Tag Archives: organic 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.

Kid Chef Three Sisters Pasta

Kids can plant a Native American Three Sisters Garden by planting corn, beans, and squash together in one organic raised bed garden. The beans climb the corn stalks while the squash shades out the weeds and their roots nourish each other with compatible nutrients in the soil. When kids eat them together, corn, beans, and squash are nutritionally balanced with vitamins, fiber, and proteins. Kids can make a flavor filled comforting meal using all organic, fresh from the garden ingredients. Kids can scrub and chop 1 zucchini, 1 cup golden French beans, ¼ cup red onion, 1 green deseeded chili, and 1 ear of corn. Steam the veggies until tender.  Cook 1½ cups organic whole wheat penne pasta in boiling salted water. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the blender, kids can make a pesto by combining 2 tbsp organic walnuts, 1 garlic clove, and ¼ tsp sea salt and pulse until finely chopped. Add ½ cup basil, ½ cup Swiss chard, 4 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil and continue to pulse, scraping the sides occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the greens are coarsely chopped. Pour the steamed veggies in a casserole dish; cut the corn off of the cob and add to the veggies; drain and add the penne pasta; add a 14.5 ounce can of organic diced fire roasted tomatoes; pour in the pesto and mix thoroughly with the veggies and pasta. In a sauce pan, melt 1 tbsp vegan butter and toast with ¼ cup organic bread crumbs, ¼ tsp cumin, and ¼ tsp sea salt. Spread the bread crumbs evenly over the top and bake for 25 minutes.  Serve with a garden salad and bread.

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.

Healthy Germs for Kids

Microbes have been living on Earth for 3.7 billion years and perform such vital services that all other creatures on Earth would die without them. Microbes are in the air, the soil, the food, as well as in the human body, especially the skin and intestines. Half the cells in our body are microbial, many are helpful and only a few are destructive. Microbes break down organic substances and change their chemical makeup when foods are fermented, such as yogurt, bread, pickles, and soy sauce, making fermented foods gut healthy. Nutritionists encourage a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods to support a healthy microbial community in a healthy body. Processed food has chemical additives that have been shown to disturb microbes. Antibiotics kill susceptible bacteria but not resistant bacteria which multiply and become more common. Kids should take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by the doctor and avoid antibacterial soaps, lotions, and cleansers. Instead, kids can wash their hands with soap and water, which wash all kinds of bacteria down the drain, and wash often to avoid infection. The microbial cells and human cells work together to keep kids healthy. There are many kinds of microbes in the human body performing many tasks, like helping to digest our food, fighting harmful bacteria in the gut, and developing our immune system. Studies have shown that kids in big families or that go to day care are less likely to suffer from asthma and allergies. Kids that live on farms and interact with farm animals have the lowest rates of allergy and asthma. Kids that grow up with dogs, cats, and horses are also less affected. Antidepressant microbes in soil bacteria produce serotonin bringing happiness and healing to kids and gardeners rooting about in the soil. Kids that spend time outdoors, playing in nature, and growing an organic veggie garden are healthier and happier.

Kids Harvest Rosemary

Kids can grow rosemary in a container and bring its lovely evergreen fragrance to the patio. Popular with pollinators, rosemary displays little blue flowers that keep bees happy in winter and is a good companion plant for veggies. Because it quickly grows large, kids can freely harvest sprigs for adding to recipes, making dried herb blends, and creating smudge sticks and sachets. Kids can add rosemary to many delicious recipes, such as Rosemary Pesto and Roasted Potatoes or use it as a skewer for grilling. Kids can cut fresh sprigs of rosemary with scissors for dinner and add it to beans, salad, pasta, or bread.

Kids can make Rosemary Smudge Sticks, dried herb bundles that are burnt as incense and release a pleasant, relaxing and peaceful aroma. Scientific evidence shows that smelling rosemary stimulates brain chemistry and helps depression. Kids can make three smudge sticks by cutting 12 rosemary branches, 6 – 8 inches long, and dividing them into three groups for bundling. Cut three cotton threads 6 feet long, double in half, and start wrapping the rosemary bundle about an inch above the bottom of the stems, 10 times in one place and make a knot. Wrap the bundle tightly, spiraling the cotton thread up the stems, and continue wrapping, crisscrossing the cotton thread back down the stems. Tie the loose end to the knot at the base of the bundle. Kids can dry the smudge sticks on a flat surface for 2 weeks. Parents can light the top end of the stick, blow out the flame, while kids hold the base to release the smoky scent and carry it throughout the house and garden. Traditionally, rosemary smudging is used to release negative energy and bring about mental clarity and calmness.

Kids Rosewater Facial Toner

Kids can make a delightful gift for Mom and Grandma with 15 – 20 sweet smelling roses. Rosewater Facial Toner has been a favorite since ancient times as a soothing anti-inflammatory. Roses have edible pedals that look lovely on cupcakes or in salads. Kids need to ask permission to cut the roses before starting this project. Rosewater has the calming scent of the roses and is a natural cooling astringent with skin soothing properties. Kids can pick roses in the morning that are just opening and immediately place the harvested stems in cool water out of the sun. Put a heatproof bowl upside down in the bottom of a large pot on the stove. Clean and remove the petals, scattering them around the bowl. Pour 3 cups distilled water over the petals. Place a smaller bowl right side up on top of the larger bowl. Cover the pot with the lid upside down and bring the water to a gentle simmer. When drops of water appear on the lid, kids can place 10 – 12 ice cubes in the upside down lid. Continue simmering for about 45 minutes until the water has been collected in the top bowl. Kids need to watch carefully at the end so that the water doesn’t boil out and scorch the pot. Prepare a funnel and small bottles or jars with lids. Cautiously remove the top bowl from the pot and pour the hot rosewater through the funnel into the bottles. Strain the petals from the pot and pour any rosewater remaining in the pot into a jar to use to flavor drinks or to add to baked goods. Kids can decorate the bottles with stickers and ribbons. Mom and Grandma will enjoy adding Rosewater Toner to their skin care routines.

Kids Native Butterfly Garden

Kids can create a butterfly garden with beautiful native flowers that are the specific plants for food and shelter for butterflies and caterpillars in their backyard. The main food of adult butterflies is nectar from red, orange, yellow, blue, or purple flowers. The female butterfly lays her eggs on very specific larval food plants. Larval food plants are native plants that haven’t been sprayed with weed or insect killers. The Monarch butterfly only eats one species of plant, milkweed. Homeowners and developers have changed the landscape from native plants and trees that butterflies and other insects used for food and homes to large lawns trimmed with exotic plants that originated in different climates. The exotic plants tend to escape the gardens and become invasive in the native landscape.  Commercial agriculture has also removed the native habitat and added toxic chemicals to the land. Many native plants have been thought of as weeds to be removed but to many species of butterflies these plants are food, such as clovers, mallows, lantana, and butterfly weed. This loss of native habitat has reduced the biodiversity of the North American landscape significantly with less food for insects, birds, and wildlife. Kids can create a good butterfly garden with beautiful native flowers, culinary herbs, and fruits. Kids can watch as the female butterfly lays her eggs on the underside of leaves or flower buds of the native plant. The caterpillar will eat its host plant as it grows and forms a chrysalis. Kids can care for the chrysalis by providing wind protection and shelter from migrating birds. From the chrysalis the adult butterfly emerges to dry its wings in the sun. Kids can provide the butterflies with a shallow source of water and a sunny zone of bright colored native flowers for fragrance, nectar, and food.