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Home Gardens School Gardens Uncategorized

Seed Season

It’s time to start thinking about seed starting and garden planning!  If you live near Charlotte, VT, consider coming to this Saturday’s Seed Swap to give away your extra seeds, get a few fun new varieties, and get your gardening questions answered by local experts:

seed-swap-2016

 

If you’re reading this from afar, here are some past blog posts that I love reviewing at this time of year.  Happy Spring!

Garden PlanningPlanning a Back-Yard Garden: This post includes information on several crucial components to planning a back-yard garden including soil testing, sunlight analysis, seed catalogue browsing, making a veggie wish list, and rough-draft garden planning.  Back yard gardening is an affordable way to access fresh veggies throughout the summer, will get you physically active outside, is rewarding, and can be a great way to bond with family members or roommates!
Basil

Seeds vs. Seedlings: Sometimes it’s best to buy vegetable seedlings from a nursery.  Sometimes it’s better to buy a packet of seeds to start yourself.  Check out this post  to decide whether to buy seeds or seedlings.  Now is the perfect time to buy seeds or attend a seed swap!  If you live in Somerville, check out Seed Sale and Seed Swap information.

ContainersConsider planning a Container Garden: If you live in an urban setting with questionable soil, rent or are planning to move, or have a nice sunny porch, you may want to consider a container garden!  Containers are a great way to try out vegetable growing on a small scale, and can help you determine if you’d like to do more the next season.  If you start gathering materials now, it can also be a very affordable option!  This Post lists all the things you should consider to grow a successful container garden.

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Children and Nature Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To Uncategorized

Spring?

march-philo

In past years, I start posting about signs of spring and springtime activities in April.  After having just enjoyed two muddy days with temperatures rising to sixty degrees and with new birdsongs in the air, it appears as though spring is springing early his year.  And if I jinx it, and we receive the snowy cold weather we’ve been waited for all winter long, great!

Here are some of my favorite spring time traditions:

signs-of-springLook and listen for signs of spring: Jot down notes on a calendar or a piece of paper that you can save.  Keeping a “Signs of Spring” list heightens my sense of awareness when spending time outdoors.  I pay more attention to the little things that are happening around me as the world wakes up from hibernation.  Sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and feelings can all point to signs of spring.  Saved lists from past years allow you to notice changes from year to year.

Learn new birdsongs: Every spring I am reinspired to learn more birdsongs.  First, I review birdsongs of species are common around the house.  There’s a list of mnemonics here and a huge directory of songs to listen to at “All About Birds.”  Then, when I go for walks down our back dirt roads or hikes in the forest, I listen carefully.  As I walk I try to translate what I hear: “Cherrio, cheery me, cheery me,” for example. When I arrive home, I try to identify one or two of the songs I remember (that was an American Robin).  Slowly but surely I identify more and more songs in the outdoor chorus on my own.

starting-seedsStart Seeds: Even if you don’t have a garden, starting seeds can be a fun spring activity.  All you need is a container with a hole poked in the bottom, potting soil, seeds of your choice, and some sort of dish for your container to sit in.  Grow lights or windows with strong southern sun will make for stronger seedlings that will do better if transplanted into your garden.  Plants like peas, lettuce, spinach, and herbs can be eaten as sprouts or “micro greens,” making this project rewarding in as little as 30 days!

Forage-Harvest

Taste the first wild greens of the season: As spring progresses, keep an eye out for wild ramps, fiddleheads, young nettles, or other edible wild plants.  Foraging is most rewarding and delicious in the spring when plants are young, tender, and mild.  They also tend to grow before anything is ready from gardens, satiating our cravings for fresh green treats after a winter of soups, stews, and casseroles.  Read more about the plants I look for here.

forced-dogwood

 

Force spring branches: All you need to do is clip branches and put them in a vase filled with fresh water.  Change water regularly, as you would for cut flowers.  Blooming branches, like forsythia, are great for forcing.  At indoor temperatures, your branches’ buds will open into new leaves and flowers.  We clip the bright red branches of dogwood now for a beautiful table arrangement at Easter.

Categories
Children and Nature Home Gardens School Gardens

Seeds!

Seeds surround us as we transition from summer to winter.  For gardeners, this means that it’s the perfect time to save seeds to plant next year.   Try letting some of your leafy vegetables, like lettuce and cilantro, flower and make seeds for you to harvest and save.  For young nature explorers, this means it’s the perfect time to build burdock structures, make wishes on milkweed seeds, find out how far a thrown “helicopter seed” can travel, and create acorn cracking factories by the forest edge.  Children can also participate in seed saving for the next spring – equipped with an envelope, you’d be amazed by how many seeds can be found in a fall garden or meadow.  For teachers, there are opportunities to investigate life cycles, parts of a seed, and ways that seeds travel through hands-on outdoor exploration and discovery.

Seeds in the garden: sunflower and cilantro/corriander
Seeds in the garden: sunflower and cilantro/coriander
Hitchhiking and velcro seeds: burdock
Hitchhiking and velcro seeds: burdock
Flower seeds: bachelor button and calendula
Flower seeds: bachelor button and calendula
Helicopter seeds: Box Elder Tree
Helicopter seeds: box elder tree
Parachute and wishing seeds: Dandelion and milkweed
Parachute and wishing seeds: dandelion and milkweed
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Home Gardens Musings Recipes

Local Spring Eats

Spring is such an exciting time for those of us who love local food and love being outside.  Many of our annual spring garden tasks, earliest harvesting opportunities, and favorite recipes already have past posts devoted to them.  Click on the photos or titles below to check out what we’re doing to get ready for our 2014 garden, which early spring plants can be foraged from the wild, and what I do with these early shoots and greens in the kitchen:

Seeds vs. Seedlings:

With these early warm temperatures, many people are starting to think about summer vegetable gardening.  And it’s the perfect time to start your own seeds!  I usually start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in the second half of March and most other seedlings after that.  But should you start your own seedlings?  The answer isn’t necessarily yes.
With these early warm temperatures, many people are starting to think about summer vegetable gardening. And it’s the perfect time to start your own seeds! I usually start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in the second half of March and most other seedlings after that. But should you start your own seedlings? The answer isn’t necessarily yes.

Starting a Container Garden:

Do you rent?  Do you have limited if any space to grow vegetables this summer?  Are you thinking about moving apartments in June or September?  Do you hesitate to garden because you might have to buy a lot of new supplies? Good news: if you’re willing to be creative and resourceful, YOU can have an easy container garden this season!
Do you rent? Do you have limited if any space to grow vegetables this summer? Are you thinking about moving apartments in June or September? Do you hesitate to garden because you might have to buy a lot of new supplies? Good news: if you’re willing to be creative and resourceful, YOU can have an easy container garden this season!

Early Spring Garden Chores:

Here are some of the first things we can do in our Vermont garden when the soil is dry enough to work.
Here are some of the first things we can do in our Vermont garden when the soil is dry enough to work.

Spring Foraging:

Early spring is the perfect time to forage for wild greens.  Many of the first plants to emerge from river banks, forests, and fields are edible, and they’re available before anything is ready from the garden.  In addition, early shoots are often the most delectible part of plant to eat!
Early spring is the perfect time to forage for wild greens. Many of the first plants to emerge from river banks, forests, and fields are edible, and they’re available before anything is ready from the garden. In addition, early shoots are often the most delectible part of plant to eat!

Favorite Spring Meals:

Spring is an exciting time for those of us who eat local ingredients.  Each week, it seems, there’s a new ingredient poking up from the ground, tempting me to incorporate it into my next dish.
Spring is an exciting time for those of us who eat local ingredients. Each week, it seems, there’s a new ingredient poking up from the ground, tempting me to incorporate it into my next dish.
Categories
Children and Nature School Gardens

Spring Projects with Kids

It’s still pretty white around here.  With warming temperatures come the wet and muddy conditions that define Vermont’s mud season.  Here are some things we’re doing to remind us that the flowers and fresh green leaves of spring will be coming soon:

making-paper-flowers

signs-of-springTissue Paper Flowers: I followed the basic instructions found here, simplifying it by instructing the kids to use just four pieces of tissue paper.  They came out great and could be made by our wide range of students!

Make a Signs of Spring List: Post a large piece of paper in your classroom or at home.  When you play outside, keep an eye out for signs that spring is on it’s way!

Forcing Spring Branches: All you need to do is clip branches and put them in a vase filled with fresh water.  Change water regularly, as you would for cut flowers.  Blooming branches, like forsythia, are great for forcing.  At indoor temperatures, your branches’ buds will open into new leaves and flowers.  We clip the bright red branches of dogwood now for a beautiful table arrangement at Easter.

starting-pea-seedsStart Seeds: Even if you don’t have a garden, starting seeds can be a fun spring activity.  All you need is a container with a hole poked in the bottom, potting soil, seeds of your choice, and some sort of dish for your container to sit in.  Grow lights or windows with strong southern sun will make for stronger seedlings that will do better if transplanted into your garden.  Plants like peas, lettuce, spinach, and herbs can be eaten as sprouts or “micro greens,” making this project rewarding in as little as 30 days!

mud-playPlay in the Mud: Yes, the extra laundry is worth it.  All sorts of learning, experimentation, engineering, and play can happen in the mud. We’re still wearing our winter outdoor clothes up here in Vermont.  As temperatures rise, rain pants, rain boots, and rain coats will help keep indoor clothes clean and dry.  Hosing everyone off before coming inside can help keep that mud outside.

Happy Spring!

paper-flowers

Categories
Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To School Gardens

Garden Planning: Time to Start Dreaming

It’s January.  We have snow on the ground, and we just emerged from a long strand of sub-zero days.  Despite the wintery setting, spring gardening is on our minds.  With seed catalogues arriving daily in our mailbox, it’s easy to start dreaming about the 2013 growing season.  If you want to grow your own vegetables this year, here’s what to start thinking about:

Garden PlanningPlanning a Back-Yard Garden: This post includes information on several crucial components to planning a back-yard garden including soil testing, sunlight analysis, seed catalogue browsing, making a veggie wish list, and rough-draft garden planning.  Back yard gardening is an affordable way to access fresh veggies throughout the summer, will get you physically active outside, is rewarding, and can be a great way to bond with family members or roommates!

BasilSeeds vs. Seedlings: Sometimes it’s best to buy vegetable seedlings from a nursery.  Sometimes it’s better to buy a packet of seeds to start yourself.  Check out this post  to decide whether to buy seeds or seedlings.  Now is the perfect time to buy seeds or attend a seed swap!  If you live in Somerville, check out Seed Sale and Seed Swap information.

ContainersConsider planning a Container Garden: If you live in an urban setting with questionable soil, rent or are planning to move, or have a nice sunny porch, you may want to consider a container garden!  Containers are a great way to try out vegetable growing on a small scale, and can help you determine if you’d like to do more the next season.  If you start gathering materials now, it can also be a very affordable option!  This Post lists all the things you should consider to grow a successful container garden.

Feel free to post garden planning questions below.  Happy dreaming!

Categories
Recipes

Favorite Easy Pumpkin Recipes

Want to cook with pumpkin, but don’t have the energy for a pie?  Have a pie pumpkin and are not quite sure how to turn it into food?  (OR see one heavily discounted at the supermarket post-halloween?)  I recently discovered a Pumpkin Smoothie recipe that’s easy, yummy, and eliminates baking from the equation.  As always, it requires you to taste-test in the middle, and adjust to your flavor preferences.  I’ve also included instructions for the easiest way to toast pumpkin seeds.  Happy Halloween!

Making a Pie Pumpkin ready to use in a recipe:
Pie pumpkins have denser flesh.  They’re less stringy and watery than the big pumpkins that make good jack-o-lanterns.  Put one inch of water in a large covered pot and turn on high.  Cut your pumpkin in half.  Use a spoon and your fingers to scoop out the guts and seeds.  Set the seeds aside for later.  Cut each half in half again.  Once the water has come to a boil, put all four quarters in (you can cut smaller if needed to fit them in).  Boil with the cover on until a fork slides easily through each piece of flesh.  Remove pumpkin quarters from the pot and set out to cool.  Once cool, use a large spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin.  That flesh can then be used in pies, quick breads, smoothies, and more!

Pumpkin Smoothie Recipe: (serves 6)

Blend:
-3 cups cooked pumpkin or squash (freeze pieces before to make a slushy smoothie)
-2 cups milk (the richer the milk, the richer the smoothie…vanilla ice cream will make your smoothie more like a pumpkin milkshake)
-¼ t. pumpkin pie spice (mixture of cloves, mace, nutmeg, and ginger)
-½ t. cinnamon
-¼ c. brown sugar
Taste, and then add brown sugar until sweetness is correct and milk until consistency is correct.
-Garnish with crumbled graham crackers to add a sweet crunch.

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds (the easy way):

-Gather the seeds removed from your pumpkin into a bowl.  Pick out large pieces of guts (stringy slimy orange stuff).  No need to rinse – any orange stuff is just giving you more vitamins and will dry out in the oven.
-Spread on cookie tray, and sprinkle with salt (garlic powder or other spices can be good too).
-Bake at 400 degrees, stirring every 5 minutes with a metal spatula.
-Listen for popping and/or look for your seeds to turn golden brown – they’re done!  This shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.

*Don’t have an oven, or cooking in a classroom with kids?  Use a frying pan or electric skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil to fry the seeds until golden brown.

Working in a classroom? Try an electric skillet!
Categories
Home Gardens Musings

New Growth: Seedling Inspiration

It’s still the perfect time to plant seeds!  We are not quite to our May 1st frost-free date in Somerville, so hold off on heat-loving tomatoes, basil, eggplants, and peppers.  Cilantro, spinach, lettuce, peas and dill are great choices to sow directly (put seeds right in the ground outside) at this time of year.  Remember that peas will need trellises to wrap their tendrils around.  Baby greens, if cut off above their “crowns” (the part where the leaves grow out of the stem), can re-grow a crop up to three times!

Watching my seeds sprout and grow in the spring is good for my mental health.  I watch my little lettuces and peas like a mother watches a child.  No matter how busy I am, I take a moment every day to visit the porch, take in a deep breath of fresh air, touch the soil to test for dampness, and observe the minute changes that gradually accumulate.  Plants – given sun, soil, water, warmth and air – have a remarkable ability to grow.  Conversely, we adults caught up our culture of stress, work, and extreme busyness have our ups and downs.  We have days we feel tall and strong, but we also have days when we want to curl up into a ball and go into hibernation.  I’ve found it especially important to take time to take a walk or visit a park during my time living in the city.  Want to read more about nature’s effect on mental health?  Check out this article!