Garden to Table with Kids

Winter garden plantingSpring has sprung and now is the perfect time to get your hands in the dirt!  Whether you are ready to commit to a full garden or just a planter or two of flowers, gardening is a great activity for the whole family.  The more involved your kids are with food production, the more they are likely to try something new.  The phenomenon of planting seeds or seedlings and watching them gown into vegetables can spark the curiosity of even the pickiest of eaters.

Re-Grow Kitchen ScrapsIMG_20150404_145426 (1)

Next time you’re cooking a meal, consider re-growing some of the ingredients instead of tossing the scraps in the trash.  Depending on where you live, you might not have luck getting your avocado pit to turn into a fruit-bearing tree, but it can still be fun and educational to watch the seed turn into a plant.

Ten Easy Ideas for Getting Your Children into the Garden

Our sloping backyard is full of lilies, winding paths, and decorative rocks without any space for swings or a trampoline. In the past my kids have found it hard to run spend hours in the garden without breaking into whining fits.

This summer, a few simple tricks have changed the entire dynamic.
Involving Kids in the garden
Adopting a plant: The kids each got to select a few special flowers and one apple tree each from a nursery this spring. They helped with transplanting the new additions and have been very excited about watering and watching as blooms appear. Sometimes just asking them to go check on their plant is enough to get them outside, where they become distracted enough by blue jays and beetles to stay outside. (The picture above is from four years ago when my son was happy to drag his monster trucks through the garden for hours.)

Is Bokashi Bin Composting Difficult?

No. In fact it’s ridiculously simple. In fact, I think Bokashi bucket composting it’s far easier than traditional composting. Why? You don’t have to tromp out to a bin every day to dump watermelon rinds and eggshells. Instead you store the compost in covered buckets in your home or garage. Every week or two I have to bury a bucket in the backyard, but that’s it.

Since Bokashi Bin composting allows you to dump all food waste (including grains, meat, bread, seafood and all fruits and veggies), we have processed all of our own food garbage for nearly a year now. Where is all of it? Surprisingly, all the food scraps from a family of four have very quickly turned into a small mound of dirt in a garden bed.

How do you save money with gardening?

A couple years ago I posed this question: Does gardening really save money? It seems like every time you read a magazine article about saving money on groceries, the author suggests planting a garden. To be honest, I’m sure we’ve suggested it a time or two on this very site. It’s a no-brainer, right? Food from the store costs big bucks. Food from the backyard or balcony is FREE!

My garden (not this year’s)

Well . . . I’ve remained skeptical about this. My start-up costs for my first year of gardening outweighed the amount of produce I ended up harvesting. While it’s certainly possible to throw some seeds in the ground and wake up to a fresh crop of gourmet lettuce a few weeks later, the reality of gardening seems more complicated than that.

Why I stopped composting and started using bokashi bins

This month Rebecca and I are focusing on reducing household consumption and waste. As we’ve both shared, we’re probably considered tree hugging hippies by many, but our thrifty, green fervor has slacked off a bit over the years. Even though I no longer hang out every load of laundry, I have to say that giving up composting altogether wasn’t an option. I simply couldn’t dump moldy melon rinds into the trash without chest pain caused by eco-guilt. Plus, since we’ve had kids our household production of half eaten macaroni, expired yogurt, and soggy grapes has drastically increased.

So why did I want to stop composting?

The Best Way to Conserve Water While Gardening

Summer doesn’t really get started in the Pacific Northwest until after the 4th of July; that’s what they say, anyway. As a result, I don’t usually water my garden until the first week in July when the rain dries up and the temperatures rise. After experimenting with various methods for a few years, I finally buckled down and bought two products (keep in mind that I hate pouring money into my garden when it’s supposed to be saving me money!): two soaker hoses and a simple electronic garden timer.

With the hoses wound around my plants and the garden timer, my vegetables receive the same amount of water every day. This seems to keep them happy. If you want to water every other day or on some other schedule, you’ll need a digital garden timer. Ed (as I like to call him) from The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible says that we can improve upon the way nature waters plants by directing the water right to the roots. This helps ward away mold, bugs, and disease—and of course it also saves quite a bit of water.

DIY Garden Cloches Made from Recycled Materials

I have a new garden experiment this year: DIY garden cloches. Here in the Pacific Northwest, our gardens endure cool temperatures and abundant rainfall until mid-July. To keep my young starts warm and slugproof, I’m protecting them with homemade cloches made from recycled soda bottles. Sure, the traditional glass domes over tender green plants add sparkle and class to a garden bed—but my DIY interpretations do the job and feature a nice little air vent at the top.

Chateau cloches $77.89, set of 2. Real glass cloches for a classy veggie patch.

A DIY cloche made from a recycled plastic bottle

How can you construct this wonder dome for your own crops? Simply cut the bottom off of a clear plastic liter or gallon bottle. Leave the top open for ventilation, and place over the plants. So far I haven’t done much to keep them in place—I’ve sort of propped mine up with old leaves.  I found some more cloche-making ideas online:

Any early gardening tips?

Spring is here! Around my neighborhood I’m already seeing foot-high leeks, kale, and chard popping out of garden boxes. Meanwhile, my vegetable patch remains covered in a layer of last fall’s leaves. If you have any tips for early gardening, I’m all ears. Is it worth throwing some seeds out in the mud this early in the year?

Should We Buy a Bigger House? A Green Dilemma

Today I’m turning to all of you in an online opinion poll to help my family make a major life decision: Should we move to a bigger house?

I know you’re all up to your elbows in mistletoe and holiday cards, but we’re in the midst of a major transition and I love getting advice from wise readers.

You may remember my proud posts on the budgetary and environmental benefits of small homes.  We have been quite happy in our thousand square foot house for several years and the income from the small studio apartment we rent out back makes it even better.  Here’s a summary of why we should keep living in our small home:

What are your favorite zucchini recipes?

It’s October—and now my garden has decided to go crazy with zucchini? I have just one zucchini plant, but I’ve been harvesting one to three zucchini a day for the past few days. What are your favorite zucchini recipes? Have you had success grating and freezing summer squash? (And then how do you make use of your frozen zucchini during the year?)

To make this post somewhat more relevant to the Green Baby Guide, I will share my tip for turning zucchini into baby food: simply grate it and cook it up with ground-up oats or some other baby cereal. My daughter loved this as a baby. Unfortunately her love of vegetables has turned to hate over the years . . . but that’s another post for another day.