Monthly Archives: April 2017

Tiller Time, Digging Trenches, & Potato Tips

Written by : Posted on April 29, 2017 : Comments Off on Tiller Time, Digging Trenches, & Potato Tips

Tiller Time

For Day One of planting our new garden, it was time to plant the potatoes, onions, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Rainbow Blend Carrots, Easter Egg Radishes, Cherry Belle Radishes, Red & Golden Beets, and the KCCG 30th Anniversary Blend Lettuce.

It was too early for the Diva Cucumbers, Dragon Tongue Beans, and the flowers (Autumn Beauty Sunflower, Whirlybird Mix Nasturtium, Benary’s Giant Zinnias).

However, first things first…we needed to till our garden area.

Our area was overrun by clovers and grass so we bought an electric tiller by Greenworks for around $200. It doesn’t provide the same power as a gas-powered tiller but it got the job done after going over the same stretch a few times. If you don’t want to spend money on a tiller, you can rent tillers from most home improvement stores.

We have a lot of tilling to be done and decided to bite the bullet and buy our own so we didn’t have to feel we had to get it done in a 3 or 4 hour window. The trick to tilling is making sure the soil is dry enough to till. You do not want to till muddy soil. If you till soil that is too wet, you create boulders in your garden and will ruin your soil.

To figure out if your soil is dry enough, do the “Chocolate Cake Test”. Have your kids scoop up a handful of your soil in their hands. If it sticks together like a lump of clay, your soil is too wet to till. If your soil crumbles like a piece of chocolate cake then you can till.

My son and gardening partner, Eli, is only 6 years old so he is too young to run the tiller so in order to include him in the process, I had him rake the tilled weeds away while I did the tilling.

Digging Trenches

It wasn’t hard to convince Eli to dig trenches for the seeds.

One of his favorite things to do is digging holes in the backyard with his toy construction trucks so he was more than willing to grab a hand shovel and a spade to help out with the trenches.

For the potatoes, we dug a trenches about 6 inches deep and for the onions, we dug trenches about one inch deep.

For the Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Rainbow Blend Carrots, Easter Egg Radishes, Cherry Belle Radishes, Red & Golden Beets, and the KCCG 30th Anniversary Blend Lettuce, we dug trenches ranging from a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch.

Quick Potato Tips

If you plan on growing potatoes, you should cut up your potatoes in halves or thirds so that each wedge has 2-3 sprouts. Let them dry for at least one day before putting them into the ground.

This allows the potatoes to dry and develop a protective scab layer that prevents rot and disease transmission. We cut up our potatoes and let them dry on a newspaper on our counter for 3 days before planting.

Seed Spacing

Once we dug our trenches, it was time to plant the seeds!

For the potatoes, we planted each potato seed about a foot apart in rows that were about two feet apart with the sprouts facing up and covered them in dirt. Once the potato plants sprout out of the ground and grow to about 6 inches, we’ll start piling more dirt on them to eventually form small mounds around each plant until it’s time to harvest.

For the onions, we planted each onion seed about 6 inches apart in rows that are one foot apart. You’ll want to plant onions about 1 inch deep so that their roots are well covered with soil but the top of the plant’s neck is not buried too deeply. Onion bulbs naturally push towards the surface as they grow and it’s good to have the top of the bulbs exposed to the sun.

I planted the carrots, beets, radishes, and lettuce in their own rows and we spaced them according to the instructions on the pack label. These seeds are small so it was a bit of a challenge to pick out each seed and get it spaced perfectly but you can always thin out the seedlings that clump together when they sprout out of the ground.

Once the seeds were all planted on day one, I had Eli write the varieties on the markers and place them by their rows.

Next up, we’ll plant the flowers, cucumbers, and we’ll use peat pellets to start our Dragon Tongue Beans!

I Grew This!

Written by : Posted on April 25, 2017 : Comments Off on I Grew This!

I Grew This!

Welcome to the first installment of the “I Grew This” Beanstalk Seeds blog!

My name is Rob Shoffner and I’m the Media Coordinator / Website Manager for Beanstalk Seeds and Kansas City Community Gardens. This blog will document my successes and failures at growing a children’s garden with my 6 year-old son, Eli (pictured above).

I’ve been working for Beanstalk Seeds & KCCG for a little over a year and I consider myself a casual gardener. In the past, I’ve been able to grow potatoes, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and radishes with moderate success. Now, after a year under my belt working with professional gardeners, I decided to use Beanstalk Seeds this spring to create a children’s garden with my son to hopefully teach him how to grow his own garden.

What Are Beanstalk Seeds?

With so many indoor distractions like video games and mobile devices, it’s a challenge for parents to get kids to play outside. And I’m not innocent when it comes to putting my son in front of a screen. His favorite show, Paw Patrol on Nick Jr., is a quick and easy babysitter for 22 minutes when I need to get something done. But I’m hoping to find better balance between tv and the outdoors.

KCCG launched Beanstalk Seeds a year ago with the intent to encourage parents like myself to grow gardens with their kids. They can teach them a valuable skill in growing their own food while getting them outdoors at the same time.

Our Garden

Three years ago, my wife and I moved to Overland Park, Kansas and bought a half-acre plot with a great space for a garden with direct sunlight.

Although it’s recommended to add compost or fertilizer to the soil, I decided to just use the existing soil to see how well the seeds will grow for this year’s garden. When this garden is done for the year, I’ll add compost and fertilizer to the soil and compare this year’s garden with next year’s garden to see how much difference it makes.

It is also recommended to build raised beds for gardens but again, I decided to hold off on that this year and just plant straight into the ground. I’ll build raised beds for next year’s garden and will again compare the differences.

For this year’s garden, I’m using one of our “Jack’s Magical Seed Bags” called “Plant A Rainbow”, which includes Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Easter Egg Radishes, Rainbow Blend Carrots, Dragon Tongue Bush Beans, Red & Golden Blend Beets, Benary’s Giant Zinnias, Whirlybird Mix Nasturtium, and Autumn Beauty Sunflowers.

We put together this selection of seeds because of all the vibrant colors displayed in each variety with hopes to capture the imagination of kids.

I’m also planting cucumber, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lettuce, and strawberries which I will also cover in my articles with tips and lessons learned.

Today’s Challenges

I grew up in the 80s before iPads and the internet and kids in those days really had no choice but to spend most days playing outside. I have a lot of fond memories of those days and I’d like to see my son have a similar memories instead of spending most of his time in front of a screen, which doesn’t provide any real experiences or memories.

The real challenge will be to make my son WANT to go outside. So far, he has shown interest in gardening so hopefully I can maintain and maybe even boost that interest as the garden grows. Even if I don’t grow a plentiful bounty of fruits and veggies, I will still consider this a success if I can keep my son’s interest from day one until we harvest.

Wish me luck and stay tuned…