Kids enjoy playing in raised bed fairy gardens filled with tiny trucks and rich organic soil. Soil is not the same as dirt. When kids first start a raised bed veggie garden, they can find a local organic soil company or garden center to get the right kind of soil, like Peach Hill Soil in Moorpark. Kids can grow organic fruits and veggies in this type of soil that is a mix of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter filled with billions of single celled bacteria and millions of fungi. The soil is a busy world of microorganisms, earthworms, and insects working together digging, building, and stirring the soil to keep it healthy. Kids can mix into the soil rich organic compost to feed these organisms and create fertile soil to grow organic veggie plants. The plants take up the minerals they need to grow from the soil. When the plants die, the organisms in the soil help return the nutrients to the soil. Soil microbes and bacteria help get the nutrients to the plant roots which help bind the soil together. Crop rotation and inter-planting of crops also improves the minerals and nutrients in the soil. Kids can have fun playing in the living garden soil and harvesting yummy organic fruits and veggies.
Kids can grow a pineapple by cutting off the crown of an organic pineapple, sprouting it in a dish of water, and planting it in a large container of rich organic soil. Pineapples are juicy, sweet, rich in nutrients, and an excellent to aid in digestion. Kids can make pineapple carrot muffins by preheating the oven to 375 degrees. Kid chefs can cut the pineapple into chunks to slowly caramelize in a large pan with 2 tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil and 1/8 tsp of cinnamon, turning often. In a large bowl mix 1¾ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, ½ tsp sea salt ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, and ¼ tsp ginger. In a small bowl whisk ¾ cup canned organic coconut milk, ½ cup organic cane sugar, ¼ cup organic plain soy yogurt, 4 tbsp extra virgin organic coconut oil, and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in the bowl. Kids can grate 1` 1/3 cup organic carrots, and fold into the batter. Divide the batter into 12 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Kids can use tongs to place 3 or 4 pieces of pineapple on top of each muffin. Bake 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes before removing from muffin pan.
When kids plant their own organic container food garden on the patio, they will eat what they grow. Kids can grow a pizza garden in a raised bed or fruit trees in large pots. Urban gardens are springing up between strip malls and fast food places inspiring kids around the country to grow their own food. Community gardens are making a healthy difference as an inexpensive plot can produce food for the whole family. Healthy lunch boxes start with the organic ingredients from those gardens. Some schools, like Santa Paula High School, have local farms deliver fresh organic produce and local chefs working with students to create a healthy menu. But many schools still have processed, low nutrient meals provided by large food processing corporations. For a healthier lunch, kids can pack salads, sandwiches, and leftovers in insulated lunch boxes with reusable food containers that are BPA, PVC, and phthalate free, and dishwasher safe. Kids can find insulated stainless steel thermos, stainless steel utensils, and ice packs to create healthy meals they enjoy. Stainless steel and plastic systems are available with lots of sizes and shapes for dips, soups, sauces, puddings, and delicate foods. Kids can keep food warm by pouring boiling water into their thermos before filling it with soup or putting it in the freezer to keep their pudding cold. When kids grow an organic veggie garden, they can pack fresh, healthy lunches in reusable containers.
Around 100 A.D., Southwestern Indian kids could be found filling water pots in the nearby stream as part of their tribe’s irrigation system for their food crops. Olla pots are basketball sized and bigger storage pots that were used to hold water and grains. The potter dug his own clay, ground it, shaped it, and fired it in pits. Ollas pots are made with unglazed porous clay that allows water to seep into the soil. Mark’s Olla pots in the picture above show the Olla pot he bought, which cost around $40 and an inexpensive version of the olla pot he made. Kids can find old fashioned unglazed porous clay pots and waterproof glue at the garden center. The picture below shows the top of both pots and their lids.
Kids can get a clay dish for the bottom clay pot; glue the clay dish to the clay pot; glue the rim of the two pots together; let dry; bury it in the garden; fill it with water; cover the top hole to keep out dirt and leaves.
To preserve water in a drought area like the ancient Southwestern Indians, kids can bury their olla pots in an organic raised bed garden where the plant’s roots can absorb the water.
Bury several pots, plant fruit, veggies, and herbs next to the pots, and fill them with water once a week. This system delivers 100% of the water to the roots where it is needed and eliminates evaporation.
In the summer, kids can make an inviting organic melon ball salad for a snack, outdoor meal, or party treat. Thousands of years ago kids in Africa were enjoying watermelons. Watermelons are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and lycopene for a healthy cardiovascular system. Cantaloupe contains a broad spectrum of nutrients and is rich in beta-carotene. Kids can grow melons in their organic raised bed garden or get in season organic melons at their local Farmers Market. Honeydew melon is also rich in nutrients and is a pretty green color to make a rainbow melon ball salad with the red watermelon and orange cantaloupe. Small kids can ask an adult to cut the melons in half. Using a 2 inch cookie scoop, kids find it fun to make balls of melon. Kids can refill the scooped out watermelon skin with the melon balls for a colorful display.
Kids discover that organic veggie gardening is more than gardening without artificial chemicals. It is gardening with nature. Kids can grow an organic fruit and veggie garden and benefit by the trace elements and minerals in their garden produce as well as vitamins that have not been lost in the processing, storage and transportation of food. Kids can learn to enhance the natural cycle of fertility and create a biodiversity in their garden saving heirloom seeds to provide genetic variety for the future. Kids can reduce their carbon footprint by growing their food and reducing transportation pollution and congestion. Kids work with nature by recycling their food and garden wastes into compost to feed the soil. Kids can plant native plants to attract pollinators and repel pests. Pesticides often make the situation worse and kill the beneficial life in the garden. A well-structured soil is full of life as nutrient rich soil suppresses soil-borne pests and diseases. Kids can feed and support the soil, rather than the plants, as nutrient enriched soil suppresses soil-borne pests and diseases. For the best results, kids can plant in certain locations in the garden that are shadier or moister or have the particular conditions that plant likes. A natural ecosystem is not a monoculture. Growing a good mixture of plants and inter-planting them will attract a wide range of insects and organisms that keep the soil balanced and disease free. Kids can work with nature and with planning can maximize the harvest in their organic veggie garden with less effort.
Kids can create an organic fruit and veggie garden that is self sustaining with permaculture techniques. Usually veggies are annual or biennial crops to be replanted, successive planting, or rotated with another crop throughout the year. But kids can also plant low-maintenance perennial vegetables which provide food at time when there is little else in the garden. Some of the veggie plants we replant yearly are in fact perennial under the right conditions. Peppers, sweet potatoes, chard, rhubarb, asparagus, and artichoke are perennial in a frost-free environment. Most herbs are perennial and help attract pollinators and repel pests. Nut and fruit trees can be grown in large containers with rich organic soil with mulch and compost with bi-annual root trimming. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and grapes are perennials that kids can plant in raised beds or containers. Permaculture designs often include perennial vegetables, herbs, and fruits in vertical layers, from ground cover to tree tops where the high diversity, stacking and inter-planting produces an abundant yield with little maintenance. Fruit and nut trees can be planted with herbs and veggies growing under them which act as mulch. Planting crops together is a great way to increase diversity, utilize space, and increase productivity. Kids can plant perennial fruit and veggies not only for their fruit and flowers but also to create attractive year round garden plants and trees that will grow in the garden with them.