Kids can grow apple trees in the school garden, the backyard, or in a planter box of rich organic soil on the patio by choosing a variety and dwarf rootstock that is hardy in their climate. Apples are nature packed for the perfect energy rich, on the go snacks for kids. Kids can eat the skin of an organic apple as the apple skin contains a powerful antioxidant that protects brain cells and lowers cholesterol. Kids can grow apples from seeds, but the apples may be different from the one planted. Instead, a branch from a tree that makes one kind of apples is joined or grafted onto the trunk of a small tree that already has roots. The two grow together and produce the same kind of apple every year. Dwarf apple trees grow 5 to 8 feet tall and wide and need regular watering. Kids can apply a ridge of thick mulch around the base of the tree to retain water and water the roots of the tree early in the morning. Kids can under plant polycultures of flowers, herbs, and veggies to attract beneficial insects and repel pests.
To grow fruit, apples need to grow eight years, to experience cold weather in the winter, and to cross pollinate with another apple tree. In the middle of winter the apple tree has no leaves, but by spring little pink buds start to grow among young green leaves. Soon the apple blossom makes yellow pollen and a sweet smell that bees love. The bees carry the pollen flower to flower pollinating the trees. In the center of the apple blossom a tiny new apple starts to grow. In the summer the apples grow big, sweet, and red, and in the early fall the apples are ready to pick. Kids can grow an apple tree and improve the environment, create a beautiful landscape, and produce delicious, healthy food. A fall harvest of organic home grown apples is a Super Food snack for kids.
Kids can use organic coconut amino instead of soy sauce as it has 65% less sodium. Diabetic kids can use it for seasoning as it is a pure, raw, low glycemic food. It is made from the fermented sap of the coconut tree. This sap is an abundant source of 17 amino acids, minerals, and vitamins, more than soy, and does not have a coconut flavor. Kid Chefs can start this tasty sauce by heating 2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pan, adding 1/3 cup finely chopped organic red onion, and cooking until the onion is soft. Add 2 tbsp fresh peeled and grated organic ginger, 1 clove minced organic garlic, and 1 small deseeded minced red chili, and cook a couple more minutes. Remove from stove and add 1 tbsp organic coconut amino, 3 tbsp water, 3 tbsp organic peanut butter, the juice of 1 lime, and ¼ tsp salt and whisk until smooth. Kid Chefs can mix with organic veggies and soba noodles to make a yummy dish the whole family will enjoy.
Early Native American kids hung gourds in the tree branches for the birds. Birdhouse gourds are the perfect size for swallows, wrens, and chickadees, hung in a tree or under an overhanging roof 10 feet off the ground where it will get some sun. Birds eat many garden pests and are wonderful partners for an organic veggie garden.The gourds should be hung in early spring and the bird’s entrance should face away from the wind. We planted our gourds In the Kids Educational Garden at Las Flores Community Garden in June and harvested them in October. To create a Gourd Birdhouse, kids can soak completely dried gourds in a solution of ¼ cup bleach to a gallon of water for ½ hour. Kids can wear rubber gloves and use a scrub brush to get them very clean. Rinse them and dry them thoroughly. A teacher or parent can drill small holes an inch from the top of the gourd for the wire to go through for hanging, 3 or 4 small drainage holes in the lowest part of the gourd, and a larger hole for the bird’s entrance. The entry hole needs to be along the outer most curve of the gourd, 4” to 6” above the bottom, pointing straight out. Draw a hole 1 ½ inches across and 2 ½ inches high for swallows or 1 ¼ inch for wrens. Kids can completely clean out the insides of the gourd with a long-handled spoon and slip through a hanging wire. Using their imaginations, kids can paint and decorate the gourd and hang it inside to dry. Kids can plant berry bushes that birds like to eat and create a bird bath near the tree where they hang the gourd. Looking from a favorite window, it is fun for kids to watch the birds build a nest in their birdhouse gourd.
Organic gardening imitates the cycles found in nature to produce food. In the organic cycle, the compost feeds the soil, the soil feeds the plants, and the plants feed the people. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10,000 to 20,000 physician diagnosed pesticide poisonings occur each year among the agricultural workers on conventional farms in the United States. Crops are sprayed to keep away insects and weeds, and then the food is shipped to processing plants to be enhanced with additives, fillers, and dyes. The chemicals used in the process of growing, raising, and processing foods make their way into the land, water, air, and the people eating the food. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 34,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2011 were caused by environmental pollutants and chemical food additives.
Innovations throughout history have given us many food choices with better farming methods, refrigeration, restaurants, and supermarkets. Certified organic products cannot use genetically modified organisms (GMOs), irradiation, artificial dyes, or preservatives, and cannot have packaging material that contains fungicides or fumigants. Organic gardeners do not use toxic herbicides or pesticides. They do not grow their crops in synthetic or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. They do not use chemical, mineral, or synthetic fertilizers or GMO seeds. The soil is kept healthy with compost and alive with a high content of microorganisms and earthworms. Organic gardeners save seeds from the previous year’s harvest chosen for their suitability to their garden’s location. Planting nasturtiums and marigolds among the veggies attracts pollinators and repels pests. Rotating crops and planting cover crops discourages pests, weeds, and diseases. Organic gardeners harvest their food fresh and store a supply of high quality produce for the winter. Completing the organic cycle, the remains of the harvested plants, along with kitchen scraps, and dry leaves are used to make compost and this year’s plants provide next year’s seeds.
Kids can grow an organic fig tree in a container on the patio to harvest an abundance of figs. Figs like to ripen fully on the tree in a warm climate and kids can eat them fresh from the tree. Kids can make a yummy fig crumble by preheating the oven 350 degrees. Kids can wash and slice 1 cup of organic figs and place them in a 6 x 6 inch baking dish with 1 tbsp organic sugar, 1 tsp organic arrowroot starch, and 1/8 tsp cinnamon. In a mixing bowl add ½ cup organic whole wheat flour, ½ cup organic old fashioned rolled oats, 1 tsp baking power, 1 tsp organic sugar, 1/8 tsp nutmeg and mix with a fork. Add 4 tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil and mix to make crumbs. Kids can sprinkle the crumbs over the figs and press down for a smooth crust. Bake for 30 minutes and cool, making 4 servings.
Kids often think that food comes in packages and the source of food is the grocery store. The food industry is a massive collection of farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers who often choose profit over food quality. Crops are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides and foods are enhanced with additives, fillers, and dyes. The chemicals used in the process of getting the food to the store make their way into the land, water, and air as well as the people who eat the food. Kids that grow an organic patio veggie garden know that the source of food is the seed from which the plants grow. Organic crops are not grown with synthetic pesticides, synthetic or sewage sludge-based fertilizers, genetically engineered seeds, nor irradiated to kill bacteria. Farmers markets are a great source of local organic foods. Overly processed foods are not the healthiest choice even if they are organic. A fresh organic apple is healthier than organic junk food that has been processed, stored and transported. More and more doctors are practicing preventive medicine and encouraging their patients to eat whole organic food to prevent and cure many diseases. By purchasing organic products, parents can use their purchasing power to vote in favor of the organic approach to farming. Kids can find the source of food by growing their own organic garden almost anywhere, in a school garden, a community garden, or on the patio or roof.
Kids like the bright red, purple, orange, and green colors of sweet bell pepper bushes, which add beauty and interest to the garden. All pepper start out green and as they mature they turn color. Using organic starter pots indoors, kids can plant the seeds in early spring and daily watch the change as tiny green shoots pop through the soil. Kids can plant them in full sun with basil and tomato plants after the last frost and harvest them until the first frost. Kids can set up a drip watering system with a battery run timer for an inexpensive, eco-friendly, and easy way to water the roots of the plants on schedule. Sweet peppers are an excellent source of phytochemicals and vitamin C, A, potassium, and iron. Red bell peppers are one of the highest sources of Vitamin C, rich in antioxidants and contain twice as many vitamins as green bell peppers. Kids can chop sweet peppers raw into salads or stuff them with rice and veggies and bake them in the oven for a great main dish.