Gardening with the Littles
One of my favorite hobbies is gardening. I love exploring seed catalogs, planting my treasures and nurturing them into strong, garden ready plants. This is a fine past time, but there is just something a little extra special about getting to see the eyes of young children blossom at their first glimpse of seeds sprouting or that beautiful sunflower growing high in the sky. Nature itself is amazing, and being part of the process and observing what beautiful things come from such tiny beginnings is a wonderful thing to share!
It’s easy to make gardening with young children fun and easy! Kids of all ages love getting their hands in the dirt! Make sure you have all your materials ready to start. Kids love to plant, but can become anxious if having to wait too long for grown-ups to get things ready.
Some things you may want to have ready:
➽Seeds or Plants (easily found at Lowes, Walmart, Marvins and local nurseries. Most spring flowers and plants will have easy to follow directions according to sunlight and water requirements right on their containers, if not, ask the salesperson)
➽Soil (make sure to match your soil type with your plant/seed needs)
➽Water source (hose or watering can)
➽Ground prepped or containers on hand (have your ground soil loosened and weed free prior to planting or have pots ready with drain holes - all plants have to be able to drain their water or they could die easily.)
➽Trowels, spades, shovels (your choice! Whatever you like to dig with is fine)
➽Garden gloves (optional, but can help keep hands clean and safe from ants or bacteria)
Now that you have your supplies and place to plant chosen, call all the kids and DIG IN literally! A good rule of thumb for the correct size to dig your plant’s hole is to dig a hole twice the size of your container. When taking the plants out of their temporary containers, push them up from the bottom. If you pull them out by the top of the plant, they can easily break. Gently loosen up the bottom with your fingers if the roots look all wrapped around and around. Now place them in their new hole, making sure all the soil around the plant is completely in the hole - none sticking up above, if so then you’ll need the hole dug deep enough to cover it all. Next, gently push/pull extra soil up around the base and tamp gently - not too much pressure. Water towards the base of your plants, and water every few days unless there is rain or they are indoor plants - always refer to plant specific watering instructions on the original container or whoever you buy them from to ensure you are watering the correct amount. And last, but not least, ENJOY!
Links to gardening activities:
Cast Iron Cooking
For a super easy dish one could make to assist in seasoning your cast iron and delicious to eat!!!
Hominy and Green Chile Casserole
2 (15.5-ounce) cans yellow hominy, drained
1 (4-ounce) can green chilies
4 - 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 1⁄2 cups sour cream
Salt and black pepper or Red River Ranch Seasoning, to taste (Seasoning Salt)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
For indoor cooking:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-x-11- inch casserole dish, 10" or 12" Dutch oven.
- In a large bowl, combine the hominy and green chilies. Set aside.
- Place the bacon in a medium cast iron skillet and begin cooking over medium heat. When the bacon begins to brown, add the onion and cook until the bacon is three-quarters done, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and spoon out and discard about half of the bacon grease.
- Pour the contents of the skillet into the hominy mixture and stir together. Stir in the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Scrape the mixture into the casserole dish. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly and the hominy softens slightly.
- About 5 minutes before the casserole is finished cooking, sprinkle on the cheese and continue cooking until the cheese melts. Serve hot.
Recipe from Cowboy Kent Rollins
Guiseppe Arcimboldo (pronounced At-chim-bol-do) was an Italian painter from the 16th century. He is known for his extremely imaginative, painted portraits done with objects (mostly fruits, vegetables, and flowers) that were arranged in a way so that the collection of objects on the page represented the subject of his portrait. https://www.giuseppe-arcimboldo.org/
On March 5th we unveiled an original Jack Tupper, local artist, painting prior to the Gosse Nature Lecture series that night. In Tupper’s painting, done in Arcimboldo-inspired fashion, Colonel John G. Cullmann is composed entirely of Cullman grown flowers, fruits and vegetables.
The painting is part of our kick off for this year’s Harvest-to-Home Fundraiser and Silent Auction, which will be held at Wallace State Community College on April 13 th . Tickets are available on our website under the “Harvest-to-Home” button. http://agriplex.org/HarvestDinner.html
Local artist Jack Tupper (below) with Colonel Cullman, Larry Rowlette at the Unveiling(right)
We Are Passionate About Environmental Sustainability
Below are a few of the ways we strive to be environmentally responsible.
When It Rains, It Stores
The Agriplex host several tanks for rainwater harvesting including both above and below ground tanks. We use the rainwater we collect for watering our garden and our animals. Click the image to learn more about rainwater collection.
Solar Netting to Protect the Flock
In this area predators are a problem, however, we simply cannot stand to keep our chickens cooped up! In order to allow our chickens to feel the grass beneath their toes we recently purchased a solar powered poultry fence. This fence helps keep predators at bay and gives our sweet chickens a little freedom. Click the image to learn more about our chicken coop.
Both behind our building and in our office we have vermicompost bins. The worms in these bins reduce the amount of organic matter we throw in the trash and provide nutrient rich fertilizer for our plants. Click the image to learn more about vermicomposting.
Remember reduce, reuse, recycle!
Ag in the Classroom
by Kaitlyn Parks
As a kid from Charlottesville, Virginia, I didn’t grow up surrounded by the agricultural heritage that is so entrenched in Alabama. But I am increasingly recognizing the significance of food related education in primary and secondary school and am quick to join the ubiquitous head-non whenever a speaker affirms the popular refrain: “kids these days just don’t know where their food comes from.”
Alabama educators are acutely aware of this mantra and were eager to learn about new ways to include agriculture in their classrooms at last week’s Ag in the Classroom Conference in Huntsville. Alabama Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is an “interdisciplinary educational program that promotes Ag literacy for students in all grade levels K-12.” The annual summer conference is an opportunity for educators across the state to share stories, tour farms, make crafts, and take home oodles of teaching materials to enhance agricultural literacy in their classrooms.
The North Alabama Agriplex VISTAs had the opportunity to join the conference and we had a blast! Passionate teachers offered book titles and activities to include in the classroom. Members of the Ag in Action Coalition gave us a tour of their “learning lab on wheels”, a trailer that includes a cotton picker cab, agricultural related video games, an Enviroscape watershed model, a miniature cotton gin, and a milking cow. We toured Belle Chevre Creamery, Tate Farms, famous for pumpkins and school tours, and Bill Mullin’s Honeyfarm. One of the more scholastic lessons involved a Q & A session with Alabama farmers and teachers, a conversation that revolved around the ins and outs of a farming career and the pros and cons of GMO crops. By the end of the conference, my appreciation for farming and agricultural education had not only increased, but I found myself deeply grateful for the teachers, parents, farmers, and other educations who patiently, passionately work to reverse that common refrain. Seems likely that students across Alabama will soon confidently declare: “I know all about where my food comes from.”
Check out http://www.alabamaaitc.org/ for classroom materials, grant applications, and more.
Raised Bed Gardening
by Rachel Dawsey
Our past month with the North Alabama Agriplex could be summed up with Raised Bed Gardening. We have hosted a class on the subject, planted at our local schools, and helped to kick off a community of raised beds with the Cullman Housing Authority.
So what are the benefits of raised bed gardens?
- No clay — If you fill your bed with a good rich compost mix, it will give you a head start for your plants with lots of slow-release nitrogen in the soil. Our Alabama soil can be very hard to grow in with lots of clay and rocks. A raised bed can fix your soil problems instantly! It is even easy to grow carrots in raised beds that are properly filled.
- No tilling! — Once your bed is established, the real work is done! You do not continue to till the weeds – you just watch your plants grow. Your first year weeds should not be a problem, and even consecutive years have very low weeds compared to in ground gardens.
- Easier on your back. Especially if you make your beds a couple feet tall, you do not have to bend over and you have a natural garden seat.
- Defined space for kids — Raised beds work well with kids to keep little feet from trampling new plants.
And the disadvantages?
- Upfront cost — We are selling 4 foot by 4 foot beds for $50, but you can make your own for much less.
- Fire ants — These little pests love raised beds. But with a little fire ant bait on the ground outside the bed, you can solve that.
- Watering — Raised beds do require more watering then in ground gardens.
Checkout the Alabama Extension brochure on Raised Bed Gardening: