Making Your Garden Relevant
Well, I made it through the winter. How about you? Spring has sprung so they say and it is time once again to do my favorite thing, gardening! When planning a garden with a young child there are so many questions to ask yourself to help make gardening relative to you and your location as well as make it a successful and enjoyable experience for you and for them. Here are a few!
1. Because there are so many varieties of each vegetable which one should you plant?
2. Which type of vegetable will do well in your part of the world?
3. What vegetables are kids most likely to enjoy growing and eating?
4. Can you relate any particular plants to their learning like history, culture, literature, plant and social biology and nutrition?
5. What are your growing conditions where you have chosen your spot to garden?
These are a few questions to think about when planning your garden. Create a sense of ownership of the garden by giving your child choices and allowing them to decide which plants they want to grow. Of course you have to be aware of the different varieties of each vegetable and what growing condition they need. Check the days of maturity, meaning the time taken to go from seed to harvest. Is your growing season long enough for that variety? For example some tomatoes take fewer days than others to mature. This is important information to look at and consider if your harvest will come before frost. It can also give you a good planning technique so that you are sure to plant some early harvest fruit as well as late harvest so your garden will produce all season and you will have fresh vegetables available throughout the season. Some crops will need to be started indoors early before setting out after frost. Some plants do better when seeded directly in the ground.
When choosing which type of plant will do well in your area you must consider your growing zone. Plants are happiest in their comfort zone. Take a look at the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map online. Identify your location. Match the color in your region with the key next to the map, and that will give you your planting zone or number. For a bit of added insurance that your plants will do well you may want to choose plants that are one zone hardier than your region. Making sure the varieties you choose will do well in the area of the world where you live will insure success but for absolute success, take it one step further. The plants you choose should be suited to all the growing conditions in your yard. Always check the tag, seed packet or plant profile to know for a fact that your selection will receive the sunlight, soil type and moisture it needs to thrive. Then make sure there is sufficient space for it to reach full size; it’s amazing how fast those little plants grow into large specimens. All these factors together mean a healthy, thriving and beneficial backyard.
Once again let your child choose the vegetables you are going to plant but before you give them a choice make sure the choices you give them are kid friendly like radishes, lettuce, carrots, nasturtiums and of course green beans. Nasturtiums have an added benefit. Their peppery smell helps to keep rabbits out of the garden. You can also make a pretty salad with them by using every part of the plant, even the flowers. However make sure your child understands that not all flowers are editable.
Can you relate your garden to learning? Absolutely! There are many possibilities for this and many children’s books to aide in this endeavour. An example of a garden you can plant and relate to history is a “Three sisters garden”. There are many children’s books such as Three Sisters Garden by Sandra Baker that was written about this type of garden and its history. It would be a good one to share with your child.
History tells us that three hundred years ago, American colonists observed the food gardens in Native American villages. They saw a unique companion planting plan – corn, pole beans and pumpkins or squash being grown together in the same plot. In Europe rows were plowed and neatly planted with one crop.
Compared to the neatly plowed rows in Europe the Indian “corn gardens” looked very wild and overgrown, but for the Iroquois, Cherokee, and other Native American tribes who grew Three Sisters Gardens, their success amounted to a minor agricultural revolution. This was a way to save space and to grow three nutritious, easy-to-store crops in one space. So this is one way to relate gardening to history.
My experience in companion planting happened by accident one year. I planted my corn and some of last years squash plants came up between the rows. I also planted pole beans between the corn rows. The beans used the corn for their support and the squash plants enjoyed the dapple shade from the corn. The squash plants also shaded the roots of the corn. All benefited from each other. However, adding that third plant does limit your access to harvesting and can be difficult if all need to be harvested at the same time.
There are many things that go into the planning of a garden. Make it fun! Make it educational! Do your research so you will be successful! Let’s inspire some gardeners. Playing in the dirt can be fun and educational at the same time.
Plant of the month: Tomatoes: Tomatoes are by far the most popular home garden crop – and taste is the reason why. Nothing beats the taste of a perfectly vine-ripened tomato! They may be round, red and softball-sized. You can choose from varieties with fruits as tiny as marbles or ones with fruits weighing several pounds. In addition to the classic red-orange hue, fruits of various varieties ripen to orange, yellow, purple, green, striped – even white!