Tag Archives: community gardens

Microbes in the Garden

Microbes are everywhere in the environment, floating in the atmosphere, in the oceans, soil, and in our guts. When leaves fall in the forest, microbes decompose them into soil-building humus to feed the trees. Healthy soil makes healthy plants that produce fruits and veggies to grow healthy kids. Soil microbes purify our groundwater, decompose dead animals and plants, hold the soil in place, and help feed the plants that recycle our air. Organic matter added to the soil feeds and nourishes the worms, bacteria, and microbes, creating drainage and airflow important for healthy plant roots, as well as a balanced ecosystem to improve the environment. Kids can start a compost bin to create premium food for the soil and its microbes. Soil microbes break down the organic compost into useable food and nutrients for the plants and for kids who eat the veggies that grow on the plant.

On the other hand, chemical fertilizers injure the microbial life that sustains this healthy growth of veggies, lessens the nutrients, and drives up the salt index. Instead of using chemical fertilizers, kids can improve the structure of the soil and add billions of beneficial microbial creatures to the soil to invigorate the plants and improve the environment by recycling vegetable kitchen scraps and garden waste in a compost bin.
To keep healthy microbes in the soil, don’t walk on the veggie beds, don’t till the soil, don’t rake the leaves, don’t use chemical fertilizers, and don’t disturb the tree roots. Create pathways of wood chips around the fruit trees and veggie beds. Add compost as a mulch on top of the soil to improve the soil, hold in moisture, regulate the temperature of the soil, and prevent weeds from growing.

Almost all the foods we eat contain living microbes. In the gut, these beneficial microbes keep the small percentage of harmful bacteria in check and activate our immune systems. Soil microbes have been used to make many of our medicines: antibiotic compounds, immune suppressants, and probiotics. Antidepressant microbes in soil bacteria produce serotonin which makes gardening a stress reducer and mood lifter, improving cognitive functions and bringing happiness and healing to kids and gardeners rooting about in the soil.


Kids Drought-Resistant Veggie Garden

Kids can make the best use of moisture during times of water shortage by using several different organic solutions. Healthy garden soil itself holds moisture with its organic plants and compost. The organic matter in the soil also attracts earthworms and microorganisms to feed nutrients to the plant and produces humus to hold it in place. Kids need to fill their raised garden beds with rich organic soil from the nursery or local soil company.

Evaporation from above the soil can be reduced by mulching to keep moisture where it is available to the plants. Kids can spread mulch on top of the soil and around their veggie plants, in the form of shredded leaves, compost, or worm castings. Shade cloths and wind breaks also reduce evaporation by blocking the afternoon sun and preventing wind damage, depending on local conditions.

Instead of planting in rows, kids can plant their veggies close together surrounded by soil walls to pool the moisture. This close planting of veggies leaves little room for weeds and maximizes the garden space, and kids can rotate the crops by planting starter veggies when they harvest to keep away pests and diseases. Self watering containers, buried water pots, garden towers, and spiral gardens create microclimates for water saving and abundant harvests in small areas.

Kids can place rain barrels under a rain gutter to collect and channel the rain water to their veggie garden. Runoff can be reduced by using permeable materials for pathways, driveways, and patios, such as gravel, wood chips or pavers that allow the rain to soak into the ground, with runoff channels into planting beds. Kids can install a drip irrigation system with a timer set to water in the mornings to get the right amount of water directly to the roots of the plants at the right time of day. Finally, kids can choose the right vegetable variety to plant for their climate and location at the right time of year for the best water use.

Kids Red Wriggler Worm Bin

Nature’s master composters, red wriggler worms excrete a highly nitrous fertilizer called castings, the highest quality compost in percentage of nutrients and micro-organisms. Red Wriggler Worm castings enrich the soil by providing the best nutrients for water retention, air flow, and minerals to enrich the garden soil and grow extra healthy organic fruits and veggies. Worm castings are packed with bacteria, enzymes, and minerals that are essential for plant growth and are immediately available to the plant. The humus in the castings extracts toxins and harmful bacteria and fungi from the soil to fight off plant diseases, as well as stimulating plant growth and the development of microorganisms in the soil. Worm castings allow plants to grow while acting as a barrier in the soil to heavy metals and extreme pH levels. This fertilizer increases the ability of the soil to retain water, reduces the acid forming carbon, and increases nitrogen levels without burning the plants. Use it freely to germinate seeds, as a soil conditioner, and as a fertilizer in the garden, for house plants, container plants, raised bed gardens, and for all types of plants and trees.

Gardeners can raise earthworms by building worm boxes or buying an earthworm bin at the local garden center. The bin should have air holes in the lid and holes in the bottom through which water can drain into a tray underneath. Place a bedding of coconut coir in the bin and add organic vegetable kitchen scraps, coffee grinds, egg shells, shredded cardboard and dried leaves. Spray the bedding with water to make it moist. Place the bin in a shady protected spot, like against the house foundation or in the garage. Bury kitchen scraps in the top layer every few days, keeping the bin moist. Do not feed the worms citrus, tomatoes, meat, or herbs. Worm bins smell like rich soil. About six months after starting a new worm bin, gardeners can harvest the compost and place fresh bedding for the earthworms. Check every three months to harvest more castings. Worm castings reinforce the base biology in the soil. Kids can add castings when planting new crops and as a top dressing every 1 – 3 months for “the champagne of soil amendments”.

Kids Local Organic Seeds

Local organic open-pollinated seeds are the best option for kids to plant in their raised bed organic veggie garden. Local varieties are the best adapted to the climate, easiest to grow, and produce great harvests. All Good Things Organic Seeds in Ojai, California offer hundreds of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds, including rare and improved heirloom varieties that are certified organic. Co-founder, Quin Shakra, states that their mission is to propagate plant biodiversity by planting many different crops and species of the same crop in their home farm to improve the seeds for growing quality, productive organic crops within an ecological agriculture setting. This process also saves and protects our food seeds from disappearing as our food diversity diminishes. Seed quality is paramount to gardening success; so they work to improve existing open-pollinated and heirloom vegetable varieties for better performance in organic gardens and farms.

Using basic simple tools to harvest their seeds, Quin Shakra and his crew watch the flowers on their vegetable crops transform from buds to blooms to dry seed heads. Some seeds are found inside the fruit, like tomatoes and pumpkins, while other seeds are held in pods, like peas and beans, which can be left on the plant until they begin to brown. Seeds inside of fruit and pods can be dried for a week on seed trays. Seeds are then stored in a cool, dry place with consistent temperature to ensure the longevity of the seeds. Sowing organic crops from seed allows the widest range of varieties possible, including some crops that only grow from seed. Many seeds can be started in seedling trays in a protected area, but some, like root crops, need to be directly seeded into the garden. Using the seed planting instructions on the All Good Organic Seeds packets, such as planting depth and days to germination, organic gardeners can enjoy growing their own veggies and watching the seedlings develop into productive plants. Because the seeds are open-pollinated, gardeners can save their seeds at the the end of harvest to plant again in the spring.

Kids Self Watering Soda Bottle Pot

For a fun science experiment, kids can grow a salad in a soda bottle and be amazed that they can grow veggies with so little effort. In the picture above, kids at the community garden planted salad greens in their bottles. Kids can grow leafy salad greens in a small space on a well lit window sill planted in a used plastic soda bottle. Kids and their folks can cut a empty plastic soda bottle halfway down into two pieces. Take a strip of old fabric and tie a knot at one end. Remove the bottle cap and drop the long end through the hole in the top of the bottle with the knot on the inside. Turn the top half of the bottle upside down and place it into the bottom section of the bottle. Mark the spot where the bottle top and wick meet the bottom half of the bottle. Take the bottom half and cut a small 3 sided watering and overflow hole at the spot marked on the side of the bottle. Put the top section back on the bottom half and add rich organic compost, packing it in well around the knotted wick. Kids can add water to the soil until the bottom chamber is full. Add seeds or a starter plant and put in a sunny window. The fabric will then wick moisture up from the chamber below and moisten the growing medium. When the water in the bottom chamber gets low, kids can refill it by adding water through the watering/overflow hole. Kids can harvest the salad greens by cutting the outside leaves and leaving the plant to grow more leaves.

Kids Green Living

Kids can be a vital part of the movement toward environmental sustainability by growing their own organic fruit and veggie garden. Agriculture plays a large role in air and water pollution, deforestation, and climate change. Conventional agriculture’s synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollute our rivers and drinking water, the smoke from slash and burn chemicals pollute the air, the compressed gases used in refrigerating add to the holes in the atmospheric ozone layer, the tons of plastic waste added to landfills and waterways kill sea animals and take hundreds of years to decompose, and the transportation of food that averages 1500 miles from farm to table add to the greenhouse gases. This is why choosing organic products makes a difference. Growing organic food in a backyard, school, or community garden provides the best tasting, healthiest, and most economical food without the pollution. Kids can start growing veggies in container planters on a balcony or patio. The Garden Tower Project is a patio farm where kids can grow 50 plants in four square feet in a self contained easily accessible system, requiring no weeding and containing a vertical vermicomposting system that has red wriggler worms living in a long tube running down the center to provide the best organic fertilizer and soil amendment. When trees and plants are grown organically, they provide a healthy habitat for beneficial insects and animals and create a soil alive with microorganisms. Kids can learn to be self sufficient and be an example of green living when they grow an organic food garden, providing delicious healthy food and creating a better environment for everyone.

Kids Garden Plan

January is a great time for families to dream about their organic food garden and to draw a plan of where to grow their fruits and veggies. Edible plants that are also ornamental can be used to landscape any city or suburban plot; balconies can be filled with pots of veggies and with railing boxes of strawberries. The first step in making a garden plan is to make a rough sketch of the property: locating buildings, paths, boundaries, established trees, shrubs, and plant communities, any contours in the land, and then mapping the sun exposure throughout the day. This sketch can also be made for a balcony, patio, or community garden. By adding flowering native plants and removing lawns, families can create a sustainable garden with low water usage and low maintenance. The next step is to choose favorite veggies, berry bushes, and fruit trees to grow and decide where to plant them. To make a landscape sustainable the plants should be climate appropriate, planted with enough space to accommodate their mature size, and grouped with plants with the same water and light needs. Each raised garden bed can be drawn to scale to determine where to plant each herb and veggie. Another consideration is to place plants near one another because they enhance plant growth, discourage pests and diseases, or have some other beneficial effect. This companion planting also means to keep some plants separate that react poorly together. The last step is to draw the organic food garden plan on graph paper, measure the garden space, find the sun, and name the fruits, veggies, and herbs. A detailed garden plan builds family excitement for the project and gives an easy reference for planting the garden.