As the Garden Began…

When I came home from my first gardening class three years ago, pumped full of excitement, I couldn’t wait to tell the kids about our new project. They were excited too as we dreamed of what we were going to do. We drew up plans and made excited lists of things we wanted to grow to eat. They’ve learned so much since then when their answers included things like spaghetti and hamburgers.  Over the past three years we’ve used several curriculums including the Grow It, Try It, Like It and Power Panther lessons that we got from the class. The second year we bought the Junior Master Gardner Program and used it. And this year we got three sets of gardening and nutrition curriculum off the USDA website. We ordered it online and it came in the mail free of charge. My oldest and I went through it and planned some activities to use from each of them and he’s going to help teach them. These kids are full of so much more knowledge about growing and healthy eating than I ever thought possible. Some of their families are gardening, shopping at the farmer’s market, and making healthier choices at the grocery store thanks to the garden program.
Our raised beds are simple, just a few boards nailed or screwed together, lined with landscape fabric and filled with planting medium. In the expansion, we got a garden mixture from a company. In the old garden, we made something similar to Mel’s mix from Square Foot Gardening. Vermiculite is very expensive and our budget prohibited us from filling all the beds using it, so we substituted pine bark mulch on the advice of farmer who helped us. Our first raised bed came with dirt the class provided and the rest of our containers in that space are 1/3 peat, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 pine bark mulch. We mixed it in a wheelbarrow and dumped it in. It drains great, it holds moisture well, and it grows food. We’re happy with it. We used some mushroom compost and some cotton burr compost. I don’t have a preference between the two. We bought all of our supplies at Lowe’s.
We use the no till method of gardening. We are still learning, but the idea behind not tiling is when the soil is disturbed it kills the beneficial microbes in the soil, so you want to disturb it as little as possible. When our plants are finished for the season, we cut them off at the ground and let the roots decompose over the winter and provide more nutrients in the soil. At the end of the growing season, we top off each container with more compost and some mulch and leave it for the winter, then in spring, it’s ready for planting. The soil is fluffy, moist, dark and beautiful. So far, we love this method. And it’s much easier than tilling if you’re lazy! The idea behind no till gardening is nature doesn’t till. If you walk into a forest and scrape back the leaves on the ground, the soil underneath is incredible. The decomposition of old leaves and whatever fell there plus the leaf cover and rainfall makes the most amazing planting medium you could find. No till tries to mimic nature in that way. I like the idea of it, so far it’s working great for us.
One of my daycare parents, Danny, helped us learn to build our raised beds by building the first one. He also brought us to the nearby farmer that helped us with our plans. And he taught us the soil mix and helped us mix it for the first bed. He even drove us to the store to get the supplies for the first one and hauled them back in his truck. We could have never built this dream without his help. The knowledge he shared with us has helped us build around 50 more beds we are using now!
Here’s a look at the growing of our first garden area:
Our bed donated by Cherokee Nation
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The building of the bed from the class donated by Cherokee Nation
Danny building the first raised bed for us.
This is Mr. Kent stapling landscape fabric and those are Danny’s hands.
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After we learned to build on our own:
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  1. Reblogged this on preschool4seasons and commented:
    Hi! I would like to say “Bravo” to teachers everywhere, who garden with our younger children, 3’s and 4’s! It is so important for children to learn “where does their food come from?” The best way is for our children to help grow, weed and harvest in our veggie gardens!

  2. You have made so much progress and you have a great group of parents that are wonderful to pitch in and help. I think the children will benifit from this learning for a lifetime. Great job!

    • Yes, it is always free. There is The Great Garden Detective Adventure, Dig In!, and My Plate. There are different age groups available for some of them, I have a range, so I got them all. And they come with some great stuff. I believe the Power Panther and Grow It, Try It, Like It are free as well and I think they came from USDA also, but you could google it. I think you may have to print that out yourself. It’s all really fun and has some great ideas.

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