Children, food and gardens

Start planning now to get gardening with children!!!

Do you need an excuse to visit a local greenhouse? Find a child to garden with, take him or her by the hand, and start planning!  

Now is a good time to plant the love of gardening in the heart of a child. How do we do that? There and lots of fun activities. For example, include your young gardening buddy in a  "field trip" to the grocery store. Or enjoy cookies, milk and the "eye candy" of seed catalogs to help with planning for gardening with children.

 Visit the produce aisle of the grocery store to learn about what is possible to grow here. How do we get the exotic plants? Why can't we grow bananas and pineapples here? Think about what vegetables you like to eat and will want to grow.  Is there a new vegetable you would like to taste for the first time? How about a white radish, a yellow skinned cucumber or purple beans? Why not grow some of these yourself?  

Daydream your way through seed catalogs to see what might be of interest to you and the child you are inviting into your garden. Read about the plants. Some are ready to eat in 30 days! Can you plan to grow a salad? A garden that will attract butterflies? How about growing plants to feed the caterpillars that will become butterflies? How about some sunflowers whose seeds will feed the birds in the fall?

 Plan an excursion to a local greenhouse and learn how they have everything you will need organized into sections for easy shopping . There are special tools that are big for the adults and special hand tools - although some say those should be called "hands and knees" tools. And look at all the special plant food...and medicine. And the plants themselves are organized into sections - annual flowers, perennials, shrubs, trees, vegetables, special plants for ponds and pools. There is so much to see...and smell!

 Visit the local farmer's market to see what they are growing and offering for sale.  Ask a friend or neighbor who already gardens for information and guidance. Sometimes you can even sample the fruits or vegetables.

What Will You Grow?
The gardening possibilities are endless.  Here are just a few ideas to get you started.

*Grow mini vegetables
*Grow giant vegetables
*No outside area for gardening? Then consider house plants or containers on a deck or balcony
*A garden for butterflies
*A garden for the birds
*A soup garden--grow the vegetables you like to eat in soup
*A pizza garden--grow tomatoes, basil, oregano, onions, peppers   
*A salsa garden---you get the idea
*An ABC garden---plant one plant for each letter of the alphabet--this can be a challenge!
*A salad bowl garden---how many different lettuces will you grow?
*A five senses garden--Welcome to the world of herbs

Can you find them below?  1. Sugar Snap Peas    2. Lettuce     3.  Radishes     4.  Carrots     5.  Potatoes 
6.  Green Beans  7.  Cherry Tomatoes     8.  Pumpkins     9.  Sunflowers     10.  Broccoli





Take time to gather seed packets. Tools that are easy for children to use (a large spoon and a small, hand-held cultivator are all you really need); gloves that fit little hands; small, light weight watering can; and any other equipment that may be needed.  Decide where your garden plot will be.  Will the child you are gardening with have their own space or will they share your garden space?  What shape will your garden space be; round, square, triangle, butterfly shaped?  Draw a map of your garden and indicate what will grow where.  Have fun!   
KEEP IT REAL!  Follow the child’s interests

  Age appropriate Gardening

  Let the child do it!  Ownership will come by being actively engaged!

 Gardening with Children - Get Growing in the Spring - is the first of a series
 in Gardening throughout the year with Children, developed by Master Gardener Mary Hrecher.     


Summer Food in Wintry February


16 Popular Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

1. Garlic – You can freeze whole garlic, garlic cloves or chopped fresh garlic. Frozen garlic does lose some of its texture, but the flavor remains intact.

2. Corn – You can freeze fresh-picked corn on the cob for up to one year. Pack it in freezer bags — husk and silk and all. For store-bought corn, husk and blanch it before freezing.

3. Avocados – The bad news is that frozen avocados lose their consistency. The good news is that they do not lose their taste, so you can use them for guacamole or dressing. Wash and halve them before peeling. Freeze as halves, or puree them with lime or lemon juice and then store for up to eight months.

4. Mushrooms — You can freeze raw button, creminis and portabellas mushrooms for later use. Chop and slice mushrooms and then spread them on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Then transfer the pieces to bags or containers.

5. Onion – You can save chopping time – and tears – by freezing onion for cooking later. Store peeled, chopped onion in plastic freezer bags. The best part is you can just toss them into your recipes without thawing them first.

6. Hummus – Scoop your fresh hummus into plastic containers. Then drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the top to keep it from drying out. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before mixing and serving.

more such winter gardening from Off the Grid News