Archive for the ‘kids’ Category

Earth Day: Yes you can Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Make a difference . . .

  • Buy local products – less travel = less energy
  • Plant a tree – help clean CO2 from the air
  • Pick up litter
  • Walk or ride your bike
  • Buy earth-friendly products
  • Opt for basic cleaners – vinegar, lemons, baking soda, etc. all are more environmentally friendly cleaners, they do a great job both cleaning and deodorizing, plus they are quite often cheaper
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle – if you haven’t been recycling up to this point, now is a great time to start
  • Update an appliance with an earth-friendly one, but only if this appliance is not repairable
  • Take advantage of this weekends FREE SPRING CLEANUP in Aberdeen
  • Buy, and eat, whole foods – better for you and the environment
  • Eat at home – same as above
  • Use reusable grocery bags
  • Shut off your furnace and grab a blanket – unplug, switch off, shutdown and grab a book, board game or head outside
  • Use more organic methods of weed/insect/pest control/fertilizer – insecticidal soap, hand-pulling (bonus exercise), bone meal, fish emulsion
  • Start your own compost – less being thrown into the trash and free food for your plants
  • Reuse branches and scrap wood for raised beds or trellis – instead of buying new
  • Buy from a secondhand store
Tree for Novella Friday, April 9th, 2010

Dad, big sis and big bro plant little sister, Novella's, tree - Tilia cordata 'greenspire'

4-7-2010 was the day our 3rd child was born. Novella Jane Valentine. The Hub set off with the older kids and my mom to pick out a tree later in the day as is tradition with the birth of our children. Menards actually had a few container trees so he picked out a greenspire linden – Tilia cordata ‘greenspire’. I’d been there the day before and scouted out what they had – a couple different lindens, some maples and ton of crabapples and other fruit trees.

The rust-red bark of the greenspire linden (not one of them I’d covered in a previous post but sounds comparative to the other lindens mentioned) had caught my eye and I guess The Hub’s as well. So the tree got planted in our front yard giving space away from our house, the neighbors and a few feet clearance of any sidewalk should any surface roots pose any problems in a couple decades. Having been planted on the West side of the house it will create a much-needed shade during the hot late-summer afternoons and evenings for our house.

Most plants you can read planting instructions and take them at their word. But, when it comes to trees or shrubs and the tag reads to plant the top of the root ball even with the ground I’d encourage you to plant it shallower. Inevitably, once you’ve back-filled and watered a tree or shrub they tend to sink. Keep the top root above ground level and then mound the dirt up just covering the top root. A tree will survive if planted a little too shallow but not necessarily if planted to deep. Roots need the oxygen and this is more important on some species than others.

Tree specs:

  • 60′ tall x 30′ wide
  • pyramidal shape
  • fragrant yellow flowers in the summer
  • good fall color
  • our alkaline soil doesn’t always lend itself to optimum fall color here so I’m not holding my breath but the bark, asymmetrical heart-shaped leaves (most lindens have these) and summer flowers will give 3-seasons of interest.
A peppering of children Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Even though I was unable to attend the canceled children’s gardening workshop, I still wrote a story that will appear in March 14‘s edition of the American News.

One can only fit so much into print so from time to time I’ll elaborate on some kid-friendly projects you can do with children, whether you are a caregiver or parent. I’ve briefly written of terrariums.  Today I planted seeds with the kiddos, and tried my hardest not to add too many, “no,no,no”, “stop,stop,stop”s to the mix. So far the peppers are planted – they were suggested to start by seed 8-10 weeks before the last frost. That puts the time frame to get them in dirt and under light anywhere from last week to next. A lovely friend gave me a couple grow lights for my birthday so I’ve rigged those with some poster brackets and hemp twine so I can raise and lower them on some free-standing wooden shelves. I’ll have to post pictures when I can find one of two cameras. I’ve set a timer on my cell phone for 12 hrs. – from 8am to 8pm to have the lights on. On 3 sides I’ve taped some foil as a lot of light is lost if not reflected back on the seeds. It’s not pretty, but it should be pretty functional. The lights should stay approximately 2 inches above the pots and then the plants once started. This will hopefully ensure that they don’t get too lanky and stay squatter and more robust. I’m also using cut down TP and paper towel rolls as pots. Some already have a little fuzz growing on the outside so I’ll have to watch that.

I just spoke with my mother and she asked if I had bottom heat on my seeds. “Um, nope.” I guess peppers enjoy warmth, so, if I don’t see germination early next week I might have to try adding some warmth. She has a special mat that warms seeds from the bottom so I might borrow that. I’m a little apprehensive to use a heat pad but I suppose that could also be an option. Or, moving the set up closer to a heat vent. We’ll see, I have plenty of seeds leftover so I could try something else completely next week as well. Especially if the TP rolls disintegrate before my seeds even germinate.

I’m using the Miracle Grow seed-starting mix and it isn’t as fine as I’d like plus there seems to be a lot of sticks. I’ll have to look into making my own mix once I run out. I also mix is with water in a bowl right away so it’s a little easier to handle and after the seeds are planting a little watering at the end won’t upheave the seeds.

Itchy Friday, February 5th, 2010

How can one stave off that garden itch. The temp got above 30F today and I’m already feeling it. My naked hands need some dirt.

  • If you haven’t already, you can force bulbs like paperwhites, tulips, daffodils, crocus and amarylis.
  • Clean-up your houseplants, they’ll be getting thirstier now that the days are getting a bit longer. Trim off dead leaves and branches. Yellowing bottom leaves may mean time to repot. Use a pot only 1-2″ wider in diameter than the original and make sure there is a drain hole.
  • Make a terrarium. This is a great project to do with kids. Pick a clear container – anything from a clear glass cookie jar to a large clear vase will work. Layer from the bottom: pebbles, active charcoal (if enclosed), moss, screen or fine mesh (to keep soil from washing into pebbles) potting soil (or cacti specific if those are the types of plants you wish). Next plant small, slow growing plants, cuttings or seeds. Plant them using a spoon, fork, chopsticks, etc. (good tool options). Add decorative stones or figurines if desired. Water when top of soil is dry.
  • Start herb seeds in pots for trimming into dishes.
Budgets, building up and barrels Friday, January 29th, 2010

The minimal time I’ve been gardening at my home (7 years) I’ve learned to have, if not a strict budget, at the very least a focus of what I wanted to accomplish that season. The first year or two I was buying and collecting with abandon. It was a good start (but I did burn a hole in my pocket book). The best choices I made didn’t come from nurseries but through collecting and trading. I’ve acquired some tried and true specimens that I already knew would work well in this corner of our world. Hostas, daylilies and iris from my mom, roses I’d known grew well from childhood memories at my grandmothers’, native grasses, mints, sedums and thyme.

Now that I’d found some stuff to work with I moved onto more foundation plantings like shrubs and trees. Having all of ours wiped out by dutch elm, blight and scald those became the focus the next couple years. To save money we went to the nearly-annual city surplus sale and donated to the Arbor Day Society – for a minimal donation you get quite a few trees, though tiny, it’s worth it even if only a couple survive. We only splurged on the two trees planted the day our kids were born. Investing in perennials, trees and shrubs will always be a better deal as they, hopefully, come back year after year needing less and less maintenance as they become established.

Last year (and the year before) we put up a fence to enclose the backyard both for our kids’ and dog’s sake and to keep rough-n-tumble kids from breaking, beating and stomping the stuff we had planted. There is just something way too appealing about breaking branches.

Bringing us to this year’s focus:

  • Dirt — basically building up the veggie garden, raising or mounding the beds. This will help them heat up faster, drain better and hopefully provide more of a path to get to things. I’d love all raised beds as it would make the work easier but the building materials would probably be out of our range. By bringing in a mix of compost, dirt, peat etc. we will improve the soil quality. Before all of this I should finally get soil samples sent into the extension office so that I know where I’m at as far as pH and basic nutrient needs.
  • Water conservation — rain barrels and soaker hoses. Our old soaker hoses need replacing and they really are the smartest way to water. I’ve been talking about rain barrels for a few years and have never tackled the project. To buy one premade will cost a minimum of $150 from what I’ve perused in catalogs, but there are easier ways to make your own. I just need to find large plastic food-grade barrels that have never held any chemicals. They could be used as is by dipping watering cans into, or I can add spigots and drain hoses for greater ease with some strategic holes, faucet and hose attachments. Not only do you end up with free water, it’s actually much better water for your plants. City water around these parts is more alkaline and will increase soil pH. Just remember a couple mosquito dunks to kill the larvae.
  • Lastly, another tree splurge as there is another Pharris on the way to make his/her appearance in April. We haven’t nailed down the type of tree we want yet but I’m leaning towards an evergreen of sorts or an oak. I’ll have to call the nurseries and check on the availability of bareroot vs. container in early April.
Child-focused gardening workshop Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Just to clarify this workshop is not for children but for people who like to garden with kids: educators, care providers, or like me a parent who wants to get the most out of gardening with my own kids. Here is the brochure and registration form: 2010 brochure

Held at the Dacotah Prairie museum in Aberdeen the 6-hour workshop includes such topics as: bugs, math and other age-appropriate practices for childrens’ gardening. Registration is limited.

I’ll be most excited to learn other ways to pull my kids interests towards the garden. Too often I’m focusing on weeds and not the magic – that’s no way to spark a child’s interest.

1 month Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I want to do a little comparison with our one raised bed. Almost exactly a month ago it was planted. Disclaimer: yes, I know, for the love of weeds!!! I need to get out there and pull. I swear this all happened in this last week of rain. The weekend was nice, but way too busy – all I managed to do was mow the front yard, that’s it. But i’m happy I did not have to water.cereliagarden5-2009cereliagarden6-2009

This is the reward of gardening. This raised bed is my, now 5-yr-old, daughter’s. When she wanted to plant seeds, I let her go (lettuce, radish). When we were at the nursery, I let her pick up whatever variety of flowers she liked (nemesia, double petunias, heliotrope, trollius). Then, the eggplant happened in there because it couldn’t find a home anywhere else. There are also a couple volunteer tomatoes from using our homemade compost. MishMash would be the appropriate term I believe.

Whirlygig Friday, June 19th, 2009

whirlygigs21It’s just fun to say — “whirlygig”. Gardening with my children is immeasurably rewarding. Seeing through a child’s eye gives a great insight into my small world. Their focus never seems in line with my own and it makes me look at things differently. The millionth ladybug just as exciting as the last. The puffy petaled dandelion a flower, not a weed. All things touched, felt and smelled and not just passed by.

They must’ve played with these simple, wind-powered toys for nearly an hour. Blowing on them, holding them to the remarkably gentle S.D. wind that night, turn them with their hands, displaying them in different pots and parts of the yard. They are the masters of “Being.”

Inside Thursday, June 11th, 2009

sensitiveplant6-09Sorry, it’s been awhile. Thought I’d take you inside, briefly. When in Rapid City about a month ago, I picked up 2 $1.99 sensitive plants – one for each of my kids. I was sure they’d be toast in no time but they’ve actually quadrupled in size. I’d first saw these when I was very little and then again last year at McCrory Gardens of all places – growing in the sensory garden. I was absolutely delighted to bring it home for my kids to see a plant that closes by touch, I’ve also noticed it closing at night. Just brush a finger across the palm-like leaflets and the close in on themselves. Much like a venus flytrap reacting to the stimulus of a nice juicy bug and closing up around it.

Hello 2009! Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Ok, so it definitely feels like Spring! (sarcasm) SD SPRING that is. So far I’ve received the pumpkin and squash seeds I’ve ordered. I’d seen the catalog for Baker Creak Heirloom Seeds before and was intrigued – so this year I’m giving it a shot. They have a huge variety of heirloom and unusual seeds. I decided to get the Bush Buttercup, Improved Green Hubbard, Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin, Musquee d-Provence, and Rouge Vif deTamps. I’m super excited as I only seem to be ok with seeds that go straight into the garden. I’ve not mastered anything that needs to start inside – not saying I haven’t had successes but my percentage is hovering around 1%.

Our house is on a regular city lot in the middle of the block and the above sounds like ALOT of vines for that space. That’s one reason I got the Bush Buttercup – less space to take up and fewer scratchy vines. I’m hoping the vines will keep down the square footage I’ll have to mow. I can see it now – by August our backyard will looke something like Sleeping Beauty’s impenetrable vine-covered fortress. Pumpkins and squash are pretty easy to grow in NE South Dakota. They are great ‘beginner’ crops and also fun with kids. Just plant in rows 6 ‘ apart, 12″ apart per seed or 3-5 seeds per hill and each hill 3′ apart. The latter is my favorite. Plant them in late May or early June.