Guest post by Debbie Steinberg Kuntz, founder & editor of Odyssey Outdoors.
If you want to know where your food comes from, there’s no better way than to grow it yourself! That’s just what we did with a group of families last weekend in the outdoor family group we formed about a year ago. We followed these 10 easy steps.
1. Gather supplies.
We started with newspaper, some beautiful organic seeds that would grow in early spring in our area, organic potting soil, popsicle sticks and markers for labeling, and shoeboxes for transporting the seedling bundles back home.
The beauty of using newspaper is that we didn’t need to buy pots, and the newspaper can be planted directly in the ground and will quickly biodegrade.
2. Discuss with kids where our food comes from.
First we talked about how our food is grown. How do we know how many chemicals were used? We explained to the kids that the best way to know is to talk to people at the grocery store, form relationships with farmers and best of all, grow it yourself!
3. Demonstrate how to create the origami newspaper pot.
Before beginning, a couple of the adults watched this video. Note that the woman in the video is in Germany and she uses a different size newspaper than in the U.S. In the U.S. you will need to trim about 2 inches from the long side of your newspaper before folding.
Here one of our group moms demonstrates how to make the origami newspaper pot.
4. Work in adult/child pairs if possible.
Research shows that it’s an asset for kids to have non-parent adults who they can trust in their lives. In our outdoor group we often work in non-parent adult/child pairs to build community long term.
5. Color popsicle sticks to label each seed pot.
We used a background color similar to the vegetable, and then spelled the name of the veggie on top.
6. Fill the origami newspaper pots with organic potting soil.
7. Label each pot with the popsicle stick labels.
8. Put the seed bundles in a shoebox for easy transport and watering.
9. Time to plant the seeds!
Make sure to use organic seeds that grow well in your area.
10. Your seedlings are ready to grow!
Bring home the seedlings and water them just enough so that the soil stays damp, but the newspaper doesn’t fall apart. Wait until sprouts appear and then bring them outside during the day, in a shady spot for a few days. Then gradually move them into the sunshine. Then, they’re ready to go in the ground! Tips on planting them in the garden can be found here.
And that’s how we start growing, and soon eating, our super-local, organic food!
This is the time of year when garden plans start to come together. You may already have seedlings growing indoors so that they will be ready for transplant when the threat of snow and frost has finally passed. You might be itching to get outside and start digging in the dirt. I know I am! It is important to me to grow at least some of my own food, even if it just keeps me in tomatoes or bell peppers all summer, that is a step towards sustainability and self sufficiency. It is important to me personally and it is important to me that I show my children by example that we can and should grow our own food. Just because I cannot do it on the scale I want to (not enough space) doesn’t mean I can’t use every bit of space that I have to show them the importance of growing their own food to the extent they can.
Kids typically love to spend time outside when they are young but as they get older nowadays and the digital world calls to them they start to enjoy that outdoors time less. It is important for parents to keep motivating them to get outside and getting them excited about gardening will help. You can start early by reading to them or providing them with books to read themselves that have gardening as the central theme. There are some really, really good ones out there! Here are a few that I like…
Our Community Garden – This books brings gardening and different ethnic communities into focus. It is all about a community garden in San Francisco where the children play among the garden beds, giant sunflowers, and compost piles right in the heart of the city. They also grow food together with other members of their community and gather together for a pot luck using local foods.
In the Garden: Who’s Been Here? - Christina and Jeremy are on a mission to gather vegetables from the garden for their evening supper. On the way they discover that they are not the only ones who have been in the garden on this day. Who else has been there??? They take a scientific journey to discover why there is a slimy trail on a leaf in the cucumber patch and some corn kernels have been pecked off the cob. Christina and Jeremy follow the clues to discover which birds, animals, and insects have been in their garden why the garden is vital to all manner of life.
The Forgiveness Garden – This book is about so much more than gardening. When a boy from one village throws a rock across the river and injures a girl on the other side, their two villages Vayam and Gamte, become mortal enemies. The villagers become consumed with getting revenge upon each other until a young girl comes up with an idea to help bring peace to all involved, a forgiveness garden. It is a parable inspired by the original Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, created as a tribute to the lost lives in the fifteen-year civil war that claimed 300,000 lives. Great story and very educational!
The Curious Garden - This book is one of my personal favorites and tells the story of a little boy named Liam who lives in a very urban, factory town where little to no greenery exists. One day when he is exploring, he is run under the railroad bridge by rain and he discovers a door with stairs that goes up to the tracks. There among the broken tracks he sees a spot where a little moss and a small tree are growing and he falls in love with this tiny little garden. Liam becomes the city “gardener” and helps this little spot to grow. What happens after that is amazing…
The fall is is well known for many things…the falling leaves, the cool crisp air, harvesting the last crops of the season, warm comfort food…need I go on? Well, yes actually I do. One of the best things about fall for me is that it is the perfect time to plant bulbs before the ground gets to cold and hard. Dig a little in the fall and you are rewarded with pure bliss in the spring when your bulbs bloom. Who doesn’t want more tulips, daffodils, irises, hyacinth, and allium (above) in their life. Getting them off to a good start means that they will come back beautifully for years. For me there is rarely anything as satisfying as seeing bright yellow daffodils and smelling sweet hyacinth in the springtime.
Another awesome thing about bulbs is that they are a relatively easy project for kids. It gets them outside and involved in gardening and they reap the rewards of their hard work later. It is important to use these opportunities to raise the next generation green.
Gardening with kids helps to do this and Scholastic in partnership with Dig.Drop.Done wants to help out by providing educational materials. You get a free gardening themed Scholastic book for your child (or classroom) when you purchase any Dig.Drop.Done package of bulbs (look for the logo). Just order between now and November 30, 2012 (10/30 in Canada), fill out the redemption form, and claim your book. The program ends: when 1,000 books have been awarded or by 11/30 (US) or 10/30 (Canada). See official rules here.
The web site above also has some free educational materials and links. They have a pdf for parents to help gets kids excited about growing allium of all things. Woot! My fave! What kids wouldn’t want to grow plants with soccer ball size blooms?? There is also a lesson plan for teachers or home educators about amaryllis. The links include information on how to start a garden at your child’s school or take on garden themed projects like a dandelion salad.
If you are going to buy bulbs this season make sure to look for these specifically and get your free book while your at it. Enjoy!
I was compensated for this post by The Dig.Drop.Done Foundation, which was founded to promote the joy of bulb gardening and ensure its future in North America. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
With so many people struggling economically these days there is a renewed interest in gardening. However, many people fear that starting a garden may stretch their budget to the breaking point. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. It is possible to garden quite cheaply.
One of the best ways to keep the garden affordable is too plan ahead. Visit yard sales, auctions, and other places where you may find gardening tools and equipment for sale cheaply. You can also check Craigslist weekly for the stuff you want and even ask friends and family if they have anything they want to sell or get rid of. Getting a few basics to begin your garden by purchasing used tools can save you a great deal of money. If you are a beginner gardener you should also start out small. There is no reason to go hog wild your first try and possibly waste money when you make inevitable mistakes. Choose to grow those foods that you are likely to eat the most of and that are simple to grow. You would be surprised how much money you can save just growing your own onions, potatoes, garlic, carrots, and tomatoes. And most if not all these plants are easy to grow.
You might want to make your first try at gardening in containers if you can find the appropriate size containers for the plants you want to grow.
Things you may want to look for second hand are mini-greenhouses or materials to make one, grow lights, planters, pots, and garden tools like rakes and trowels.
Cheap Seeds And Plant Starters
For some plants you can use what you have in your house instead of purchasing seeds. The book Don’t Throw It, Grow It!: 68 windowsill plants from kitchen scraps has tons of ideas for you.
I have to say though that heirloom or heritage seeds really aren’t that expensive if you go small. I think I paid only a little over $20 for seven packets of heirloom seeds that will last for at least two years. Plus I can allow some of the plantings to go to seed and then save my own seeds as farmer’s have done for centuries.
If it is a flower garden you are wanting then check the classifieds, visit farmers markets and ask friends for starter plants. Your community may also have an organized seed swap or a local park/garden may sell affordable bulbs and seedlings to raise funds for garden upkeep. You will be amazed how cheaply you can purchase bushes and flower bulbs from a variety of sources.
Milk jugs and large plastic bottles can be turned into cloches. Toilet paper rolls can be cut in half and used as biodegradable pots for seedlings. Egg shells can also hold new seedlings. Old rain gutters, tires, tin cans, even boots can be used as planters. Popsicle sticks can be used as plant markers. A broken ladder can be used as a trellis for vines. There are numerous ways to incorporate recycled materials into your garden and save things from the landfill.
Make Your Own Compost
You can also garden cheap by making your own compost from grass clippings and vegetable waste from your kitchen. Composts provides rich nutrients that plants need and saving that kitchen waste not only saves you money but, helps to keep the environment cleaner as well. I have written reviews of a countertop composter and an indoor/outdoor worm bin.
You can garden on the cheap simply by planning carefully, buying used, and finding your plant starters or seeds wherever you can, even in your own kitchen cabinets. Hopefully your grocery budget will get a small break as your garden grows.
If you are a person who loves to cook then you know how the use the right herbs can enhance the flavor of any dish. Potato leek soup with dill or homemade pizza with fresh basil come to my mind! It can get quite expensive to purchase fresh herbs from the local grocery store though. This really isn’t a problem for those who live in a warm climate as you can grow your own outdoor herb garden. But for those of you who live in areas that have cold harsh winters your herb growing may be limited to only a few months out of the year unless you learn how to grow those herbs indoors for the winter months.
Growing herbs indoors in winter is not as difficult as it may seem. Though not all herbs grow well indoors, herbs like geranium, basil, mint, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, chives, garlic and oregano are easy to grow indoors. Not only will growing herbs indoors allow you to enjoy fresh herbs all year round but, these herbs will also make your home smell nice as well.
What You Need To Go Herbs Indoors
There are of course a few things you need to grow your indoor herbs. Here is a list of most of the necessary items.
• Containers with good drainage (see if you can recycle some from your outdoor garden)
• Herb seeds or seedlings (seedlings give those new to growing herbs a better chance of success)
• At least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. A south facing window will provide the best sunlight. You can also use florescent lighting but, if you do so then the plants will need about 12 hours of this kind of light each day.
• Daytime temperatures of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit
• Night time temperatures no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit
• Humidity. You can mist your plants to give them the humidity they need or keep a humidifier in the area where you are growing your herbs.
Herbs also need to be harvested in order to keep them from getting to bushy or outgrowing the container but, this should not be much of a problem as the whole idea of growing herbs indoors is to allow you to have fresh herbs all year round. You can use them for your meals of course and for natural remedies as well.
While growing herbs indoors is not difficult they do require care and attention just like any other indoor plant. But, the time that you spend will be well worth it when you see your family enjoy the food you prepare by using these fresh herbs.
Also, many children like growing indoor plants and this may be a project you and your children can do together. They will enjoy watching these plants grow and you will all take pride in producing “food” for your family. Many people begin their indoor herb growing with just three or four common herbs and find the experience so pleasant that they eventually have a semi large indoor herb garden. Whether you choose to grow just a few herbs indoors of a wide selection of herbs you will enjoy the experience of having fresh herbs that you grew yourself available to you all year round.