Category Archives: Kids Organic Gardening

Kids Vertical Garden

Kids can make the best use of their small space organic veggie garden and available light by growing vertically: terracing, trellising, and using hanging planters. Kids can terrace their veggie plants to capture the most sun and grow a bigger harvest by putting the tallest ones in the back and the shorter ones in front. Kids can arrange containers of herbs and veggies on three or four steps so that each plant gets plenty of light.  Kids can design the garden itself at layered heights, using raised beds, planter boxes, and cinderblock boosters, so that plants of the same height will get enough light.

Another vertical garden technique is to use trellises, arbors, and lattices on walls. Many veggies love to climb up a trellis, such as cucumbers, peas, beans, and melons. Kids can grow fruits and berries on arched trellises, which support growth upward, across, and outward, producing more fruit. A sunny wall with a lattice is another way to grow veggies and maximize space. Trellising enables kids to keep their veggie plants clean with good air circulation.

Hanging planters from the eaves, window ledge, railing, gazebo, pergola, and the ceiling of a sunny room is another way to use vertical space. Hanging planters are usually limited in size so kids can choose smaller veggie varieties with a trailing habit. Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, and bush beans grow beautifully over the edges of hanging planters. Kids can grow a vertical organic fruit and veggie garden anywhere and provide fresh organic food for the table right where they live.

Kids Patio Avocado Tree

Tropical avocado trees grow well in large containers or half whisky barrels on a sunny patio or deck, especially dwarf cultivars. Their bushy evergreen foliage makes a welcome ornamental addition to the patio. Originally from Mexico, kids can grow avocado trees outside in Southern California with regular water, organic biologically rich soil, and full sun.  In cold climates, kids can put the container for the avocado tree on a wheeled pot caddy and move it indoors for the winter. Kids can start an attractive houseplant from an avocado pit, but such plants rarely fruit or produce fruit after growing eight to ten years, unless grafted.  Avocados are self-fruitful, but some trees have flowers that are ready to receive pollen in the morning, with pollen that isn’t released until the afternoon. Other avocados display the opposite pattern, with flowers ready in the afternoon and pollen released the following morning. Planting both types of trees guarantees good pollination and more fruit. Thousands of flowers bloom on the tree between January and March and a tenth will develop into dark green fruit dangling on long stalks that mature on the tree for three to six months. Avocados are heart healthy with omega-3 oil and cancer fighting antioxidants, and kids love yummy guacamole with chips.

Kids Biodynamic Garden

Kids can grow abundant food in small spaces with techniques developed over the last century. In the 1920’s the philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, and his followers broke from conventional monoculture row planting and invented a gardening method called biodynamic, using organic compost and mulch for fertilizers and practicing companion planting. Biodynamic gardening also takes into account the influence of the sun, moon and planets when planting the garden. Building on this method and the French Intensive method of planting vegetables close together and using cloches to grow year round, Alan Chadwick created a 4 acre Biodynamic Garden Project at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the 1960’s that produced four times as many vegetables as a conventional garden, while needing less water and less maintenance.

Kids can grow their own biodynamic garden by creating a healthy garden ecosystem. Kids can view their garden‘s soil, plants, insects, and animals as parts of a single living whole.  A self sustaining garden supplies all of its own essential nutrients for balanced growth, from organic matter for compost to micronutrients for healthy plants and requires the least amount of time and money in the long term. Using raised beds, planter boxes, and vertical garden containers filled with rich organic soil, earthworm compost, and a drip watering system, kids can grow an abundant harvest of fruits and veggies on the balcony or patio.

School Garden Volunteers

School gardens are outdoor classrooms where kids can experience the miracle of life and learn history, science, and math with practical applications. Most schools have a patch of dirt that can be set aside for a garden and even a greenhouse. A sunny school wall can be fitted with vertical garden to grow herbs, flowers, and veggies. Gardening gets kids excited to eat organic in season veggies that they have grown and to try new foods, establishing healthy habits for a lifetime. An organic raised bed garden in the school yard becomes a snack bowl, as kids love to snack on berries, veggies, and fruit while they pick them.

A thriving school garden needs a dedicated Garden Caretaker and a staff of loyal volunteers to keep the garden growing.  A majority of the garden chores continue through the summer when schools are closed. Many schools have summer garden parties where kids, teachers, parents, grandparents, and staff gather for a workday of garden chores, food, and fun. Everyone loves having a pizza oven in the garden, where kids can choose their favorite veggie toppings fresh from the garden.

Experienced volunteer gardeners can awaken in kids the joy of growing their own food and can help produce abundant food for school lunches. Kids can hardly wait to eat what they have grown. A Garden Caretaker opens new doors to kids that have been alienated from nature, abused, or bullied, with their knowledge of the interaction of growing things and their consistent presence in the garden.  Studies show that kids who spend time outdoors, playing in nature, and growing an organic veggie garden are healthier and happier. The Garden Caretaker sets up schedules, organizes work parties, shows what to plant where, and keeps the garden flourishing.

When kids learn to grow their own food with experienced gardeners, they develop healthy eating habits, gain confidence and self sufficiency, and learn life skills. School gardens give kids not only food, but exercise, science projects, and a sense of connection to all life.

Saving Seeds for Future Generations

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is part of a global effort to secure the diversity of our most important crop plants to ensure that humanity has food seeds in spite of wars, climate change, and natural disasters. The Seed Vault is the answer to the international community’s pressing need for the future of global agriculture as a bank for storing seeds to conserve diversity and food security for people today and beyond. Located near the North Pole in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, the Seed Vault is completely funded by the government of Norway and built to the highest standards. Tucked away in a frozen mountain that keeps the seeds cool at -18⁰C, a long tunnel, partially encased in a steel tube, leads 130 meters deep to the entrance of the vault rooms containing seeds from countries around the world. The seeds are carefully dried and frozen to preserve them for hundreds of years.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built in 2008 under the guidance of Cary Fowler, a long time champion of seed saving, who had worked over 20 years to establish an international seed bank. The heirloom seed savers movement, started over a hundred years ago, is concerned about the sustainability of the environment and the loss of thousands of vegetable plant varieties in the last century. Big biotech companies want to control all the seeds, and they are patenting and privatizing seeds, making it illegal for farmers to retain their own crops for replanting. The world’s leading food speakers see the garden as a self sustaining, self contained living being and the organic produce from ancient heirloom seeds as pure food.

The world’s largest seed bank of plant breeding for dry areas, ICARDA, located in Syria, sent 116,000 different seed varieties to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault before the fighting broke out in Syria and gunmen took over their Seed Bank headquarters. In September, 2015, ICARDA retrieved 38,073 seed varieties from its box at the Seed Vault to replant in carefully managed plots to grow and harvest fresh new seed for their farmers. This May, the melting of the polar icecap was much greater than expected due to climate change. The entrance hall to the Seed Vault was flooded. The water did not enter the well structured Vault, but now the Norwegian government is building drainage ditches on the mountainside and waterproof walls inside the tunnel entrance hall. Inside the mountain, the structure of the vault is safe and scientists are researching permafrost in Svalbard. If a nation’s seeds are lost as a result of a natural disaster or a man made catastrophe, the seeds saved in this Arctic Vault can be used to regenerate them.

Kids grow Mushrooms

Kids can enjoy the earthy goodness of mushrooms by growing commercially developed spores at home. Mushroom kits allow kids to harvest the mushrooms at peak freshness and have the best flavor and texture easily available. The simplest kit is a plastic bag with holes, filled with straw and sawdust, and sown with the spores of a particular mushroom. Mushrooms are a fungus supported by underground mycelium (a mushroom’s equivalent to a root system).  Within weeks, the mycelium will have grown outward and mushrooms will sprout from the holes. There are several species of mushroom kits: Portobello or crimini, which are tasty, versatile, productive, and easy to grow; oyster, which absorbs the flavors of any dish and grows in either straw or wood; shitake, which have the best flavor and texture and are the most productive. Kids can take the leftover medium after they have harvested the kit and stuff it into the cracks of a log or sprinkle it at the edge of a compost pile and often the mycelium will sprout again. Besides plastic bags with sawdust, commercial growers have developed mushroom logs by inoculating a small, sawdust-based plug with mycelium. The plugs are stuffed into holes drilled in freshly cut logs or tree stumps and stored for a year until the mycelium has grown into the length of the wood. Seasonal temperature changes trigger the spores to grow into fully fruited mushrooms and the mushroom log will continue sprouting for many years. Kids need to wash all mushrooms, despite rumors to the contrary, as they absorb little water. Mushrooms are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, delicious roasted, grilled, stuffed, and add a hearty earthiness in soups, stews, pasta dishes, and pizza.

Kids feed Root Systems

Kids that grow organic veggie gardens can become good stewards of the land, growing their own independence and self sufficiency. The soil is alive! Every cubic inch of healthy soil is a miniature world of beneficial living organisms that feed all living things on our planet. This micro-universe takes the organic material in the soil and turns it into useable food and nutrients for the plant, which grows veggies rich with nutrients for kids. When a plant seed begins to grow the first thing to emerge is the primary root to absorb food and water from the soil. Beautiful veggie root systems aerate the soil and feed the microorganisms that feed nutrients to the plant. Roots bind the soil, hold the plants in position, and draw water, minerals, and nutrients from the soil to feed the plant.  Kids can feed the soil with living compost to increase the biodiversity of soil microorganisms. Many of the microorganisms form intimate relationships with roots to increase their ability to utilize water and nutrients. Fungi break down dead organic matter in the compost to release valuable nutrients into the soil. Some plant roots and fungi grow together. The fungi radiates through the soil and forms a velvety covering over the plant roots, greatly increasing the contact with the soil and passing the minerals and nutrients to the plant, while the fungus absorbs sugars from the root cells. Kids can mulch their garden with organic materials to add essential elements contained in the dead plants and make them available to the next generation of plants. Kids can make their plants healthier and able to resist pests and pathogens by feeding the soil compost and mulch. Studies have shown that kids exposed to soil develop a stronger immune system, fewer allergies, and perform better in school.