Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Spring is well underway in Texas and our family has spent the last several weekends up to our knees and elbows in dirt. Gardening is such a beautiful way to introduce your children to the wonder and beauty of nature.

One of my earliest memories is from kindergarten. I can remember what my classroom looked like only because it was the back drop to my little styrofoam cup with a seed in it. We watered our seeds every day and watched in wonder as they sprouted and pushed their way through the loose soil to show us their green heads. We compared them everyday to see whose was growing the most. We tended them with care, learning responsibility for taking care of something that was depending on us for its life.

I am the first to confess that I know very little about gardening. Where we live, we don't even have soil, we have clay. If I ever decide to take up pottery, I will have to look no further than my back door for the raw materials, but our ground is no friend to gardening. So I have been reading books and attended a lecture by our local garden club.

Generally, I am a believer in "it's the process, not the product", but it helps to have the right organic material (compost) to make something grow. But if you've got good soil, water and sun, you should be set. Some books to get started: Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and (especially for Texans) anything by Howard Garrett. See if you have a local gardening club. There are usually experienced gardeners in the area who are thrilled to give a gardening novice some pointers. Check you library for books and programs.

There are tons and tons of books on gardening with kids. Check some out from your library to get ideas. One of my favorites is Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots.

Consider what is feasiable. At our old home, we did not have a big yard, but I dedicated a 5x5 block of space and we constructed an inexpensive raised bed to grow herbs and tomatoes. Even if you are in an apartment with no yard, there are many herbs and plants that you can grow indoors. A friend mentioned that Costco had tomato plants in containers last week (they may not be available in the northeast yet). Perfect for a porch or patio. And if space and budget are absolutely prohibitive, a stryofoam cups and a 50 cent pack of seeds are still enough to captivate. Wonder with your child. Drop whatever you are doing when you hear the first shouts of, "Mommy, Look! Something's growing!" and share the moment with your child. Let your child tell you what he sees.

I have much more to say about this subject, but it will have to wait for another time. I could to a whole post on gardening/planting books for kids. So many great ones! How Groundhog's Garden Grew is a good one to illustrate the gardening process. And, of course, anything by Beatrix Potter.


Juris Mater said...

Tex, thank you for this post, for passing along the research you've done, and for reminding me how much children LOVE planting seeds! I read your post last night, and we've already been to the hardware store for peat pots, seed starter, and seeds of the kids' choosing. They're SO excited. We're going to decorate the pots then plant our spring two-bedroom-apartment garden. Hopefully we'll have some buds in time for Easter. Thanks again Tex!

B-Mama said...

I, too, am so inspired to get something started over here! Thanks Tex! The boys are really into worms these days, so hopefully we can incorporate some worm lessons into our planting. ;)

Kat said...

Thanks so much, Tex, for the inspiration! I'm so glad that you admitted to not knowing much about gardening, which makes me admire you even more for just diving in there and getting your hands dirty! I guess that there is a lot of trial and error involved in becoming a successful gardener, and I'm glad that you also reminded me to check out our local garden club. Someone told me that "everything grows in TX," which is amazing since we, too, have clay and sand for soil...and now mulch, thanks to ET's hard work a couple of weekends ago :)

Juris Mater said...

Question: when you're doing plants in little cups on the windowsill inside, do you have to cover them with plastic wrap after watering them to create a "greenhouse effect"? I wasn't planning on doing that but I read on our soil bag that that will help them grow. That might require a little too much effort for our crew.

B-Mama said...

JM, I bet you're fine as is. If you notice the soil drying out quickly, a little additional humidity via the greenhouse effect might help. Otherwise, I would just go the simple route!!

Kate E. said...

Our little guys just did grass seeds at his little playgroup. They did them in little cups and then their teacher took their paintings and made a little cover for each cute.

Grass is oh so satisfying and fast!
No need to cover.

Elizabeth M said...

My dd and I just planted seeds on Sunday. I don't really know how our timing is for here in South Jersey. But we're giving it a shot. I did borrow several gardening books from the library and really recommend the NEW Square Foot Gardening (the same author as the original). That's what we're going to try. Our soil here is very sandy, looser than your clay, but not very "nutritious" for plans. But the book outlines how to fill the raised beds so your own soil doesn't matter. We're hoping for some learning, yes, but also to save some money on at least some summer produce. Several estimates I've read say that money invested in a garden can bring a 10X or more savings in produce. We'll see. It's a first try around here, so I'm not expecting incredible quantities. But I'm looking forward to it.

texas mommy said... book suggestion for your boys who like worms: Wiggling Worms at Work

I have, for the moment, convinced Dash that we can only eat snails, frogs and worms if Mommy cooks them. They are not on the menu in the near future.

JM, we've done little clay pots on the windowsill without needing to cover. We picked up the clover pots from the dollar section of Target to grow for St. Patrick's was a big hit. $2 well spent for the lessons of watering, watching, waiting and wondering!

Right Said Red said...


Thanks for this post, I was going to do a similar one. We are starting our first real garden at our house this year, and we planted seeds about two weeks ago. It took about 1 week to see some growth, but now many of the seeds have germinated, and small plants are growing. The kids and I are really excited, and we are hoping to moves these plants (vegetables) into our outdoor garden in a couple of weeks.

One issue I've been having, none of my pepper seeds germinated? It has been almost 2 weeks. I read online that the temp needs to be about 70-80 degrees for peppers, and so I put a heating pad under the seeds several days ago--but still no luck. It worked for the eggplant, but not the peppers. Maybe I just have a bad package of seeds? Any thoughts?