Monthly Archives: May 2017
This week, my garden assistant Eli is staying with his Grandma so I decided to take a break from doing much in our home garden until he gets back. In the meantime, I took the opportunity to check out a couple of harvest parties at schoolyard gardens in the Kansas City area.
The Schoolyard Gardens program at Kansas City Community Gardens is one of, if not the best, programs in the nation for schoolyard gardens. The SYG staff plants gardens at over 200 gardens all over the Kansas City Metro area by providing seeds, plants, technical assistance and basic garden knowledge to teachers and students.
And as you could probably guess, the seeds that SYG uses are Beanstalk Seeds!
One of the reasons KCCG decided to start selling Beanstalk Seeds to the public is because of the success of growing these seeds at school gardens. These seeds are so reliable and easy-to-grow that they’re ideal for parents who want to start gardens with their kids in their own backyards but don’t have a lot of gardening experience.
Thanks to the reliability of these seeds, the SYG staff can leave the gardens to the teachers and students without much concern that the classes won’t have anything to harvest, much like the garden in the following photo that shows the garden with an abundance of KCCG’s 30th Anniversary Lettuce Blend:
For the SYG harvest parties, I went to the Lafayette Academy and Burke Elementary schools in Kansas City, MO. Both parties consisted of gardens maintained by 5th grade classes.
If you’ve ever been around a group of 5th graders, you’d know that they possess a wealth of energy that they can hardly contain, especially when they’re outdoors and when school is about to get out for the summer.
The harvest parties were a bit chaotic, but in a good way. Only one or two kids from each party seemed disinterested while the overwhelming majority of the students had a blast picking and sampling their veggies. You could tell the process had an impact on them and that they were learning a new skill in growing food.
If you’re a parent and you’re reading this, I highly recommend to urge your kid’s school to start a schoolyard garden. The whole process will give your child a new understanding of where food comes from and will help them value the importance of nutritious food. If you live in the KC area, contact the Schoolyard Garden staff and they can get you started.
I work for Beanstalk Seeds and Kansas City Community Gardens and as you could probably guess, I work with a lot of experienced gardeners. And ever since day one at my job, these gardeners have been big advocates for raised bed gardens.
I would learn from my co-workers that raised beds provide ideal growing conditions because they drain better than ground plots, they’re easy to fill with good soil, they warm up quicker than the soil in a ground plot, and they provide a better infrastructure for your garden by providing paths to walk and mow.
When I decided to plant a children’s garden this year, I decided to go with a ground plot and hold off on raised beds until next year in order to compare each method.
After just a couple of weeks, I’m starting to see the disadvantages of using a ground plot instead of a raised bed.
The biggest problem is that my ground plot is full of weeds that would be easier to contain had I built a raised garden. Even though I tilled my ground plot and it looked like I got all the clover weeds, they came back with a vengeance after just a week and now I spend a lot of time crawling in between my rows of veggies pulling weeds.
A raised bed would not only prevent a lot of those weeds from coming back, but it would also allow a better path for me to pull the few weeds that find their way into the bed. This would’ve saved me a lot of time and stress on my 41-year-old back and knees as I tediously crawled through each row pulling weeds. It got so bad, that I had to bust out the tiller to re-till the weeds in between rows.
Raised gardens also help prevent your kids from walking on the garden, thus keeping their dirty shoes from stomping on seedlings and damaging the soil. I had to remind Eli numerous times where the paths were in our ground plot which was a bit of a challenge seeing how kindergartner’s tend to forget what you told them 5 minutes ago.
The good news is that my veggies all seem to be growing well in my ground plot so far but next year, I will definitely be using raised beds.
To download, Beanstalk Seeds Raised Bed guide, click here.
If the weather conditions in your town are still a bit cold and your planting calendar hasn’t gone beyond your Average Last Frost (ALF) date, a good way to get a head start on your garden is by starting seeds in peat pellets.
Even if the weather is warm enough to start your garden, peat pellets are a fun activity for your kids. For whatever reason, there’s something very appealing to kids about peat pellets. I think it’s because of the way they start as little pellets and grow in the water, much like those expandable water toys you’ll find in grocery store quarter machines that only actually work half of the time.
It’s also extremely easy so your kids can basically do every step and it doesn’t take long.
Another advantage of planting in a peat pellet over a little container is that the roots can grow right out and don’t get root-bound. Some of the seed varieties that do well in peat pellets include peas, gourds, cucumbers, pumpkins, vining flowers, sunflowers, or zinnias. For this article, my gardening assistant, Eli, and I will try out Dragon Tongue Beans.
Here’s how it’s done:
1. Gather Supplies
All you need to get started is a bowl that can hold a couple of inches of water, some paper dixie ups, seeds, and peat pellets. You can find peat pellets at any gardening store and most hardware stores.
And, of course, Beanstalk Seeds offers them in our gift baskets.
2. Soak the Peat Pellets
As I mentioned earlier, the peat pellets come in flat spheres that feel like a smooth pebble. They are made up of peat moss and some form of fertilizer mixed with lime. An extremely light netting holds all the materials together while the pellet expands in the water.
Fill up your bowl with a couple of inches a water and place your pellets in the water and let soak for 5 or 10 minutes until they expand. Once they expand, the transform from a flat sphere to more of an upright cylinder. This shape allows you to easily place the peat pellet in a dixie cup with the hole-side facing up. The side with the hole is where you’ll plant your seeds.
3. Plant Your Seed
Once your peat pellets have been placed in a dixie cup, it’s time to plant your seeds. Have your kids use their fingers to dig a little hole about 1/2 – 1 inch deep in the peat pellet and place the seeds in the hole.
In this example, we’re planting Dragon Tongue Beans seeds which are as big as an actual bean so we only planted one seed per peat pellet. If you’re planting smaller seeds like flower seeds, you can put a couple of seeds in each peat pellet and thin the weaker seedling out if they both sprout.
Once the seed has been placed in the pellet, pinch a little bit of the peat over the seed to cover it and then add a little bit of water to each peat pellet.
4. Place By Window and Watch Them Grow
After each peat pellet was seeded and watered, you can place the dixie cups in a plastic container or tupperware in case they start leaking water and place it by a window. Add a little bit of water each day until they sprout and once they get a couple of inches in height, it’s time to put them in the ground.
When that time comes, you can plant the whole peat pellet into the ground, not just the seedling, and there’s no need to remove the netting that keeps the pellet in tact.
For our garden, we’re going to plant Dragon Tongue Beans directly into the ground with and without using peat pellets. We’ll re-visit this topic when our Dragon Tongues begin to sprout in our peat pellets and ready to be planted in our garden.