Gardening is more than just a fun and productive activity. It is more than just a weekend hobby or a way to add a little extra food to the budget menu. For homeschoolers and for those interested in furthering the practical education of their children, it is also a great activity for helping kids to learn. Kids who garden and learn how to feed themselves and nurture the soil around them are learning practical life skills. It makes for a “groundbreaking” education.
How so? Here are some of the ways. Gardening:
Teaches Planning and Goal Setting – Great gardens actually begin months before the digging, planting, and harvesting. It is not only a great lesson in patience, it is also instrumental in teaching them that good things come to those who have goals and plans. Help your kids lay out their garden plan and decide which plants will go where, keeping in mind that companion planting will help a garden thrive. They also need to think about ways to attract pollinators and which plants and flowers will work best. They are creating a balanced mini ecosystem and that doesn’t happen by accident.
Teaches Them to Grow Food – Recessions happen. Times get tough and we need to live frugally and on less. It is always advantageous to know how to grow your own food. Relying on grocery stores exclusively makes you a somewhat of a slave. Growing food on the other hand teaches self sufficiency and survivalism.
Teaches Math Skills – Do some simple math to determine how much money it took to grow the garden and how much you saved by not purchasing that same food at the grocery store. Kids can also calculate square footage, create garden plan blueprints, measure spacing between plants, plot plant growth, and calculate how much wood is needed for raised beds.
Teaches Language Arts – Small children can read garden themed storybooks and then plant what they’ve read about. Older kids can be called upon to research native plants species, weed and pest control tactics, and other topics such as biodiversity and permaculture.
Teaches Science – What better classroom than a garden? Kids can learn about rainfall, climate change, life cycles, seasons, insects, animals, and soil conditions just to name a few.
You may just want to get the kids involved in gardening to make them more well rounded individuals. That is an awesome goal. If you are interested in pursuing the garden as an educational tool with some sort of curriculum then I suggest starting with this school garden curriculum. Also the book The Garden Classroom: Hands-On Activities in Math, Science, Literacy, and Art is amazing. Enjoy!
Like many gardeners I start my seedlings indoors to get a jump on the growing season. This means I plant in containers and flats in February or March when it is still cold outside. I use grow lights, full sun windows, and some outdoor time when it is warmer and sunny to help them grow. Once the threat of frost has passed I plant them in the garden beds that will be their home for the summer.
What though if you had to plant a bit early, before the danger of frost has passed? This can be the case for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your seedlings got too big and needed to go in the ground. Maybe a flat overturned and rather than lose the seedlings you decide to plant them. Or maybe your perennials got an early start due to warmer than usual weather and they need protection. If you have plants in the ground when a frost advisory is issued then you need to take steps to protect them. Here are some tips:
* Water well before night falls. The soil will release moisture through the night, keeping the air temperature near the soil warmer.
* Use a fan to keep air circulating around your plants and prevent frost from forming.
* Create a tent frame using wood stakes, garden tools, or whatever you have on hand. Cover with weed fabric, a plastic tarp, or a bed sheet. Remove the next morning.
* A thin layer of straw can help protect plants and seedlings as well.
* Recycle plastic juice and milk jugs and use them as cloches to cover your seedlings.
* You can also buy them on Amazon. Check out these dome cloches and this garden cloche tunnel. They can be thrown over plants at night and removed easily the next day as it warms up.
* Move potted plants indoors for the night or wrap the the pots with towels, burlap, or bubble wrap to help insulate the roots from the cold.
Hopefully these tips will help you can ward off any damage to your plants if a frost advisory is issued in your area. No gardener wants to lose their summer bounty because of inclimate weather!!
My garden did really well this past summer and I am super excited to start planning for next year’s. No doubt most of the planning will happen during the dreary, cold winter but I just can’t wait. I have already been making a wishlist.
Garden victories for 2014 include:
* Growing flowers for the first time – calendula, sunflowers, lavender, nasturtium, and various wildflowers
* Growing three types of basil
* Growing three types of heirloom tomatoes from seed
* A great blackberry harvest
* A nice snap pea harvest
* First time growing potatoes and carrots
* Keeping birds out of the garden with a fake snake. It worked!
I recently posted about my garden and homestead goals for 2015. In order to make the goals happen I have started making a wishlist of things that would help…
Support hoops for garden fabric. This will help me extend the gardening season earlier in the spring and then also later in the fall. I have the raised beds, I just need the hoops. I like that they are steel and not plastic.
A garden cage or two would be nice to keep the birds and the deer out of my raised beds!! They have them in a variety of sizes but the large one (below) would be super handy!
I also need space. I have tools, pots, soil, and other garden goodies everywhere and I have no real work surfaces outside other than the ground or the railing on my deck. A potting bench would be heaven sent! I love that this one has an old farmhouse look and it is affordable.
What’s on your wishlist??
The gardening season has ended for 2014…for the most part. I still have a variety of peppers and some flowers doing well. I also have a cold frame with greens going strong but I have done a massive fall cleanup and most of my garden beds will rest until spring. With everything I learned this year I am already making plans for next!
My organic garden goals for 2015 are to grow everything I grew in 2014 and:
- Make potato cages and grow alot more
- Start my seedlings earlier!
- Add leeks and brussels sprouts for fall/winter
- Grow more carrots
- Grow different pumpkin varieties (jarrahdale and lady godiva) and grow more
- Add another raised bed and a hoop with a fabric covering
- Add more herbs and veggies
- Plant spring bulbs
- Add another rain barrel
My homesteading goals for 2015:
What are your goals???
The weather is getting quite nippy and the nights are getting darker. Life is moving a little bit slower, and things are winding down in your summer garden. But perhaps you don’t want to give up gardening just yet. Heck the weather is perfect for outdoor enjoyment right? Well you CAN keep growing well into winter. If this interests you check out my article on extending the growing season into fall and winter. It has lots of great tips and info on what kind of plants do well in cold weather.
In fact I just set up a cold frame for my greens (lettuce, arugla, and spinach). I used a shower door that some threw out during a home renovation and I set it on top of an existing raised garden bed. Cheap and easy!
There are still some gardening tips and strategies that you can employ to get you back outside and some dirt under your fingernails. You can add some color and life to your garden, and prepare it for winter. Depending on where you live, fall can be a very busy time in the garden. Here are some ideas:
* Water fruit tress well until into fall and until the ground freezes. They will have a long, cold winter depending on were you live and they need a good moisture supply to make sure they get through it well.
* Rake leaves and compost them. Or maybe just leave them. There are some gardeners who do not believe in leaving leaves around tees due to the potential for leaf-borne disease. I think that if the tree/leaves are healthy then it is important to leave a nice layer of leaves around the tree, covering the roots. This is what trees do right?! They shed their leaves which then provide insulation and moisture for the roots during the cold. It is a perfect system, don’t mess with it so you can have a perfectly manicured yard.
* Plant bulbs. Dig a hole, drop the bulb in, cover it up with soil and a thick layer of mulch, and go have a glass of apple cider. Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Crocuses, garlic, and Allium (my fave!) are typically planted in the fall so they can complete their growth cycle in time to come up in spring.
* Cut back bulbs that will be staying in the ground and cover them with mulch to protect them from harsh freezes.
* Weed!! Why wait until spring when you will be super busy? Get rid of weeds now!
* Pull all your spent vegetable plants, cut them up with pruning shears to speed decomposition and toss them in the compost pile.
* Clear out any annuals that are spent as well. Leaving them in the ground is easier yes but diseases and pests are discouraged when you clear the beds and allow them to overwinter plant free. So if they are no longer useful, get them out of there. If any of the plants did show signs of disease, toss them in the garbage, do not compost them.
* After clearing your garden beds cover them with an inch or two of compost or aged manure to help improve the fertility of your soil.
* Cover beds with mulch or garden fabric. This helps maintain a good porous surface and helps prevent soil erosion.
* Veggies – Cover strawberries with straw, cut back asparagus fronds after they brown from the first frost, and re-pot annual herbs to bring indoors.
* Drain and detach water hoses. Empty and clean your rain barrel. Store them in the garage or a shed.
* Enjoy the fall!