkin!
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