Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gardening With Children :: Light-Hearted Beginnings

Zinnias can be started easily from seed and are great cutting flowers.

When my friend Katie wrote me, telling me that her little girl is itching to garden but needs more details on where to start, my heart jumped. So stinkin' sweet! Here are a few ideas.

Soil :: If you live where the soil is already dark and loamy, lucky you. (Katie, I have a feeling you have kick-ass soil where you are living.) If not, buy a bag or two of compost and work it into the soil (you can do this with a hoe pretty quickly).

Super shortcut for busy mamas :: Buy bags of organic topsoil. Place them where you want to start gardening, cut open the bag and start planting directly into the pile of soil (you can trim off the plastic flaps that are a result of cutting open the bag or mulch over them). Only do this with flowers.

Satisfyingly Simple Flowers, Herbs and Veggies :: Start these flowers from seed - sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, calendula, love-in-a-mist, bachelor's buttons, nasturtiums. Veggies - summer squash and pole beans. Buy tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are simplest to cultivate and most satisfying for children to harvest) as starter plants. Easy peasy, I promise!

Use terracotta pots as a base for your fencing. Feed bamboo stakes through and deep into the soil. Sometimes, I jam additional, smaller pieces of the bamboo in the opening of the terracotta pot, to really stabilize it.
For fencing: Thread some deer fencing in.
For trellis: Create horizontal supports with additional bamboo and florist wire wrapped around at meeting points.

Foil Unwanted Garden Guests :: I have been busy constructing very simple "fences" to foil our ever-so-cute, yet pesky border collie/basset hound Otis (see photo caption above). Buy a roll of deer netting and thread it around and through the bamboo stakes. This fencing can be made in less than five minutes, on the fly and on the cheap. Oh, yes. The winds howl through Sugar Hollow and these remain steadfast.

Give Them Something To Climb Up :: No, no, no - not your little ones. The beans and the tomatoes. Same theory/structure as my ad-hoc fences. But add a few horizontal pieces and secure with florist wire to create your trellis.

Watering :: Try to water in the evenings or the early morning (mid-day stresses the plants). This can be a fun time for you and your children to notice each and every new thing that is happening in the garden. Also, mulching around the plants with compost or bark mulch will keep things tidy and cut back on how much you need to water.

Feed Them :: If you can, offer your new plants compost tea or some organic fertilizer every two weeks or so.

Did I miss something? Questions, anyone?


Bonbon Oiseau said...

this is an excellent very informative post!

Katie said...

Tracey this is great. We are planning to garden on Sunday so this gives us our easy list to run to the home center with. And the fencing idea makes the most sense.

Question about pests you can't fence. Last time I tried to grown tomatoes we had some mite-type bugs all over them. Any ideas for keeping away the buggies?

Tracey said...

Thank you BbO!

Dear Katie - Ok. Try this . . . spray the plants down with as powerful a spray from the hose as they can handle. Then, mix some water, soap and hot sauce in a spray bottle and spray down your plants.