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Harvest Party! Fifth Graders Harvest Their Schoolyard Gardens

Written by : Posted on May 25, 2017 : Comments Off on Harvest Party! Fifth Graders Harvest Their Schoolyard Gardens

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.

Raised Beds Are The Way To Go

Written by : Posted on May 19, 2017 : Comments Off on Raised Beds Are The Way To Go

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.

Starting Seeds in Peat Pellets

Written by : Posted on May 9, 2017 : Comments Off on Starting Seeds in Peat Pellets

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.

Download our Peat Pellet Guide here.

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…

Best Seeds For Your Fall Garden

Written by : Posted on July 26, 2016 : Comments Off on Best Seeds For Your Fall Garden

Even though it’s the middle of the summer and you’re probably just starting to harvest from your summer garden, it’s time to start your fall garden!

To get your garden ready, head over to our article on the best practices for a successful fall garden.

Additionally, you’ll need to figure out the Average First Frost (AFF) in your region so you’ll know when to plant your seeds. To find the AFF in your area, click here and enter your zip code.

Here is a full list of fall garden specialty seed varieties that we recommend and the dates to plant them:

Dragon Tongue Bean

Bean – Dragon Tongue

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 12 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 9 1/2 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Beet - Red and Golden Seeds

Beets – Red & Golden

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 11 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 9 1/2 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Mokum-Carrots

Carrots – Mokum

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 12.5 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 10 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Carrot - Rainbow Blend Seeds

Carrots – Rainbow

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 12.5 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 10 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Collard Greens, Top Bunch Seeds

Collard Greens – Top Bunch

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 12 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 8 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

French Sorrel Seeds

French Sorrel

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 12 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 8 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Kale - Scarlett Seeds

Kale – Scarlett

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 12 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 4 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Canasta Lettuce

Lettuce – Canasta

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 11 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 8 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Peas - Green Sugar Ann Seeds

Peas – Green Sugar Ann

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 12 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 10 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Radish - Easter Egg Seeds

Radishes – Easter Egg

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 11 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 8 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

Swiss Chard - Bright Lights Seeds

Swiss Chard – Bright Lights

When to Plant:

• Earliest Planting Date: 13 weeks before Average First Frost
• Latest Planting Date: 6 weeks before Average First Frost

More Info

And here are some other great fall varieties we offer:

Good luck and happy growing!

Four Practices for a Successful Fall Garden

Written by : Posted on July 22, 2016 : Comments Off on Four Practices for a Successful Fall Garden

Second Chance To Harvest!

Did you miss your chance to plant spring crops because of rain or cold weather? Or maybe you planted but your garden was overtaken by weeds? Don’t worry, because you have another chance to grow and harvest by planting a fall garden!

There are a lot of good reasons to plant a fall garden: a long harvest period;  lots of produce to stock your freezer for winter; higher quality crops because of the cooler temps at harvest time; and pests tend to be less of a nuisance.  In the Midwest, the main planting season for fall gardens generally runs from July 20 through the month of August. Please consult the fall planting calendar for the best planting dates for the individual crops.

Successful fall gardening requires the reversal of some of our spring vegetable gardening practices. Instead of snow or late frosts during the first few weeks of tender growth, your plants are faced with high heat and drying winds.  Therefore, you have to nurse your plants through the hot weather until the cooler days of autumn bring some relief. Successful fall gardening requires the appropriate methods of: mulching, watering, plant selection, and time of planting.

1. Mulching / Ground Prep

MulchMulching your garden is important for a variety of reasons. Not only does it keep the weeds away, mulch also acts as a temperature and moisture buffer for the soil, moderating the extremes.

The best mulch to use is straw, cotton burr compost, leaf mulch, or glass clippings. Wood chip mulch isn’t a good option because it ties up nitrogen in the soil that your plants need to grow.

Before you lay down your mulch, however, you’ll need to prepare the ground. First, remove any plant residue such as weeds or old crops. Then, loosen the soil using a tiller, garden fork or hand cultivator. If the soil is hard from excessive summer heat, water before turning the soil.

When your plants are young, only mulch to the first leaf. As the plants get bigger, increase the depth of the mulch until it keeps weeds subdued and the soil damp.  Do not mulch the area where you planted seeds.  Wait until these crops have grown to at least 4″ before you mulch.

2. Watering

WateringUsing proper watering methods is imperative to a successful fall garden.  Newly planted seeds have to stay moist in order to germinate.  This means that you may need to water your garden 1-2 times a day when you first plant. 

Use a hose or watering can with a fine mist setting so that you don’t flood the seeds or create a crust on the soil.  After seeds have sprouted and plants are 2″ or taller, switch to watering deeper, less often.

Normally your garden needs 1” to 1.5” of water per week in the summer. Try to apply this in 2 waterings per week, which will encourage deeper root growth, making the plant hardier and more drought resistant. A final point on watering is that natural rainfall should not be relied on to provide the water for your garden. You may get lucky and have consistent, sufficient rainfall, but you will most likely not get rainfall at the proper time and the plant’s growth will not be optimal.

A good rule of thumb is that younger plants need more frequent and shallow watering while older plants need less frequent and deeper watering.

3. Plant Selection

PlacementMany of the same “cool season” crops that you planted in spring, can be planted again for fall.  Long-season, hot weather loving plants, like okra, melons and pumpkin, will not have enough time to produce a harvest if planted now.

You may try peas, summer squash, green beans and even some short-season corn with varying success. You may end up with a great harvest if the weather is right and the frost is not early.

If possible, do not plant your fall crops in the same place you planted them this spring.  Rotating crops reduces the risk of a disease being passed on. Since vegetables are not all in the same family, they are susceptible and immune to different diseases and pests. Therefore, plant you beans where you had your cabbage, your spinach where you had your potatoes, you cabbage where you had your early sweet corn, and so on.

Here’s a full list of dependable fall crops:

  • Arugula
  • Bean, Bush
  • Beet
  • Broccoli (plants)
  • Cabbage (plants)
  • Carrot
  • Cauliflower (plants)
  • Cilantro/Coriander (seeds or plants)
  • Collards (seeds or plants)
  • Garlic (bulbs)
  • Kale (seeds or plants)
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce, Head
  • Lettuce, Leaf
  • Mustard Greens
  • Green onions (sets)
  • Pea, Snap (short vine)
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Squash, Summer
  • Swiss Chard
  • Tatsoi
  • Turnip

4. Timing of Planting

TimingThere are proper times for planting all vegetables. Some vegetables are more flexible in their requirements than others. The first thing you should do is find out when your Average Last Frost (ALF) date is.

Click here to find the Average First Frost in your region

Next, check the extended forecast and try to pick a time when temps are below 90 degrees. If that’s not going to happen, go ahead and plant your seeds and transplants by the first week of August.

Take extra care of transplants and even place them in partial shade if extreme heat is in the forecast. Note that some quicker-growing seeds, such as lettuce, radishes and spinach can wait to be planted until temps cool down a little.  Longer-growing crops such as peas, carrots, broccoli and cabbage will need to be planted on time in order to get a harvest, even if its hot outside.


Happy growing!

Beginners Guide To Simple Composting

Written by : Posted on May 31, 2016 : Comments Off on Beginners Guide To Simple Composting

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!

Why Compost?

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.

Getting Started

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.

Kitchen Compost BinThe 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.

Outdoor Bins

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.

Compost-Bins

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:

Compost - Brown and Green List of Scraps

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!

compost

5 Tips For Gardening With Kids

Written by : Posted on April 26, 2016 : Comments Off on 5 Tips For Gardening With Kids

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

Carrot - Rainbow Blend SeedsWhen 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

Getting DirtyWhat 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

Garden PinchersAfter 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

Childrens GardenSome 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

Garden Tin ManLittle 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.

Advantages of Raised Beds

Written by : Posted on April 12, 2016 : Comments Off on Advantages of Raised Beds

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:
Building-Raised-Garden

  • 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

Cedar-Wood

Pre-Made Beds

Pre-Made Raised Bed

Landscape Bricks

Landscape Bricks Raised Bed

Cement/Cinder Blocks

Cinder Block Raised Bed

Raised Bed With No Walls

Raised Bed With No Walls

 

NOTE: If you choose a raised beds without walls,
you will need to reform edges periodically and use
a slightly concave shape for top so water won’t
run off.

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.

Creating Paths

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:

  • Grass
  • Woodchips/Mulch
  • Straw
  • Stones
  • Bricks/Pavers

Cost

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 Bed Construction

Plant Selection

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

Planting PlannerIt 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

Maintaining Raised BedFor 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.

 

Common Mistakes

Some common mistakes to avoid include:
Treated Wood Raised Bed

  • 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!