Garden Open House

Last night at Little Sprouts we held a garden open house for our daycare families. The kids get so excited to show people what they’re doing. So we set a date for them to show off to their families what they’ve been growing. We decided to have a salsa tasting and garden tour this year. We had plenty of great stuff growing so we let everyone choose a few things to take home. We invited all the daycare families and a few friends and neighbors that had mentioned wanting to come see the garden but never had the chance.
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Here is the spread we served.

Here is the spread we served.


We gave away tickets to win this cookbook.  We had also planted watermelon seeds some weeks back and we measured them to see who's grew the biggest.  Each child got to take theirs home.

We gave away tickets to win this cookbook. We had also planted watermelon seeds some weeks back and we measured them to see who’s grew the biggest. Each child got to take theirs home.


We printed out some photos and wrote about them in our journal plus drew pictures of the garden for the parents to see.

We printed out some photos and wrote about them in our journal plus drew pictures of the garden for the parents to see.


We served watermelon/cucumber salsa.  It was not that good.

We served watermelon/cucumber salsa. It was not that good.


We served salsa verde which had roasted peppers and tomatillos in it.  I thought it was really yummy but most of the guests did not like it.

We served salsa verde which had roasted peppers and tomatillos in it. I thought it was really yummy but most of the guests did not like it.


We served a chunky garden salsa that was cooked.

We served a chunky garden salsa that was cooked.


We served my friend's world famous salsa.  It was a cooked and blended salsa.  My oldest child made this recipe up himself and it was the favorite salsa of all.

We served my friend’s world famous salsa. It was a cooked and blended salsa. My oldest child made this recipe up himself and it was the favorite salsa of all.


We served black bean and corn salsa.  I loved it.

We served black bean and corn salsa. I loved it.


There was lots of learning, picking, and exploring.  So fun!

There was lots of learning, picking, and exploring. So fun!


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The open house was so much fun. If you garden with kids, I recommend making a special day to show off what the kids are growing and learning. You’d be surprised how many people are interested and how much fun it is.

Guest Post-Andrea Pommer

I have found a kindred spirit on the internet. She’s a home daycare provider in Indiana that gardens with her kids too! I have been so excited to find a handful of other people who have a passion for teaching their kids to grow food. Andrea has been so supportive and helpful to me as I started this blog. Now she is sharing a post with us. I’m so excited for you to read it, check it out!

Kids and Worms; The Perfect Mix for the Garden
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Over here at my daycare home, we love calling ourselves ‘urban farmers’, but honestly, what is a farm without animals? Though we have been expanding our gardens year by year, we have not yet added those rabbits and chickens that we long for. However, while we wait for the right time for ‘real livestock’, our animal of choice is…WORMS!

Making or buying a worm bin and getting it established is a perfect way to include kids in the garden. And here are some reasons why:

1. Kids. Love. Worms.

2. Worm castings are an incredible addition to your garden beds. Filled with nutrients and beneficial microbes, the castings help your plants grow big, strong, and more able to fend off pests and diseases.

3. Kids get to see how compost works, and how plants come full circle–veggie scraps become nutrient rich compost that then helps grow new seeds into new plants.

4. Worms are a commitment, but an easy one. Kids will be introduced to taking care of ‘livestock’ on a tiny, low-risk scale.

5. Did I mention; kids love worms!!!

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Though there are simple plans online for making your own bin, we took the easy, albeit more expensive route, and purchased a ready-made bin. Since the bin came with everything we needed (except the worms, which we ordered separately), it was less intimidating for us to give this whole worm thing a try.

Now that we are quickly gaining knowledge about the workings of a worm farm, I feel more confident that we could definitely make one from scratch.

There are some days we go all day without even checking on our worms, but inevitably each afternoon someone will want to have a peek, dig their hands gently into the bedding, and pull out a healthy worm or two. We feed them once or twice a week (too much food is a bad thing, we discovered, as it will attract lots of mites), we make sure the bedding is moist but not soaked, and for the most part, we leave them be to silently work.

Our first harvest of worm castings will not be ready until late August at the earliest, as it takes a few months to get a good enough amount to collect. At that point, we will be able to harvest a new batch every couple of months. What we don’t use in the cold months on our indoor plants will come in handy next spring when our soil is ready for some nutrition and new planting!

To see how we faced and defeated our first challenge, click here. It was really not so hard!

Guest Post written for Little Sprouts Learning Garden by Andrea Pommer
Andrea blogs at http://www.littlebigharvest.blogspot.com

Garden Update

I think it’s time to take a little looksee around the garden and see what’s going on in there…

The okra is about waist high and making a few okras a day.

The okra is about waist high and making a few okras a day.


The butterfly row is doing okay.  The fennel is great, the dill is turning brown and dying for some reason right when the cucumbers are doing great and producing.  The monarch way station has a few flowers in it and some rogue birdhouse gourds that weren't in the kit.  Not a great success, but we still got a couple of caterpillars to bring in and watch and we got to see several.

The butterfly row is doing okay. The fennel is great, the dill is turning brown and dying for some reason right when the cucumbers are doing great and producing. The monarch way station has a few flowers in it and some rogue birdhouse gourds that weren’t in the kit. Not a great success, but we still got a couple of caterpillars to bring in and watch and we got to see several.


This tomato bed is thriving and cranking out the maters.

This tomato bed is thriving and cranking out the maters.


There are a few drying beans growing in here and the kohlrabi is finally mostly mature.

There are a few drying beans growing in here and the kohlrabi is finally mostly mature.


The watermelon all suddenly died, so we replanted a week or so ago.  The lavender is doing well though.

The watermelon all suddenly died, so we replanted a week or so ago. The lavender is doing well though.


The herb bed is growing, but being taken over by the sweet potato vines that we planted for some shade.  Not really working out like I wanted, but it's still pretty.  There seems to be a rogue bird house gourd in there as well.  Those things really get around.  :)

The herb bed is growing, but being taken over by the sweet potato vines that we planted for some shade. Not really working out like I wanted, but it’s still pretty. There seems to be a rogue bird house gourd in there as well. Those things really get around. :)


Three beds with corn, we have picked three meals worth of corn and are waiting on the silks to dry on the rest.  It's delicious.  Next year we will plant more.  There are some brussel sprouts in the closest bed, they are taking FOREVER to get big enough to eat.  But they sure are cute.

Three beds with corn, we have picked three meals worth of corn and are waiting on the silks to dry on the rest. It’s delicious. Next year we will plant more. There are some brussel sprouts in the closest bed, they are taking FOREVER to get big enough to eat. But they sure are cute.


The squash vine borers killed all the summer squash, so we replanted it and it's starting to peek out.

The squash vine borers killed all the summer squash, so we replanted it and it’s starting to peek out.


This is the asparagus we planted upside down.  It seems to be making a comeback nicely.  Who would have thought?

This is the asparagus we planted upside down. It seems to be making a comeback nicely. Who would have thought?


The artichokes look like dinosaur plants.  No artichokes yet.

The artichokes look like dinosaur plants. No artichokes yet.


There is some Malabar spinach still going strong in here and the pumpkins that we replanted after the borer attack are coming up.  They are cuties.

There is some Malabar spinach still going strong in here and the pumpkins that we replanted after the borer attack are coming up. They are cuties.


Here's a close-up.

Here’s a close-up.


Some super tall sunflowers and a bed of sweet potatoes.  They seem to be doing okay.

Some super tall sunflowers and a bed of sweet potatoes. They seem to be doing okay.


The swiss chard is still going strong.  Behind we have drying beans growing up the fence and some cantaloupes.  They are growing slow, but growing!

The swiss chard is still going strong. Behind we have drying beans growing up the fence and some cantaloupes. They are growing slow, but growing!


Another tomato bed that is coming along nicely.  We have never done this well with tomatoes before.  Pretty cool.

Another tomato bed that is coming along nicely. We have never done this well with tomatoes before. Pretty cool.


Back in the backyard garden, here is a barrel of hot peppers and the mystery volunteer plant.  It has about 35 baseball or larger sized cantaloupes on it and two have slipped off the vine.  We are waiting for the perfect time to eat them.  They were 3 1/2 pounds and 4 pounds in weight.

Back in the backyard garden, here is a barrel of hot peppers and the mystery volunteer plant. It has about 35 baseball or larger sized cantaloupes on it and two have slipped off the vine. We are waiting for the perfect time to eat them. They were 3 1/2 pounds and 4 pounds in weight.


A barrel of zinnias next to the first asparagus bed.  It's growing like crazy!

A barrel of zinnias next to the first asparagus bed. It’s growing like crazy!


A barrel of swiss chard and a barrel of carrots plus a bed of little green beans.  We have done succession planting with green beans so we have some in all stages of growth.  We will keep planting until late august or so.  We have picked quite a few already and enjoyed eating them.  Yummy.  The bed behind the beans has older bean plants, a little more lettuce left, and cucumber vines.

A barrel of swiss chard and a barrel of carrots plus a bed of little green beans. We have done succession planting with green beans so we have some in all stages of growth. We will keep planting until late august or so. We have picked quite a few already and enjoyed eating them. Yummy. The bed behind the beans has older bean plants, a little more lettuce left, and cucumber vines.


This bed was thriving, but now you can see our tomato plants are starting to turn yellow and brown from the bottom up.  I think it's early blight, a soil fungus.  It's still cranking out the tomatoes though.  On the end is a big basil plant.  We planted basil with all of our tomatoes for good flavor.  I don't know if it works, but I know our tomatoes have been outstandingly yummy.  At the other end is a few more carrots that we haven't harvested yet.

This bed was thriving, but now you can see our tomato plants are starting to turn yellow and brown from the bottom up. I think it’s early blight, a soil fungus. It’s still cranking out the tomatoes though. On the end is a big basil plant. We planted basil with all of our tomatoes for good flavor. I don’t know if it works, but I know our tomatoes have been outstandingly yummy. At the other end is a few more carrots that we haven’t harvested yet.


This row is green beans and another container at the end with tomatoes.  These are Brandywines and the vine is massive.  It's cranking out some huge and very tasty tomatoes.

This row is green beans and another container at the end with tomatoes. These are Brandywines and the vine is massive. It’s cranking out some huge and very tasty tomatoes.


We have many things that have not done well this year, but even more that are doing great. We have harvested so much that we have been able to do most of the kid’s meals with garden produce just adding a watermelon or some peaches here and there. I have had to buy onions and a few other things, but we have eaten a lot from the garden and had a little to share. We have even been able to freeze a little bit of green beans from the garden. To me that’s a great success. Someday I would like to have enough produce to last us all year, but for now, this is great progress for a little group of novice gardeners. Me and my little sprouts are having a ball.

Blessings…

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This is my view as I sit quietly in the garden. What do you see?
I can hear birds chirping, and crickets cricketing, and the neighbors down the street neighboring. A light cool breeze tickles by me. I see all kinds of nature doing its job in this garden. I know there are different life cycles underground and above working tirelessly to create life. Today while doing some garden chores I discovered a swarm of cute little lady bugs scurrying in a playful party. I also saw spiders and beetles and bugs of all kinds. And BEES, lots of buzzy fat bees bumbling around to pollinate our produce and mind their own business. I used to be so scared of bees, but I’ve worked right alongside them in this garden with no bother from them. I see nutrients growing to nourish my babies and make their taste buds dance.
As I looked at the corn I thought about the times we’ve picked corn and ate the whole harvest in one lunch. I smile when I think about the two kids that ate most of it. And I thought about the advice from a little farmer I play with to not pick the corn until the thingy on the top falls completely off and wondered if he was right and I’m crazy or if he really doesn’t know.
I thought about the kid’s excitement when we picked our first Brussel sprout plant last week because it was so big and pretty and then I remembered tasting the sprouts after I cooked them and thinking it was amazing that we grew that ourselves.
Then I saw that plastic gorilla laying there and thought about the one who doesn’t get into the garden chores as much as the others. He loves those animals and spends his time in the garden pretending that gorilla is in a jungle.
I wonder if any birds will ever make nests in those bird houses and I think my hummingbird feeder needs to be filled. And the sunflowers, I’m amazed at their majesty as their heads droop over from the sheer mass of the seeds bursting forth from their centers. I wonder if we’ll eat them or feed them to the birds. I wonder if the kids will like them.
I think about all the weeds we’ve relentlessly picked and wonder how that wild blackberry could still be sneaking up the side of my windmill. It seems like we’ve picked so many weeds there couldn’t possibly be any left, but unfortunately there are many. I think about the value of the vegetables in this garden not only monetarily but for our health and I am in awe of God’s goodness.
I’m amazed that we are blessed with this magnificent garden. Sometimes It’s hard to believe it is real. How real it is indeed…

What do you see in your garden?

Garlic Parmesean Roasted Broccoli

The kids, my family, and I love broccoli any way you can cook it, but something about roasting vegetables makes them taste AMAZING. Roasted broccoli is delicious with just salt, pepper, and olive oil, and it also tastes great with a few simple additions. Here is our number one favorite way to eat it.

Before you roast the broccoli, cut it up into small bite size pieces.

Before you roast the broccoli, cut it up into small bite size pieces.


Place it all on a cookie sheet.  I usually don't fill my pan this full but in the summer, well...I need more food to feed these people, so this one is pretty packed.  It roasts faster if the pieces aren't touching like this.

Place it all on a cookie sheet. I usually don’t fill my pan this full but in the summer, well…I need more food to feed these people, so this one is pretty packed. It roasts faster if the pieces aren’t touching like this.


Sprinkle a few tablespoons of olive oil over the broccoli pieces and then sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.  Grate some parmesean  cheese over the top.  I use about 1/4 cup.  Then I use the same small grater to grate a clove of garlic over it as well.

Sprinkle a few tablespoons of olive oil over the broccoli pieces and then sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Grate some parmesean cheese over the top. I use about 1/4 cup. Then I use the same small grater to grate a clove of garlic over it as well.


Yum yum.

Yum yum.

Toss it by hand until it’s well combined. Put it in a 400 degree oven until it’s dark green and the edges have a tiny bit of brown on them. It’s easy to over cook broccoli so be careful to watch it. When it’s not crowded on the pan, it takes 15-20 minutes to roast, when it’s crowded up, it takes longer. Dump it in a serving dish (or like me a mixing bowl) and serve it up.
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What’s your favorite way to eat broccoli?

Guest Post-Mandy Blocker

Today’s guest post is from a friend who has helped me in many ways along my journey of learning. She has some great points about the importance of gardening with kids. Thank you Mandy! Check it out!

Hello bloggers!
My name is Mandy Blocker. Super excited Christina asked me to do a guest post on her “Little Sprouts Learning” page! My “real job” here in Muskogee is serving the county as the Agriculture/4-H Educator at the OSU Cooperative Extension Office… where I have the privilege of handling numerous calls on gardening, livestock, pests, you name it! My job is different every day, which is what makes it FUN!
With all that being said, my post today will be about the importance of teaching our children about gardening and how to grow their own food! Miss Christina is SUPER enthusiastic and one of her main objectives is to teach her kiddos the importance of eating well at a young age. She makes learning fun and exciting, which is KEY!
During their early development, kids are curious and love to learn… well, I guess I should say, when they want to! I have had a little experience working with students in the greenhouse and garden setting. Most students will find this time very relaxing and soothing. A child who spends time in the garden can experience the satisfaction that comes from taking care of something over time, while observing what seems like NEVER ENDING “ups and downs” of gardening! Learning to adapt to change and overcome certain obstacles is critical at a young age, and these skills will help them as they enter the real world or workforce after schooling is done!
When they transition into the public school system, many students will have the possibility to participate in their school wide gardens. Muskogee is known for its Health and Wellness Initiative. Lots of different entities have programs where people come to the schools and teach children about nutrition and a lot of area elementary schools now have their own gardens! That is super exciting! Big or small, having a place for the students to plant, water, feed and watch their plants grow is very rewarding. It gives them a sense of achievement and empowers them at a young age to be proactive about health and wellness.
If you are a childcare provider and need assistance in starting this project at your facility, I highly encourage you to do your research and plan it out! Contact others who have done this and also feel free to contact your local cooperative extension office. We have guides that can help you with the designing and facilitating of these gardens

Garden Glory-Our First Cantaloupe

This week’s harvest was plentiful and exciting for me and the Little Sprouts! We harvested over 56 pounds of food this week. Take a look!

Monday's pick.  We picked 35 pounds of tomatoes this week.  I was amazed.  Salsa, here we come!

Monday’s pick. We picked 35 pounds of tomatoes this week. I was amazed. Salsa, here we come!


Corn picking was very fun.

Corn picking was very fun.


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We finally got a batch of brussel sprouts.  They grow so pretty.

We finally got a batch of brussel sprouts. They grow so pretty.


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The first cantaloupe slipped off the vine of our mystery volunteer plant.  We can't wait to taste it.

The first cantaloupe slipped off the vine of our mystery volunteer plant. We can’t wait to taste it.


We got a pound of carrots.  They are hard to pick.

We got a pound of carrots. They are hard to pick.


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There are bunches of tomatoes coming on.

There are bunches of tomatoes coming on.


This thing weighed a whole pound!

This thing weighed a whole pound!


This little fella visited us in the carrot patch.

This little fella visited us in the carrot patch.


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This was our best week in the garden yet. It was really fun to see the kids be so excited about some success. What did you pick this week?