Gardening Together With Children

I really should not read.

It fills my head with all sorts of un-executable ideas and grandiose plans, and frankly, drives my husband nuts.

I just LOVE this book: Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots . It’s chock full of great ideas for gardening with your children. I love the watercolor illustrations, quotes and poetry. Some of the ideas make me want to go till up the front yard right now to create A Garden of Giants or A Flowery Maze.

I want to turn our old whiskey barrel into a water garden.  I want to make a sweet little garden in my holey old purple rubber boots filled with parsley, chamomile, Easter Egg radishes and Thumbelina carrots.

I can tell you how that will go in real life. I would put dirt in my old boots. Small children would see this and fill their every day boots, and probably Dada’s with dirt. I may or may not get the seeds planted. I would set the boots on the front step to grow. I’d probably forget to water them. Something may sprout. One day some child would see the boots, filled with dirt and half alive seedlings and they would decide to put them on, and have soil filled boots up to their thighs. And then another child would decide a hose was necessary, because, really, the hose is always necessary, and fill the boots with water, in addition to the first child’s legs, and the soil, and the seedlings. Then when they tired of that, they would somehow extricate said legs from the mud boots and come into the house. Probably across the cream carpet. And the beautiful little miniature garden in process would get thrown into the yard and get run over with the mower.

Possibly. I could be wrong.

I can tell you how gardening went today.

I Square Foot Garden. Kevin thinks it’s kind of silly because we have ALL THIS SPACE, and I want to truncate my garden to fit in the sunny spot right under the windmill, next to the clothesline. I do it like this because it’s close to where I am all the time. It’s near the spigot so I can water conveniently. When I had the traditional farm wife garden, out in the middle of the side yard, I never went over there, to weed or water. Let’s just say nothing really grew. Except weeds.

I’ve been really happy with my little Square Foot Garden. I don’t grow enough to can or store for the winter, but I’m not really in a stage where I can do that anyway. If I tried to put that kind of pressure on myself, I’d be miserable, and so would my chiddlers.

Anyway. It’s the 26th of May, Memorial Day. It rained last night so Kevin took a little time off to help me with the garden. My parents took the older three to a Memorial Day service, so we thought the timing was perfect. The parent-child ratio was 1-1. It doesn’t get a lot better than that over here.

 I needed to mix more of the “Mel’s Mix”–compost, vermiculite and peat moss–this is supposed to help keep the garden weed free. We had stopped and bought some seedlings yesterday, and I had saved some seeds from last year (we’ll see if they grow…). Kevin helped me find the tools I needed. One of the frustrating things about my life is I can NEVER find anything when I need tools. Kevin just doesn’t have a “spot” for stuff. And even though I DO, the chiddlers don’t, so when they can’t find their tools, they abscond with mine. I’m locking my new ones up.

We took off the lattice to mark the squares, raked off the leaves and accumulated debris, raked up the soil that was still there, mixed the “Mel’s Mix” in the wheelbarrow, and applied it to the boxes. Then he filled my new box with field soil. He had read of a way to garden where you just plant your seeds in holes in landscaping fabric, so we’re trying that. (Again with the reading 😉 ) I brought out my seeds, which had been stored in plastic Easter eggs (I read somewhere that it is an easy idea to store them this way), and planted some of them.

Sounds simple. Relaxing. Working side by side peacefully with my handsome husband.

I left out this part:

 “Denton, stop! Don’t dump the nails!”
“Where dis goes?”
 “Watch out Elivette! Stay back! I’m shoveling here!”
“What cuh-wer is dis pwant?”
 “Here, go shovel in this box!”
“Why we do dis?”
 “Don’t stand on the cilantro!”
 “Why da ‘slantrwo hewre?”
 “Elivette has the hammwer.”
 “Here, Denton, you can pull out this nail.”
“Why we need dis?”
“Leave the fabric alone!”

watering the seeds

“I dist move dis.”
“Don’t put your sister in the tomato cage! You’ll poke her eyes out!”
“What dis for?”
“What you wooking fowr? Dis?”
 “IN the box. Keep the dirt IN the box.”
“When it my turwn?”
 “Here, you can help me dig this hole. “
“I put da wadish seeds hewre?”
“Watch out for that rake!”
“Ugh! I want to pwant dem awll!”
“We can’t dump out all the seeds, Elivette.”
“When dey gwo?”
“Let’s not open all the Easter eggs”
“Dis many carrwot seeds?”
 “Ugh. I just swallowed a gnat.”

 Giving children the joy and wonder of reconnecting with nature? Introducing children to the pleasures of gardening? Cultivating wonder?

smelling the basil


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Square Foot Gardening (SFG)

The pumpkin on the left is taking over that whole side of the garden. The tomatoes are as tall as I am in some cases and have fruit. They just need to turn red.

Here you can see (from left to right) lots and lots of tomato plants, corn from when Brielle planted some corn seeds in a paper cup, a sunflower, potatoes and that pumpkin.

A purple pepper. It tasted great–not like a red pepper, nor like a green pepper. I guess you’ll have to pick a purple pepper for yourself.

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Square Foot Gardening (SFG)

So you may remember I have been in the past a gardening fail...

However, this year I may have turned the corner. I discovered Square Foot Gardening. My uncle gave me his book, and I fell in love. It’s a little different from simply raised beds and it’s working really well for me.
Words to the wise though: Even if your husband is sure that the manure behind the bed is completely composted because nothing is growing in it, you would be wise to check it first before you combine it with your Mel’s Mix.
Chances are it is full of weed seed and has not been heated enough to be fully composted, which thereby completely defeats the purpose of mixing it with vermiculite and peat moss to have ideal soil, because you’ll STILL have to weed!
But you’ll be able to keep up with it, and due to the beauty of the grid, you’ll know you’re not pulling up your baby plants.
Also? Broccoli looks nothing like red root pig weed. Don’t bother carefully weeding around it because then your dad will say, “What’s that weed you’re so carefully tending there?” And you’ll say, “Isn’t that broccoli?” And he’ll have to say, “Sorry sweetie, that looks nothing like broccoli.”

Besides, that broccoli was from old seed and was never going to grow; which brings me to tip number three.

Don’t use seeds from 2006. Or 2004. Especially if they’ve been stored in the garage. Even if you think there might be a chance they’ll sprout, and you may as well since you have them on hand, you’re really just wasting your time.
Keep these little tips in mind, and you may just grow something and it won’t be so overgrown with weeds that you can’t even find what you planted. You’ll be able to make Texas Caviar with cilantro from your very own garden and rosemary potatoes fresh from the yard!
You’ll be so proud of yourself you may just forgive yourself for tending to a pigweed for a whole month and not even knowing it.
early June
early July!

I think we’ve made progress

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Summertime on the Farm

Remember Faithful Farm Fresh Fans (like my alliteration there?) we’re not having It’s Real Life this week.

In lieu of that, I’d love to see Summertime at your place. Mr. Linky is over at Americanmum.

Summertime on the farm brings the wheat harvest. We harvest it with the same combine as we do corn, with a different head, used for beans, wheat and oats. Kevin planted the wheat in September, then it grows a bit and is dormant over the winter and is ready to harvest in July. It’s called winter wheat.
When the grain tank on the combine gets full, Kevin transfers the wheat to a grain wagon via the unloading auger.
The straw and the chaff come out behind the combine. Tomorrow Kevin will go out to rake and bale the straw into big round bales to use for bedding for the cattle, mulch for the garden and to sell.
Here we have a cool picture of the Iowa sky, with the corn behind the Deere 6400 (the only Deere tractor we have–Kevin prefers Olivers and Whites) and the combine in the foreground.
The sun setting behind one of the silos. Silos are used to make silage–which is the entire corn stalk and ears chopped up and left to ferment. We feed it to the cattle in the winter when we don’t have pasture.

There you have it. Summertime on the farm–at least today– and a little lesson in farming. Thanks to my dad for taking these pictures as he was driving the tractor and wagons!

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Sunflower House

Our little sunflowers are coming right along. If I can just keep them safe from the mad mowing man we should be golden. I’m looking forward to when the girls can see them without my having to point them out.

Coincidentally we found this book at the library yesterday. It’s terrific, for many reasons. It’s written in rhyme, has adorable and realistic illustrations, holds both girls’ attention, and shows the process of their sunflower house from start to finish and deals with feelings of disappointment too at the end of the season.

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A Sunflower Playhouse and Watering the Dog

The plan was to plant sunflowers all around the perimeter of the windmill, so in a month or so we’ll have a little playhouse or fort… Aviana lost interest in planting after about six holes. Brielle didn’t even last that long. I dug about half the holes and then my mom took over for me. I didn’t realize how much work it would be to dig holes through the grass!

The girls were supposed to be watering the seeds but they got a tad bit distracted by my parents’ dog. They sure enjoyed watering Gypsy though, who kept coming back for more. They were filling their watering cans up in the five gallon bucket under the pump, and drenching everything within spraying radius in the process. Brielle is asking for help in the video because the water level has gotten too low for her to reach and fill up her watering can. You can’t really tell how wet Brielle is in the video, but trust me when I say she was dripping wet and cheerily squishy. I loved hearing them laugh. And they were laughing the entire time we were out there.

We got a package of Mammoth Russian Sunflowers which went around the 14’x14′ perimeter. Tomorrow we’ll plant a couple of packages of Heavenly Blue Morning Glories to grow up the legs of the windmill and eventually up the sunflowers. The seed packets were only$1.79 a piece so even if my grandiose plan for a sunflower house doesn’t turn out like I have envisioned, all the fun the girls had today will be well worth it.

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I have garden envy

I’m reading an awesome book right now about creating children’s space out of doors. I so wish I had the time, money and inclination to have a stream ending in a waterfall to a small one foot deep pond in my backyard replete with all varieties of plants and small woodland creatures.

Oh, the fantasies I live.

Instead I let my kids dig in the mud in the bare spots in the yard.

And call it educational. 🙂

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