9 Ways to Teach Children About Food

pears, not avocados

Recently I was at the local grocery buying some fresh produce. Let me tell you, it was hard; but I needed to have fresh for a reason and everything at home is preserved right now.

There was a young man checking me out, and he really wasn’t looking at what anything was, just at the code numbers. Until he came to a bag with two pieces of fruit, no sticker.

“Avocados?” he asked.
“No,” I said somewhat sadly, “pears.”

Now in his defense it was the last hour of his shift, and he was tired. But these weren’t anything fancy, they are pretty much the same kind of pears that fall from the trees in this area. This is a small country grocery, and avocados are the most unusual thing they stock.

I posted this in a social media group of gardeners, and a lengthy thread was born. There was some finger pointing as to whom is to blame, and there were many similar stories; some quite funny. Mostly it was sad.

The thing is, there is a real disconnect in this country with where our food comes from, and what it actually is. We cannot expect a parent or teacher to teach what they haven’t learned themselves.

But gardeners can.

It’s the ‘takes a village to raise a child’ thing, and as gardeners, who do know about food, we can help.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Offer a community tour of your edible garden. If you live in a safe neighborhood, choose a day this season when the garden is producing and invite friends and neighbors. Tell them what they are looking at, they may not recognize it.

2. Ask your local market, especially if it has a good produce department, to offer a community day such as this. Partner with the store’s dietician, which many have these days, and perhaps you as a gardener or your local master gardeners can explain where the produce comes from and what to do with it.

3. Teach at home. Chances are you are already, but also try to pick a fruit or veggie you can’t grow, and bring it home as a teaching opportunity. It doesn’t have to be daily, but once in a while will help.

4. Make a slideshow and bring that and a few examples to your local grade school. Many kids only know what an apple is, no other fruit and few if any veggies.

5. Similarly, offer something at your local place of worship. If parishioners get together after service, that would be the prefect time.

6. Teach the parents. Offer easy recipes. Offer seeds if you have extra. They can then take over the effort.

7. Find out if your local foodbank can accept produce. Get together with other gardeners and/or farm markets to gather some up. Often the foodbanks will also provide recipes and nutrition information. You can also add info on how the food grows.

8. Pass this post on. You never know who you may be reaching, and what wonderful help they may have to offer.

9. Watch this: Teach Every Child About Food- Jamie Oliver

The thing is DO SOMETHING.

One last quote: “Be the change you want to see in this world.” – Gandhi

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Categories: Kids & Gardening, Preparedness & Green Living

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Gardening & The 7 Dimensions of Wellness

good health

A wonderful site called Bonbon Break was looking for submissions recently on the topic “Fill Your Bucket”. They had partnered with a really cool company named OurPact that produces an Ap that parents can use to limit their kid’s e-interaction time.

Hmmm…. I wonder if it works for adult kids. ;-)

Anyway, I had been thinking a lot about what I might write when I remembered a woman I had met long ago who told me how gardening had saved her. She was so extremely depressed, she said, that she could barely function in her daily life. Gardening had changed all that.

What a fantastic thing that something so seemingly simple, can make a world of difference to a person.

And I knew why. Psychology is actually my field by profession, and part of that education was learning about the different dimensions of wellness. This was more recently fine-tuned by a professor I know, who in working with my staff and our senior population, taught them about overall wellness.

What does Fill Your Bucket meant to you? To me, it is a healthy life in balance.

Please follow this link to learn more, and pass it on.
You never know when it might get to someone who really needs it.

Namaste my gardening friends!

Categories: Gardening People, Places & Things, Keeping up with the Joneses

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The Unexpected Tomato Experiment

starting seeds

In all our years of gardening, this is the first time we have seen this.

The tomatoes pictured above are Pineapple tomatoes, the seeds of which were started Feb. 24th. The larger plant sprouted just 9 days later on March 5th. After about 10 days it was ready to be transplanted to this larger container. A few days later another seed sprouted.

That’s a 2 week difference in days to germination, which makes us wonder if there will be a difference in productivity of the 2 plants.

Woohoo experiment time!

Assuming nothing tragic happens to either plant, there are 3 possible outcomes:

1. The plant that sprouted first will be hardier and produce a more abundant crop.

2. No significant difference between the two.

3. The plant that had to work at it to sprout, that hung onto the soil during transplanting time, is actually the stronger one and will give us more tomatoes.

Hmmm… my head says it’s #1, but my heart is hoping for #3.
What do you think?

Categories: The Experiments

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3 Ways to Support Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a vine crop and can be left to grow that way. However, you are more likely to get rot in your fruit and to have them attacked by numerous creepy crawlers. Pretty much everybody stakes their tomatoes nowadays.

You do have a number of choices on the How-To end. You can buy Tomato Cages that are easy to use. Unfortunately in our area they don’t work very well because our soil is so rocky. It really is hard to find a spot to get even those thin wire legs into the ground deep enough to offer support.

gardening jones garden staking tomatoes

tomato cages abandoned in my garden

Staking tomatoes is another easy way to grow. Put the stake into the ground a few inches from your tomatoes when you first plant them. Don’t wait, after the plants are established putting a stake in can damage their roots. Use lightweight string, or better yet, strips of pantyhose, to tie your tomato as it grows. You may also want to consider pruning your staked tomatoes, more on that later.

gardening jones garden staking tomatoes

staked potted tomato plant


gardening jones garden staking tomatoes

staked but not yet pruned


gardening jones garden staking tomatoes

staked and neatly pruned


Our favorite way to support tomatoes is to tie them to a main overhead support. Here is an example using PVC pipe.
You tie the string to the bottom stem, then to the overhead support. As the tomato grows, simply twirl the string around it for support.

gardening jones garden staking tomatoes

tie the string to the tomato at the bottom, the PVC pipe above


gardening jones garden staking tomatoes

just twirl that string as they grow

And what if you don’t stake?

gardening jones garden staking tomatoes

unruly tomato plant

Related links
Late Blight
Staking Tomatoes
Staking Tomatoes and a Little on Pruning

Categories: How to Grow, Tomatoes, Tomatillos & Ground Cherries

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Getting Kids to Garden

getting kids to garden

As a member of the Garden Writers Association and as a blogger we often get things in the mail like the book shown above. No obligation, but if we want to share we can.

This is a cute book aimed at kids, that tells the story of a carrot that got kidnapped by “Mean Gene – a scientist who is paid by Grendal Greed to do genetic research on different fruits, vegetables, fish, and soon, even farm animals.”

It ends on a happy note of course.

The website offers a free ap to download, that when used with the book and seed packets makes the characters ‘come to life’ and offer growing tips. There is also a line of seeds to represent many of the characters, more to come in other books.

We liked the way the information is given out, making it fun and easy to understand. We really like the fact that they include the botanical names of the plants. It’s not just vegetables and fruits, they also include many other plant life characters.

If you have a smart phone and come across a seed display case, we would recommend you check it out.

Anyway to get kids interested in growing food is two thumbs up from us!

Here’s their website for more info.

Categories: Gardening People, Places & Things, Keeping up with the Joneses

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How to Keep Seedlings Organized

starting seeds indoors

Over the years we have tried a number of methods to keep straight which seed was planted in which tray.

Probably the worst one was when we put a label on top of the tray lid, indicating specifically what was what for each spot. Of course, when we removed the lid to water the seeds, we weren’t sure which way it was supposed to go back on. Doh!

In other years we used plant markers, which we found cumbersome; and with starting a large number of plants, somewhat tedious. We also tried writing the plant name on the cup, but that takes up a lot of room and makes reusing the cups more difficult.

We then went to a layout on the computer, making a diagram of each cell, and labeling the front of the tray. That worked really well, except of course for the tray that got dropped.

So we finally settled on a system that works for us. Each small plastic cup is numbered with permanent marker, likewise that number is on the seed packet. As the seedlings get transplanted into a larger cup, that one is also numbered. The cups are then washed and set aside for next year.

A simple list would be enough to keep track, but we use a spreadsheet because we are also tracking the days to germination, to harvest, etc.

Hopefully we have eliminated all room for human error, or gardener error as the case may be.

Categories: All About Seeds, Keeping up with the Joneses, saving money & time

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Seeds and the Seasons

The following is a guest post by a lovely woman named Amber from England. Their weather is similar to ours here in the northeast, but much less extreme and with milder winters. We always find it interesting to learn how others garden. Enjoy!

what to plant when

Growing your garden can be so rewarding whether your passion is for pansies or potatoes. However, it’s not just about planting seeds, watering them and waiting for them to grow. Knowing the best time to plant your chosen seeds can have a big impact on how well they grow. Doing the right researching can leave you with a luscious garden that has flowers in bloom all year round.

January offers an array of flowers, salad and herbs to sow. For more colour in your garden why not look at growing Sweet Pea. Sweet Peas not only produce beautiful blooms but also have a gorgeous scent. To add different levels to your garden arrangement why not give them plant supports and create columns of summer colours.

Tip – Annual Sweet Peas give off an incredible fragrance but only last one season while everlasting Sweet Peas return year after year, but with less fragrance than their annual cousins.

For something more edible why not start the year by planting broad beans. They’re a great vegetable to grow and fun to grow with children. Remember when planting them to sow one bean directly 5cm deep and 23cm apart for the best results.

The month of Valentine’s Day where love is in the air is a great month to plant a number of flowers including the Snapdragon, a beautiful plant with an unusual marble effect in an array of colours. Snapdragons are a very hardy plant which makes them great for beginners especially as when the outcome is a plant of sheer beauty. Another great plant for February is Chinese Forget Me Nots, a stunning little blue and white flower. Spinach, radish, aubergine, chilli, cucumber and tomatoes are all great foods to start growing in this month. Don’t forget to support your tomatoes with a sturdy stakes or strings to ensure they grow properly.

As we move into March the question is what flowers can’t you grow? After all the options are almost endless. You can pick from pretty poppies to an array of bloomers from the sunflower family. March is the month to get excited about the colours your garden can display for the rest of the year. If you are looking to involve children a sunflower competition is a great way to get the kids excited about gardening.

While you’re planting all the colours of the rainbow you can also get started on your parsnips, lettuce, beetroot, brussel sprouts, carrots and why not get ready for Halloween by planting your very own pumpkins.

April, the month of fools; but even fools can plant themselves a stunning garden. Dropmore is a striking blue flower which can be frozen into ice cubes to make your summer drinks stand out. Why not grow Borage ‘Blue’ as well, these can be added to drinks to give a cucumber like taste but with a beautiful vibrancy. This is also the time to get your onions, leeks and butternut squash started.

Why not add a little magic to your garden in May by planting ‘Snow Pixie’, a beautiful white flower or ‘Pink Fairy’, Lupin, or why not use May as the month for ‘Falling in Love’ with Papaver rhoeas. Sweetcorn and runner beans are also perfect for planting in May.

Cosmos, ‘Dwarf Sensation White’, are a stunning little flower ideal for planting in June, along with Echinops also known as the ‘Globe Thistle’. Wild Rocket and Artichoke or Artichoke are also all great choices for planting in June and July.

Papaver somniferum or ‘Black Beauty’ is a glamourous deep red poppy while Orlaya grandiflora is a beautiful and delicate white flower. Both are great choices for growing in August.

When it comes to vegetables, August is a great month for planting cucumber, chive, a number of lettuces and spring onion.

As the leaves turn orange in September the Calendula officinalis, ‘Indian Prince’, is the perfect flower to plant as you can enjoy the orange flower in the months to come. Staying on the orange theme the Eschscholzia californica ‘Orange King’, is also a stunning flower ideal for planting during this month.

During the spooky month of Halloween why not plant a Ladybird also known as Papaver commutatum, a beautiful red and black flower. The poached egg plant is also a brilliant and easy plant to enjoy with bright yellow and white flowers which resemble a poached egg.

November and December sees us returning to the same flowers and vegetables of January including Sweet Peas and Broad Beans. It’s especially handy if you’ve kept the seeds from your last successful crop.

Each flower and vegetable is different and needs to be planted and grown in different ways. Some like moist soil while others prefer drier soils, but before worrying about any of that the most important thing to know is when you should break out the garden tools. For more information about plants and seeds have a look around online.

Author Bio: Perrywood is an Essex based garden centre that sells a variety of seeds, plants, tools and furniture. They regularly release guides on how to care for your garden from what to plant to dealing with pests.

This post was printed with permission from the author, no compensation was received, just sharing gardening love. <3

Categories: All About Seeds, Gardening People, Places & Things

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Aloe from Seed – You Can Grow That!

how to grow aloe

Every gardener, whether they admit it or not, has at some point grown something in spite of themselves.

Perhaps they didn’t know any better; ask me sometime about my first experience playing golf (ps. don’t ask himself). Or maybe they gave up on a plant, only to have it thrive.

Such was the case with our (er, my) Aloe.

We (er, I) planted as best we (no, I) could following the directions given. Except, well, there was only cactus medium to use.

But we (that is, I) did pick out a nice clay pot, one that would hold moisture but had good drainage, and proceeded to sow the seeds. We (yeah, I) then covered the pot with 2 clear plastic baggies, to aid in germination.

Unfortunately, all that sprouted were fungi. We (I wanted to blame it on him) later read online that it is way hard to grow Aloe from seed. Drat.

So, giving up, we (not really) set the planter on the floor near our (ahem) seed growing system. Still some heat but not much, some light, but filtered.

It was almost 2 months later, after totally ignoring the planter, that we (::cough::) decided to clean it out and move on to something else.

After removing the plastic I (yeah, me) found all the baby aloe plants you see in the pic above.

So since this has been a successful growing experiment after all, we (I don’t mind sharing) are passing our error-turned-success on.

Botanical name: Aloe ferox
Yield: 1 plant per seed
Days to germination: 10 to 30 days
Days to maturity: 5-10 years to flower
Height: To 10 ft.
Hardiness: Mature plants can take a bit of frost, but generally keep away from the cold.
Culture: Keep baby plants in the same pot 3 months-1 year before transplanting.
Requirements: Succulent, requiring very little water. Prefers filtered light.
Uses: Medicinal

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to help others learn to grow.
Click on the link above for some wonderful posts.

Categories: Herbs, Odds & Ends, You Can Grow That!

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Parthenocarpic, What a Wonderful Word

growing cucumbers indoors

It kind of just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?

What it refers to is a veggie, like the cucumber shown above, that does not need pollination to produce fruit. This particular one is called Corinto, an F1 hybrid that we purchased seeds from Johnny’s Select. We chose this one because it will bear a little sooner than some varieties.

Other vegetables available as parthenocarpic hybrids include summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant and watermelon.

This is part of our indoor garden that we have been sharing lately, an attempt to grow more all year. It will be interesting to see if we can keep it inside, or if will just become too much for the spot we have. It will grow well outdoors too, and can even be put in the greenhouse, so it isn’t a real chancy experiment.

The seed germinated for us in just 5 days. Cucumbers aren’t real fond of being transplanted, so we started only one seedling in a small plastic cup so as to not have to thin. Then we watered the plant before carefully transplanting it to a larger cup. We did the same before transplanting into its permanent home. Watering it first, and letting the excess drain off, helps hold the soil around the root system. This makes transplanting less stressful for the plant.

This plant germinated on January 17th, and was in this large pot a month later. It is about 4″ tall now, and still pretty upright. In retrospect, maybe it should have been planted near the outside of the pot, which would have made trellising it easier. So instead, we’ll add a few disposable chopsticks for it to grab onto, and train it towards the tomato cage it will finally be growing up.

Live and learn, right?

The days to maturity on it is 48 days, so we should be seeing something very soon. Upon closer inspection, it looks like something is beginning to form. How exciting!

We’ll keep you updated on the little one’s progress.

Learn more about parthenocarpy here.

Categories: Cucumbers & Gherkins, How to Grow, The Experiments

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Product Review: The Veggie Mold

reshaping your edibles

I’ll be honest, when I first saw this product I thought it was a cute idea, but not something I would have any use for. Perhaps it is my restaurant background, but if I want a garnish I know plenty of ways to make one.

Then I had a grandson.

So when I was asked to review The Veggie Mold, I jumped at the chance. It is too early to try it outside yet, but I wanted to share what I think so far. I’ll post again later in the season when the garden is in full swing.

I find it easy to open and close, very easy. It’s durable plastic and will likely last many years. And I’m thinking my grandson and I are going to get a big kick out of it.

According to the literature provided, a cucumber can fill the mold in less than a week. It can be used on tomatoes as well as a whole lot of other veggies too. What fun it will be to choose what to use the molds on together, and then have him back to see, and eat, the results.

This is more than a cute garnish maker, it’s a gardener’s toy and I bet a great way to get kids to eat more veggies.

After all, who doesn’t secretly love playing with their food?

For more information check out their website The Veggie Mold and enjoy some of the pictures. The one of the kids is my favorite!

Categories: Gardening People, Places & Things

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