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:
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
And the disadvantages?
Checkout the Alabama Extension brochure on Raised Bed Gardening: