Author: Rob Shoffner
For today’s busy parents, the idea of setting up a compost system can be an intimidating endeavor, but it’s actually easier than you think. By purchasing just a few simple items, you can set up a compost system without spending much time or energy at all!
There’s a wide range benefits from composting, but most importantly, a compost bin can benefit your garden and the environment at the same time.
When food scraps from your trash are dumped in a landfill, the layers of trash burying the food scraps create an anaerobic environment. As the food matter decays, the airless environment produces methane gas, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Not only does composting turn food scraps and plant matter into rich nutrients that you can add to your garden, but it also prevents extra methane gas from polluting the air.
A compost system can be simple or as complex as you’d like, but since this article is for beginners, we’ll focus on a simple system to get you started.
The first step is to find a good container for your kitchen that is compact and will seal off the undesirable fragrances of old food. Make sure the container can fit on your kitchen countertop or underneath your sink and can be easily opened by your kids if you plan on them helping out.
The most recommended container is a stainless steel compost pail with a carbon filter that you can find at most home/kitchen decoration retailers.
Once you have your kitchen container in place, now it’s time to find a bigger bin for outside.
There are all kinds of structures that you can use to accomplish a good compost but since you’re a beginner here, let’s keep it simple. If you’re handy, you can build a structure yourself or you can buy a bin from your local home improvement retailer.
Whatever you decide to do, the bin must be at least 3 feet wide, 3 feet long, and 3 feet high. It can be bigger that these dimensions, but not smaller. Piles decompose from the inside out, so a large pile insulates the center, keeping the heat and moisture consistent, which benefits from hard-working microorganisms within.
If you are the DIY type, building a wire cage bin is the easiest way to get started. The wire cage bin can be square or circular shape. Use wire mesh to keep the rodents out and keep it sheltered so the it doesn’t get overwatered from rainfall.
If you’d rather skip the construction process, another good option is to buy a plastic bin. One of the better plastic bins is called the Earth Machine, which can also be found at your local home improvement outlet.
Time To Compost!
Now that you have your indoor and outdoor bins, it’s time to compost! The basic idea is to put equal amounts of “green” and “brown” layers in your compost bin.
Here is a quick list of some items that classify as green and brown materials:
Some kitchen scraps that you SHOULD NOT compost include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, oily foods or grease, bones, or cat and dog waste.
After you’ve filled up your kitchen bin with green food scraps, take it out to your outdoor bin and dump it all in.
If you have plant refuse from your garden, you can also mix it in with the green materials. Some of the larger items, like broccoli heads, should be cut into smaller pieces so they can break down easier.
Refuse that SHOULD NOT be mixed into the compost include diseased plants with bug infestations, weeds with developed seed heads, anything treated with insecticides, and we recommend to not put any tomato plants in compost. Tomato plants get diseases easily and it’s not worth taking the chance.
Next, mix in an equal amount of brown material and give it all a stir. The compost also needs to be a damp so make sure to add a little water after you mix it and there you have it!
After a few months of these material breaking down, you will have some nice, rich compost at the bottom of the pile to add to your garden while doing your part to fight air pollution!
One of the biggest challenges for today’s parents is finding new and exciting ways to teach their kids useful life skills at young age. There’s no better life skill than learning how to grow your own food – so why not start a family garden?
Teaching your kids where food comes from is valuable for obvious reasons, but it can also be fun. Not only does a garden get your kids outside, it also gets them involved in planting their own nutritious snacks. It’s a win-win for everybody!
If you’ve never planted a garden before, it might seem a little intimidating at first. But Beanstalk Seeds is here to help! We’ve created a Family Gardening Guide to help you get your garden started.
Once you’ve got your Family Gardening guide in hand, here are some tips to get your kids interested in helping out.
1. Plant Fun Flowers and Veggies
When picking out seeds for your children’s garden, it’s important to select varieties that your kids will not only eat, but have fun growing.
Use your child’s imagination in your favor. Take Dragon Tongue Beans for example. This bean has a cool name and cool purple stripes. The mere mention of its name, “Dragon Tongue” is sure to grab their attention.
You can also set up some mystery in your garden with the Easter Egg Radish or Rainbow Carrots. Each of these varieties produces different color roots once fully grown.
Once your radish or carrots are ready to pick, see if they can guess what color the radish or carrot will be when they pick it.
2. Get Dirty
What kid doesn’t like to get dirty?
Give them a little shovel or a garden spade or any other child-friendly gardening tool and let them dig up weeds or holes for the seeds.
And once you’ve planted the seeds, wash your kid off in the hose when you’re ready to water your seeds. (See tip #4)
3. Use Your Pinchers
After you’ve dug your holes, have your child cover up the seeds with soil using their “pinchers”, forming their hands like a crab’s claw and pinching the loose soil to cover the seeds.
This method allows the seed to be covered with just the right amount of soil.
Make sure to remind your helpers to not pat the soil down after covering up the seeds.
4. Play In The Hose
Some of my most fond memories I have from my childhood was playing in the sprinkler in the yard with my siblings and neighborhood friends.
And, since it’s important to make sure you water your garden everyday, why not include your kids?
If rain isn’t in the forecast, grab the hose and tell your kids to put their swimsuits on.
Strategically place your kids near the garden with the hose and let them cool off in the refreshing water. Your kids get to have some fun and your garden gets its daily water.
5. Decorate To Scare Away Critters
Little furry critters are cute and all, but they can be a gardener’s biggest enemy.
The best way to keep them out is to build a chicken-wire fence to keep rabbits and squirrels out.
If you want to reinforce your blockade, a safe and harmless way to keep unwanted guests away is to decorate your garden with shiny objects that move in the wind. A straw-man, a shiny tin man, or a small shiny windmill can help scare critters away.
In this day and age, it’s tough to keep kids away from tv and computer screens, among other things. Starting a family garden is a good way to get your kids outside on a daily basis and teaches them valuable life skills in the process.
Why Use A Raised Bed?
Raised beds are becoming more and more common in personal and community gardens everywhere, and for good reason. Raised beds provide ideal growing conditions because they drain better than ground plots, they’re easy to fill with good soil, and they warm up quickly.
Raised beds also create an infrastructure that promotes gardening because they provide a physical barrier that makes pathways more defined for walking and mowing. Raised beds are also less prone to soil compaction because remember…NEVER WALK IN THE BEDS! Accessibility is also an advantage because after rain, you are usually walking on a mulched path, grass, or stones instead of mud.
Some other advantages of raised beds:
- Can be built on a slope that would otherwise make gardening difficult.
- The garden is elevated- you don’t have to reach down quite so far.
- Create a compact, yet highly productive, growing area.
- Can be placed on pavement if no “green space” is available.
Planning Your Raised Bed
The first step in the planning process is to find a location for your raised bed. The location should consider the following logistics:
- Level area (preferred, but not required)
- Full sun
- Access to water
- Avoid perennial weeds if possible
The next step is to determine the right size of your bed. The size of your bed should be:
- No wider than 4’ across (so you can reach to the middle from both sides)
- Any length (but usually no more than 12’ long)
- At least 8” deep
Choosing the Right Materials
Depending on how much you can spend, there many effective materials you can use to construct your raised bed.
Rough Cut Cedar Wood
Raised Bed With No Walls
NOTE: If you choose a raised beds without walls,
Choosing the Right Soil
The easiest way to ensure the right soil is to order garden soil mix, half of it being top soil and the other half compost.
If you already have good top soil, simply add in compost.
Do you need to get a mower in between your beds? Can you work comfortably back to back?
The paths in between your beds should be measured at 4 feet or wider to ensure that you can both walk and mow between the beds without issue.
Some path options include:
The price of your raised bed will depends on materials used. Pre-made beds will usually cost the most while raised beds with no walls obviously will cost you the least.
The initial cost will ultimately be higher than ground plots, but it’s well worth the investment.
Constructing Your Raised Bed Garden
The first step in constructing your raised bed is to remove the sod and till the soil where you’ll be putting your bed. After you’ve determined the length and width of your bed, hammer the walls together with nails to make a rectangular bed. Once you’ve constructed the walls, fill your bed with soil mix and level it.
Raised beds allow you to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Some vegetables, like corn, pumpkins and watermelon, may take up too much space for the amount of food produced.
Raised Bed Planting Plan
It is a good idea to make a plan before you plant so that you use your space efficiently.
It’s easier, and more space efficient, to plant across your bed then to plant the length of the bed.
Use multi-cropping technique to make full use of your beds during multiple seasons. Multi-cropping is the practice of growing two or more crops in the same spot during a single growing season (i.e. an area that is radishes and spinach in the spring can be planted with tomatoes in early summer).
Raised Bed Spacing Guide
Spacing your plants and seeds in raised beds is different than in a ground plot. As I mentioned before, YOU NEVER WALK IN THE BEDS, so you do not need wide rows to walk through in the actual bed.
A good rule of thumb is to plant tallest vegetables on north side of bed, shorter vegetables on the south side so they don’t shade each other.
To help you plant our seeds, we’ve created a plant spacing guide that shows you the proper distance between rows to plant your seeds. Make sure to use half of the recommended plant spacing distance for the edge of the bed.
Maintaining your Raised Bed Garden
For starters, prepare soil for planting by using a small lightweight tiller or use hand tools to turn the soil and mix in the compost.
Make sure to mulch your mature plants well (we recommend straw or cotton burr compost). Raised beds drain well so the soil tends to dry out quicker.
You may need to add in more soil or compost after 2-3 years, as soil lowers in bed.
Some common mistakes to avoid include:
- Using treated lumber
- Not notching the joints when constructing
- Using a bad soil mix
- Walking in the beds
- Improper plant spacing
- Not watering long enough
- Not rotating crops
- Putting landscape fabric under the beds
So there you have it! Everything you need to know to build your very own raised garden. So what are you waiting for? Find your location, gather your materials, buy some seeds, and find out for yourself why raised gardens are the way to go!
Plant A Rainbow Garden Kit
One of the best ways to get your kids interested in gardening is to make it fun and a little mysterious. The children who tour our Beanstalk Children’s Garden in Kansas City are always attracted to the most colorful plants growing in the garden.
Children also love discovering the different veggie colors when they dig them up, like the purple, pink and white radishes in our ‘Easter Egg’ Radish seeds or the yellow, white and purple carrots in our ‘Rainbow Blend’ Carrot seeds.
We’ve put together a Plant A Rainbow Garden Kit that combines fun with mystery and makes your children’s garden a colorful patch of veggies and flowers.
Here’s what you get in the Plant A Rainbow kit:
Brighten up your garden with this stunning chard variety. It’s deep green leaves make a beautiful contrast to it’s pink, gold, and crimson stems. Eat these greens young in yummy salads or let them mature a little longer and add them to soups, stir frys, or use them for wraps.
The ‘Easter Egg’ Radish is fun for kids and adults alike to grow. The seeds produce a beautiful variety of colors, including red, white, pink, and purple all in the same pack! You won’t know which color the radish will be though, until you uncover the soil for the first time to take a peek.
This rainbow carrot blend is fun to grow and even more fun to harvest. When you dig up this carrot patch you will find vibrant red, purple, yellow, orange and white carrots hiding below their green tops. These carrots make and fun and delicious snack for young gardeners!
Kids will love eating these cream and violet 6” stringless striped beans raw from the garden. They can also be pickled, stir-fried or steamed. Its unique color makes this bean an attractive side dish and an interesting conversation piece when served to curious guests.
A beautiful contrasted mix of gold, red and red and white striped, these beets are fun to grow and delicious to eat. Enjoy both the tops and the bottoms of this earthy tasting plant by sautéing or roasting or eat raw for use in a delicious salad.
This variety of zinnia holds longer in a vase than your standard zinnia and is less susceptible to powdery mildew. Cut often to stimulate new blooms and to provide lovely fresh bouquets for yourself or a friend!
These wonderful upward facing flowers with their lily pad-shaped leaves will make a great addition to any garden or patio container. They’re not just a pretty flower face though. As an added bonus, both the flower and the leaves are edible! They’ll give a great peppery kick to any salad or sandwich. These semi-dwarf plants boast large, bright flowers in yellow, orange and red. ‘Whirlybird’ tolerates more heat than standard varieties.
If you love the beautiful warm colors of Fall, then this sunflower is for you! Brilliant 6-8 inch diameter flowers of red, gold, yellow, rust and burgundy stand tall at 5-7 feet! These wonderful sunflowers make beautiful bouquet arrangements and will bloom for most of the summer and into fall. They’re not just for looks though. Try the flowers in a salad or stir fry!
Plant these seeds in your children’s garden and let your kids enjoy the fun of planting, growing and harvesting a variety of rainbow colored vegetables and flowers!
The Snackable Garden
At our community garden headquarters in Kansas City, we invite kids groups from schools, churches, and youth groups to tour our Beanstalk garden. These kids always get a thrill from picking fruits and veggies right off the plants and vines.
We decided to group some of the more popular seeds together so parents and kids can grow their own “snackable garden” at home.
The Snackable Garden Kit includes eight seed varieties that can be picked, rinsed and eaten with no additional preparation…a perfect snack right from your garden!
Here’s what you get in the Snackable Garden Kit: