Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Square Foot Gardening

Things are finally heating up here in the gardens of southwestern Pennsylvania. Yesterday, I spent three hours covering myself in mud. I pulled some weeds too. It was pure bliss.

Gardening has been a family enterprise for generations. My grandfather used to start hundreds of tomatoes on his kitchen windowsill. He used those Styrofoam meat trays instead of pots. Today, my mom has a gorgeous greenhouse filled with all kinds of flowers and vegetables. Even my own kitchen was invaded earlier this spring. Julia started a bunch of things hoping to have a plant sale at some point. She might need help from a garden fairy to have anything big enough to sell by Memorial Day, but she gave it a valiant effort.

Last year, she tried the Jiffy Peat Pots. Excellent germination.
Sadly, nothing lived to see the outdoors.

So the gorgeous photos and strategies in this book by Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening With Kids, are right up our alley. We even have a raised bed in the backyard, ready and waiting for to be sliced into a grid to house a variety of flowers and veggies. Julia has full control over that space. Perhaps when our early season crop of lettuce has been harvested she'll choose a square-foot garden. By dividing the box you can have a nice, organized plot. Even the very middle is easily reached by child-length arms. Bartholomew gives detailed instruction about how many plants to put in each square.

This copy of Square Foot Gardening with Kids was provided
by the publisher for my review.
But if you've never gardened with your kid before, you might wonder if you should even bother. They are going to get muddy. The plants might die. Will the kid even take care of it or will it be another project for the parents? I think it's worthwhile no matter what. I give you...

10 Reasons to Garden with Your Kids

We grew baby carrots! Two of them!
1. They will learn cause and effect in a very tangible way. Plants droop in the heat and are revived by a drink of water. It's a very direct way of seeing how we as humans can impact the environment.

2. Plants grow and change overnight. There's always something new to see in the garden.

3. Nature is amazing. I still can't get over how incredible it is that there's a whole plant inside a tiny, dead-looking seed.

4. Being outside is good for you.

Julia helping with Nana & Pap Pap's fall pumpkin harvest.
5. It will get them away from the DS, iPad, xBox, TV (whatever digital thing they're addicted to) for a while.
August 8th is National Sneak a Zucchini onto your Neighbor's Porch Day.
Without a garden, you're just not prepared for that kind of thing.

6. When they learn what weeds look like, you can set them loose on the flower beds.

7. Kids are more inclined to eat things they've had a hand in growing and harvesting.

Our total harvest of sweet peppers for the entire three
seasons we've tried to grow peppers at this house: one.
It was yummy.

8. There is no better hands-on science experiment than getting your hands dirty in the garden.

9. They'll fully appreciate the work done by worms.

10. Whether it your garden grows or not or anything in between, the shared experience of trying makes memories that will last a lifetime.

It's finally planting time and if you've never tried planting a garden before, get this book. It gives you all of the information you need to get started. And if your kids get bored this summer, you'll already have a great activity waiting for them in the yard. They can wile away the hours watching their plants grow. Anything that you might actually be able to eat is just an extra bonus!