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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.
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Children and Nature Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To School Gardens

Tips for Gardening with Kids

Gardening with kids provides adults with countless learning experiences.  This is part of the joy of working outside in natural places with kids.  However, it can also provide barriers and hurdles if you are a parent or teacher who already has a lot on your mind.  I’ve listed a few key tips below so that you don’t need to have as many bumps in your path to growing an amazing garden with your kids or students.

hoeingHave enough tools for everyone.  Nothing invites destructive behavior or disinterest more than idle hands and nothing to do.  Being able to jump right into a physical task without too much talking and listening is what makes gardening fun – especially for kids who aren’t succeeding in school.  Take advantage of this and make sure everyone has the tool they need to get right to work!  If you’re working with a limited budget, you may need to split into smaller groups so that you don’t need tons of every type of tool.

seedlingsDon’t worry too  much about straight lines or an orderly garden.  It is important to give clear planting instructions, practice following directions from the back of a seed packet, and learn how to handle plants without hurting them.  It is also important, however, for adults to let kids take it from there.  Lines might be wiggly.  Seeds might be planted too deep or not deep enough.  A seedling might get broken.  However, some plants will grow and students can say: “I did that!” and really mean it.  Buy a few extra seedlings and seeds to allow for some loss and to ensure a bountiful garden.

snailTreat everything as a learning experience – there are no failures.  If a row of seeds doesn’t come up, ask why?  Were seeds planted too deep?  Was it too cold?  Did anything eat the seeds or young sprouts?  This is the perfect relevant scientific mystery that prompts kids to practice all of those standards they are working to “achieve” in the classroom.  If a snail eats all the rainbow chard, talk about the garden’s role in an ecosystem or food chain.  Learn about snails!  If food goes missing, talk about how we could help our community’s hungry families plant their own gardens.  Don’t like the taste of the plant you worked so hard to grow this summer?  Think about flavors you do like and start planning for next year!

garden-evaluationLet kids have decision making power.  When gardening, there are so many opportunities for students to be empowered.  Which varieties should we grow? Where should things get planted?  Should there be flowers too?  If you have room, it’s great to give kids their own small space next to the family’s larger production garden.  If they loose interest, that’s fine.  If not, the possibilities are endless.  It’s fun as a parent or teacher to see how kids’ gardens grow and evolve over the season.

observationDon’t worry about production.  This is especially true with younger children.  Gardening with kids should be about being physically active outside, learning from mentors, long-term planning and rewards, environmental health, teamwork, learning where food comes from, getting to know plants intimately, community service, and more.  Often, we are rewarded with delicious produce, but never forget about all of the other benefits and rewards of gardening with kids!

flower-wateringHave plants that look good, smell good, and feel good.  Flowers make the garden an inviting place for humans and pollinators.  Herbs can be picked for tasting and smelling throughout the growing season.  Having furry, smooth, prickly, and ridged leaves helps students experience the garden and build comfortable relationships with plants before they are asked to try eating new flavors and textures.

rainbow-carrotsTry varieties with fun features: multi-colored carrots, giant pumpkins, or bite-sized tomatoes.  I always plant familiar plants.  I also love adding in some unfamiliar ones (like kohlrabi), bite-sized ones (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and more), giant ones (pumpkins and sunflowers), and multicolored varieties (chard, carrots, string beans, tomatoes, and more).  A garden should be a fun safe beautiful place for discovery, experimentation, and learning the flavors you love.