In Wednesday’s blog, we talked about “Project Bloom”- a farm-to-preschool initiative that we hope will create a fun, “hands-on,” learning experience for the children. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to plant our seeds. If you are interested see this link. Today, Caycee Hunter, our homegrown garden expert, is here to give you some great tips on how to start a garden with your child at home.
Gardening can be fun and educational for kids. Growing your own food teaches your children where food comes from. When kids grow vegetables themselves, they are more likely to try those vegetables, improving healthy eating habits. Kids can use all of their senses, science, math and even art when gardening. Click here for age appropriate gardening activities that your kids can do at home.
How do I get started? Figure out a space for your garden and decide how big you want it to be. Vegetable gardens need direct sunlight in order to be successful (6+ hours of sunlight/day). Vegetables don’t need their own dedicated space. You can plant vegetables right along with your flowers in an already established flower garden.
You can start small in pots just about anywhere. If you are growing in pots, be sure to buy potting soil and not garden soil. You can plant most veggies in pots (tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, etc.). Place your pot in a sunny location and keep it well watered. Remember that potted plants will dry out faster than things planted in the ground. Most local garden centers are offering curbside pickup right now. I like to support local nurseries but if they don’t have what you are looking for, Home Depot is also offering curbside pickup right now.
RAISED BED GARDENING
Raised beds are a great choice for gardening on a larger scale. Raised beds are usually built with lumber or composite material (wood and plastic mix). I have both in my garden and they both have their advantages. Wood is cheaper and available at any home improvement store. You have a choice of treated or untreated lumber. Many people opt for untreated in fear that the chemicals in the lumber that could leach into the soil and taint what you grow. The treatment makes the lumber last longer and helps prevent termites from eating it. If you decide to go with untreated, do not put it next to your house or shed. Anytime you put untreated wood directly on the soil, you are inviting termites onto your property (I found this out the hard way). From what I understand, the chemicals used on lumber today are a lot safer than what was used years ago. The wood is mostly treated with salt and has very little effect on the produce.
The second option is the wood and plastic composite lumber. This is my favorite option, but of course, it is the most expensive one. I just recently purchased two more 4×4 composite raised beds for $50 each at Home Depot (link here) and they were delivered to my door in a few days. These beds come with hardware assembled and ready to set up in your garden.
After you have built your raised bed you will need to fill it with soil. There are three choices of garden soil available:
- Raised garden soil mix: This is your most expensive but most convenient option. I would go with organic soil if you can. Here is a link to a type from Home Depot.
- Buy Bulk: If you have a truck, or a nice neighbor that will let you borrow his, you can go buy bulk soil at places like The Great Big Greenhouse, Cross Creak nursery or anywhere you buy your bulk mulch. We purchased our soil for the school garden at the Great Big Greenhouse and it was $39.99/yard. One yard was enough to fill all five beds. If you are doing a large raised bed this is the most cost effective choice but a lot of work!
- Make your own: Raised bed soil is 3 equal parts (topsoil, animal manure and plant compost). You can buy bags of these at any garden center. Make sure your manure is aged so it doesn’t burn your plants or introduce disease into your garden. Anything in a bag will already be aged.
IN GROUND GARDENING
This is the cheapest way to start a big garden. You can plant vegetables in already established flower beds or remove your grass and start a new one. Either way, I would suggest adding fertilizer to the existing soil to help your garden grow.
MAINTAINING YOUR GARDEN
Anytime I plant something new, I put a handful of Gardentone starter fertilizer in the hole with the plant. I fertilize my veggies with Espoma organic garden tone every few months throughout the growing season. Vegetables are mostly annuals and need a lot of nitrogen from the soil. Vegetables, like our kids, grow really fast in a short amount of time!
May the green thumb gods be forever in your favor! On Monday, I will talk to you about age-appropriate garden tasks for your little helper. He or she will be very excited to dig in the dirt, and to help you maintain and harvest.
GOOD NEWS OF THE DAY
Here is a really sweet story that aired on NBC12 a few weeks ago about a VCU nurse helping out in New York. As always, we are praying for our medical professionals and first responders. We are so thankful they are here to help.