Gardening with Kids

Monday, April 18th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant summer-flowering bulbs now. Glads, dahlias, callas, cannas and lilies will bloom this summer if planted soon.
    • Attract birds to your feeders to enjoy. Delightful gold finches will be happy to visit your thistle feeders, and rufous-sided tohees will visit seed feeders.
    • Fertilize established roses now and begin spraying them for insect and disease problems. Neem oil is a very effective, less toxic spray that works against both insects and diseases.
    • Begonias bulbs can be started indoors now and set out after danger of frost. You’ll enjoy their beautiful flowers this summer.

• Last chance to plant asparagus roots this year. This delicious vegetable will keep producing for up to 20 years.

Gardening with Kids

There are many fun ways to interest children in gardening. Whether you’re a parent or a grandparent, having children enjoy their time with you in the garden can be an experience they will remember all their lives.

One successful way to pique a child’s gardening interest is to have a few unusual or fascinating plants around the garden. Snapdragons are an old favorite, and many of us still remember pinching the blossoms to make them “snap”. Bleeding heart has an intriguing flower as do fuchsias and balloon flowers before they open up.

Children love the papery “silver dollar” seed heads of Honesty, a dried flower used in arrangements. And who doesn’t love to “pet” the furry leaves of Lamb’s ears?

Tall plants hold a particular fascinating for children, especially fast growing ones. Sunflowers are fun to grow because they get taller every day. Large marigolds, zinnias and cosmos and “dinnerplate” dahlias, tall gladioli and lilies will capture their interest.

Planting potatoes is a good activity to do with children. Plant a sprouting potato and check every few days to see if the green shoots are emerging. The real magic comes at harvest time, when large round potatoes are dug up out of the earth. Digging for potatoes is like digging for buried treasure, and potatoes come in some amazing colors and shapes too.

Plants that children can eat are a good way to interest them in the garden. Sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries are probably the favorites. Searching through the dark green leaves looking for a bright red, ripe berry is almost like hide-and-seek. This delicious fruit is its own reward. Strawberries planted now will bear fruit this summer.

Kids enjoy garden structures like a bean teepee or a sunflower house, where they can have a secret hideaway. Other plants that are good for tall garden structures are scarlet runner beans, morning glories (in red, blue and purple) and white moonflowers.

Don’t forget to plant some fragrant flowers for them to pick and enjoy. Sweet peas make the perfect bouquet and honeysuckle flowers can be enjoyed for their sweet nectar as well. Oriental lilies have a lovely scent as do lavenders, which are fun to make into sachets or lavender wands.

When kids are a little older, they will enjoy having a garden space of their own. Let him plant what he wants in his own way. If she plants an entire seed packet in one square foot, she will see the results and may decide to spread the seeds out better next time. Encourage the planting of flower bulbs. It’s wonderful to see what grows out of a hard, dry bulb.

If you love to garden, chances are that your children will grow to enjoy being outdoors and may develop an interest in gardening if you help them discover the joys of the plant world.

Gardening Resolutions for 2011

Saturday, January 8th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool season crops indoors for planting outside in March.
    • Many fine varieties of flowering dogwoods, tulip magnolias, Japanese maples and other specimen plants are now available at nurseries for winter planting.
    • Fill your winter garden with color from primroses and pansies.
    • Roses should be pruned in February near the end of the dormant season. You can clean them up now, however, by removing all the old leaves on and around the plants.
    • Check the watering of outdoor container plants especially if they’re located under the eaves or porch where rain can’t reach them.

Gardening Resolutions for 2011

Beautiful winter days make gardeners anxious for the warmer weather that will allow us once again to get our hands in the dirt and watch new life grow. As you look out at the garden, maybe with garden diary in hand, it always feels good to set some goals, to make some resolutions for the season ahead.

Resolutions often depend on the experience of the gardener.  If you are a beginner, a compost heap may be in order, whereas a seasoned gardener may make a commitment to spread more of that compost liberally on the garden. In either case, tending the soil should be first on the list.

Grow more food! Rotate your crops from where you planted them last year and practice succession planting with things like peas, lettuce, beets, greens mix, basil and cilantro. Choose at least one new vegetable to plant. Variety adds different nutrients to our diet and is good for the soil.

Plant an extra row for Willits Community Services and Food Bank or to donate to Willits Daily Bread. If you are weak on cooking skills, take the “Nutrition & Cooking with LOCAL, Garden-Fresh Produce and Organic Staple Foods” at the Grange. Gardening is more fun when you can fully enjoy the tastes and flavors at your table.

Plant more annuals for color, cutting, and fragrance. Plant them in flower beds, pots and even the vegetable garden. They are food for the soul.

Plant a fall garden. In Willits, this means starting seeds in June setting out plants the first of August in order to give them time to mature before the weather cools down. Plan to pull out your spring peas and put in broccoli and Brussels sprouts for a fall crop. Plant cover crops early in September so that they have time to grow before the cold days of winter set in.

Plant a fruit tree this year. If you haven’t started an orchard, there’s no better time than the present. If you have a tree that isn’t thriving, pull it out and plant a new vigorous one. There are few things so rewarding as harvesting a tree full of fresh, ripe fruit. And there are few taste pleasures as satisfying.

Keep a garden diary. Each of us seems to live in a different micro-climate where temperatures, precipitation, sunlight and winds can drastically vary within a few miles. It’s hard to remember what happened from year to year, and after a few years, you may be able to anticipate the first frost or when the rose weevils arrive.

Share your love of plants and gardening whenever possible. Grow, celebrate, discover and enjoy your garden this year!

Gardening by the Moon

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Choose living Christmas trees now. Most will be able to be kept in their containers and used for one or two more years as a Christmas tree.
    • Spring bulbs can still be planted now. They make lovely gifts for friends and relatives.
    • Fruit trees can be planted now from containers while the soil is easy to dig.
    • Spray for peach leaf curl with copper sulfate. Peach and nectarine trees may suffer from this fungus disease without a protective spray.
    • Clean up rose bushes by removing spent flowers and raking up old leaves, but wait until February for heavy pruning.

Gardening by the Moon

Since ancient times, our ancestors have watched the phases of the moon and observed the behavior of seeds and young plants. As they did so, they saw that seeds germinated more quickly when they were planted at certain times. They also saw that some seedlings grew more vigorously than others, and that some crops fared better when planted at certain times than at other times. Years of observation led them to the conclusion that the phases of the moon were responsible for these differences.

Indeed the moon’s position in the sky does appear to influence plant behavior. And for this reason many gardeners plant and garden “by the moon”.

Astrological gardening, as it is called, is an elaborate system involving both the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. As the moon moves around the earth, it passes through each of the 12 constellations of the zodiac every month. “The moon is in Pisces” means that the moon is in the same part of the sky as the constellation Pisces. The moon moves into a new constellation every 2-3 days.

Every gardening task has its optimum time from planting seeds to harvesting crops and killing weeds. For best results, planting, and other garden jobs, should be done when the moon is in the right phase and also in the right constellation for that activity.

The best time for planting above ground crops, like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and spinach, is between the new (dark) moon and the first quarter. The most fertile signs of the zodiac are Cancer, Scorpio, Taurus, Libra or Pisces. So planting these crops will be most successful when the moon is in this phase and in one of these zodiac signs.

Between the first quarter and the full moon, plants with a fruit or pod, like beans, squash and tomatoes, do best. Flower seeds also germinate best at this time, especially in the sign of Libra.

The week following the full moon is a good time to plant bulbs and root crops along with perennials and grape vines. This is also a good time for transplanting, since active root growth is strong. It is also the best time for pruning, especially under the sign of Scorpio.

Between the last quarter and the new moon, activities like weeding, cultivating and pest control can be done during a barren sign like Leo, Virgo, Aquarius and Gemini. It is also a good time for harvesting.

If all this sounds too complicated, that’s because it is a very complex system that has taken hundreds of years to work out. Fortunately though, others have done the work of sorting this out and have put it together in a calendar called “Gardening by the Moon 2011”. It gives you day-by-day suggestions for all your gardening activities based on the cycles of the moon to keep you on track with your gardening jobs.

Get ready for your best gardening year ever by taking advantage of the secrets of gardening by the moon.