Tag Archives: container gardens

Kids Garden Therapy

The closer we are to nature, the healthier we are. We can make lifestyle adjustments to prevent disease and optimize health, by growing an organic garden, eating the best tasting organic food, and letting go of habits that no longer serve us. In our peaceful organic fruit and veggie garden, health awaits us, breathing the air purified by the plants, absorbing the warmth and radiance of the sun, digging our hands into the soil rich with antidepressant microbes, and eating delicious produce picked fresh at the peak of nutritional value and prepared simply with love.

Every cubic inch of healthy soil is a miniature world of beneficial living organisms that feed all living things on our planet. The same laws of the universe apply from the macrocosm to the microcosm, as above so below. When humans follow Nature’s cues and we align ourselves with her rhythm and cycles, we are healed body, mind, heart, and spirit. Eating the different in season organic veggies from our own garden, instead of eating the same processed food week after week, brings a variety of beneficial nutrients into our system and creates a healthy gut. By replacing processed food with super food from the garden, we can turn the tide on the alarming rise in diabetes, obesity, and life threatening food allergies.

Following the natural rhythms of the sun and the seasons, we get to the garden early in the morning when the plants like to be watered. We get healthy exercise, breathing the aromatherapy of the various herbs, and start the day feeling peaceful, instead of stressed. By interplanting, rotating crops and planting year round, we can focus on the growing life in our garden, which helps us release painful past experiences and keeps us on a year long balanced path. In the garden, we find little miracles to inspire us every day.

By recognizing and following natural laws, we come to appreciate that our inner nature and body functions have come into alignment with outer Nature and the environment. Eating organic food that is fresh from the garden, heals our bodies of the toxins that cause disease. Communing with Nature in the herb filled air of our organic veggie garden is an invigorating mood booster, stress reliever, and energy enhancer that give us a peaceful feeling of well being.

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Kids roast Poblano Chilies

The Poblano is a mildly hot bright green chili from Mexico that has a heart shape and can grow up to 3” by 6” with thick dark forest green to chocolate brown flesh. It is perfect for stuffing and is often used in making chili rellenos, a favorite Mexican fried stuffed chili. Poblano chilies are also used in salsas or roasted in strips as a garnish. Chilies are highly antimicrobial and nutrient dense. The active ingredient that produces the heat in chilies is capsaicin. Capsaicin releases endorphins in the brain and brings a feeling of well being. Organic peppers of all types are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as a wide range of additional vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients. Capsaicin helps clear mucous membranes, reduce inflammation and promote healing for a number of conditions, like arthritis and psoriasis.  Ancient Mayans used chilies to treat a variety of illnesses, such as respiratory and gastrointestinal complaints. Scientists today have found that chilies have heart healthy benefits and help people who eat spicy food to live longer.  Kids can make a garnish by preheating the oven to 425 degrees.  Coat 4 organic Poblano chili peppers, each about 5 inches long, with organic extra virgin olive oil and roast them on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper in the oven at 425 degrees turning with tongs until charred on all sides. Let cool in a large covered bowl for 15 minutes. Rub off the skin with a paper towel and remove the stems and seeds.  Kids can cut them into strips and use as a garnish for burritos or tacos.

Kids Heirloom Plants

An heirloom or heritage variety of plant must be open pollinated, where the pollen from one plant is spread to another by insects or by the wind. Seeds saved from heritage plants will breed true to its parent plant, and all heritage seeds are free from genetic modification. After World War II, industrial agriculture became widespread, using F1 hybrid seeds, which do not breed true to the parent and are often sterile.  Traditionally all farmers and gardeners saved their own seeds, now three corporations own 75% of all seeds grown on the planet.  Before 1950, most plants were bred to fulfill the needs of the home gardener, with local climate, flavor, and variety being most important. F1 hybrid plants are bred for uniformity, the ability to withstand transportation, and crops that ripen at the same time. The United States has lost 90% of its food plant biodiversity over the last hundred years with a 50% loss of food varieties worldwide. Open pollinated seeds, unlike hybrid seeds, can adapt to changing environmental conditions growing in the field or garden and interact with the varying site needs. Seed Savers Exchange, The Heritage Seed Library, local seed swaps, and seed banks around the world are a vital part of restoring heirloom plants. A cabbage that thrives in Maine is a different variety from a Southern Californian cabbage variety.  Home gardeners can grow organic open pollinated varieties that are particular for their climate and then save and swap seeds with their neighbors to conserve biodiversity and limit corporate control of food seeds.

Kids Garden Tower Project

The ultimate patio farm is the Garden Tower Project, where kids can grow 50 plants in four square feet. Easy to assemble, my dog and I put it together and had it planted in a couple of hours. Plants grow faster in the Garden Tower because they are protected in their own special microclimate with a constant access to nutrient dense water. It is made from 100% recyclable food grade plastic and turns 360⁰ on a base with a rotatable lower planting ring. The Garden Tower contains a vertical vermicomposting system that has red wriggler worms living in a long tube running down the center. Kids can regularly feed the worms with organic kitchen scraps to keep the tube full. The worms turn this organic matter into worm castings, the most excellent organic fertilizer and soil amendment. The compost at the bottom of the tube turns to rich black organic matter and can be removed easily from a drawer on the bottom of the tower. As water is poured on the top to feed the plants, some of the water seeps down the compost tube absorbing nutrients from the castings and compost, feeding the plant roots and collecting at the bottom drain hole. Kids can pour the water from the drawer into a watering can to pour back on top of the tower tube adding more nutrients to the plants. The worms also aerate the soil and keep it fresh and active with microorganisms. The Garden Tower design creates a self contained system, requiring no weeding, easily accessible, and an attractive addition to the patio. This composting vertical Garden Tower is an education in ecology for school gardening programs, where kids find fun, worms, and delicious food!

Kids Kindness Diet

In a world of unbridled rage, kids are facing bullying in the playground and in society. Families are searching for a kinder and more sustainable way of being. Organic gardening and cooking from the garden provides the most nutrient rich diet, and both gardening and cooking are stress reducers that bring feelings of accomplishment, responsibility, and happiness.  Pointing kids to the joys of growing their own organic food instills positive eating habits, leadership skills, and better attitudes.   Kindness begins at home by stocking the pantry with organic whole grains, organic dried beans, and organic dried fruits and nuts and removing processed foods.

Everything is connected, and the world reflects the consequences of our choices, including our eating habits. Chemical fertilizers on the food plants are harming the microorganisms in the soil. Every cubic inch of healthy organic 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. Herbicides are killing medicinal plants and reducing our food diversity. Pesticides are killing the bees and butterflies. There are atrocities that happen to millions of kind and gentle animals worldwide on a daily basis.

Many families today are rebuilding their health with nutritious food that is also good for the planet, by growing organic food right where they live in containers and raised bed gardens. Certain premade foods contain chemicals that cause addictive cravings that are quite similar to the cravings of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Processed foods, refined frozen meals, and fast foods stimulate dopamine, the brain’s pleasure neurotransmitter. One in four Americans eats fast food every day and 20% of American meals are eaten in the car. Much of the world’s economy depends on this addiction. As it causes health issues, the pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare industry benefit; meanwhile our doctors are attending educational seminars sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies. Some of these prescription drugs are addictive and cause aggressive and irrational behavior. If we eliminated foods that cause health problems, many powerful food corporations, agricultural conglomerates, and drug industries would collapse.

When kids grow an organic veggie garden, they want to eat what they grow. Packaged, processed foods lose their addictive hold after kids taste the fresh bold flavors of just picked organic berries. What food could be faster than picking fruit from the vine? Kids can learn kindness in the garden by caring for their plants, providing food and shelter plants for their garden partners (birds, bees, and butterflies), and harvesting healthy food for their whole family. A 10’ x 20’ plot at the Community Garden can feed a family of four. Cultivate your garden and live in daily expectation of wonder.

Kids grow Dill

Dill has been cultivated since the time of ancient Egyptians.  Kids can plant dill seeds directly in their raised bed veggie garden in late fall or early spring as dill does not transplant well. Interplant dill among the cabbage, lettuce, and broccoli to enhance their growth. Dill is a favorite of many caterpillars who will turn into butterflies, including Monarch butterflies, and is a welcome addition to plant in a butterfly garden. Dill is a tall annual herb that has a soothing smell with fine fern like leaves and attractive yellow flowers with yellow green seed heads that look nice in flower arrangements. Dill leaves are used in salads and as garnishes; dill seeds are used soups, casseroles, and dill pickles. Herbalists use dill to relieve gas, settle the stomach, and aid digestion. Clip fresh leaves just as the flowers begin to open to use in cooking and preserve the leaves by freezing them. Save the seeds by harvesting the plant when the seeds turn brown, hanging it upside down, and drying it with a paper bag to catch the seeds. If the seeds are not harvested, the dill will reseed from year to year, often appearing in new parts of the garden.

Harvesting Rainwater and Greywater

“Rainwater, the cleanest and healthiest water for our gardens,” said Laura Maher, an organic seed saver and Ventura County water saving expert pictured above, “but this wonderful water is dispersed and lost into rivers, lakes, and oceans.”  Kids can harvest water right where they live and use the water for their fruit and veggie gardens by attaching a rain barrel to the down spout from their roof.  Rain barrels usually hold 60 gallons, but fill quickly in a rain storm. Gutters, downspouts, and pipes can be installed from the roof to various sizes of tanks and cisterns, even placed at some distance from the house, as long as the tank inlet is at least one foot lower than the bottom of the gutter.  Tanks should use screens to keep out insects and be dark colored to discourage algae.

Native plants used in a home’s landscape require the least amount of water and offer food and shelter for beneficial insects and wildlife. By using native plants rather than a lawn, contouring the landscape, making curb cuts from the street, and building swales, homeowners can harvest an abundance of rainwater on site. Swales are recessions in the soil or low tracts of marsh land that hold water and keep organic matter on site. To create a swale, dig down six inches and use the dirt to make a berm on the downhill side. This swale will manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration. By using mulch and cover crops, the flow of rainwater during a storm can be slowed and encouraged to percolate into the soil.

Families can also divert gently used water from their shower, bathtub, bathroom sink, and laundry to water trees and shrubs. However, greywater users must switch to plant friendly laundry soap as salts and Boron are micro-toxins that can build up and kill their plants. One simple reuse option is using a bucket in the shower to catch the cold water before it heats up. This can often be the right amount to water patio plants and veggies or flush a toilet in an apartment. Families can harvest and store the most water by creating swales and by sculpting their landscape to keep the water on site.