ShadyGardens Blog

April 1, 2014

April is National Gardening Month

Filed under: April, children, contaminants, fruit, gardening, month, produce, vegetables — shadygardens @ 1:35 pm
Since April is National Gardening Month, now is a good time to get others interested in gardening. Over the years, I have become increasingly concerned about what contaminants might be in the food I am feeding to my family. Most store bought produce and meat contains some kind of germs or pesticides. And genetically modified foods are very scary to me, since I do not fully understand what all they entail. It is very important to know where our food comes from. I try more and more to grow as much of our own food as possible and what I can’t grow, I try to purchase from another gardener in our area. Unfortunately, our year round farmer’s market sells produce from all over the world, so I can’t trust it for my dinner table. Our true farmer’s markets are seasonal, open only from late Spring to early Fall.

Locally grown food from last summer

It would be difficult to be entirely self-sufficient and feed our families only what we can grow and produce ourselves. It’s true that years ago, families did just that, only purchasing things like grain and sugar. But that was before the days of mothers working full time outside the home and before television, Facebook, and Netflix took over our lives. 

Still, we can grow much of what we eat ourselves, right in our own backyards. I don’t have to worry anymore about where my eggs come from and whether or not some hen was mistreated while producing them, since we have our own backyard flock. But I do worry about salmonella, e-coli, or pesticides hitch hiking into my home and onto our dinner plate via salad greens and fruits I buy at the grocery store. 

I try to do what I can to encourage others to grow their own produce. I’m not suggesting you plow up your whole yard and turn it into a garden. Start small. Purchase a few plants from your locally owned garden center. Most of these home nursery owners grow the plants themselves from cuttings or seeds. You can help them grow their home business and grow food for your family at the same time. 
Children love planting veggies
Get the whole family involved. It is important to teach our children how to grow their own vegetables and fruit. Gardening can be hard work, but it is very rewarding. When your child sees fruits and vegetables actually growing on the plant and learns where food comes from, he will be excited to eat things he wouldn’t normally try.

Although gardening can be hard work, some plants produce with little or no help from us. Plants like blueberries, plums, and blackberries don’t require much intervention from us once they are planted in the ground.

How often have you turned around at the grocery store to find your child eating unwashed grapes or strawberries? That always horrified me when my children were small, but when you grow your own fruits and vegetables at home, your children can pick and eat right off the plant.

December 5, 2012

Christmas Tree for the Birds

Filed under: birds, children, Christmas, garden, nature, tree, wildlife — shadygardens @ 2:55 pm
Decorating for Christmas is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Once we get the inside of our house decorated each year, we try to involve the children in providing for our wildlife friends outdoors.

Decorating an outdoor tree for the birds is a great way to spend an afternoon. We use a cedar tree that happened to plant itself close to our dining room window, but any tree can be used, as long as you and your children can reach its branches. When you put your imagination to work, you can come up with all kinds of decorations made from things birds can eat. Materials can be berries, nuts, seeds, and breads along with natural items found outside like pinecones and sweet gum balls.

Fresh cranberries can be strung on cotton twine to be hung throughout the tree.

Using regular loaf bread, we used cookie cutters to to cut out shapes and a straw to poke a hole so we could use twine for hanging them on the tree. We then toasted the bread slightly to make it stiff before spreading with chunky peanut butter. A sprinkling of seeds makes the ‘cookie’ appealing to the birds. We looped cotton twine through the hole in the top and hung these from the tree.
Additional decorations were made using pinecones. We applied peanut butter to the pinecones before rolling them in birdseed.
Sliced apples and oranges and pineapple can be hung using twine. 
A walk through the garden gave us more ideas. Nandina berry clusters made beautiful ornaments. Creampuff, one of our red hens, likes those.
Popcorn looks beautiful on the tree, but I’m surprised to find the birds are not eating that. The peanut butter toast was gone the next day, so we had to make more!
This is a Christmas tree that will be enjoyed by all types of wildlife, and watching to see who visits your tree is a great way for your children to learn more about nature.

February 9, 2009

Gardening With Children: Don’t Miss Out On This Joy!

Filed under: children, children's, garden, gardening — shadygardens @ 3:09 pm

According to recent studies, time spent outdoors has decreased by 50% in the past 20 years. Thanks to the popularity of electronics, children now spend an average of 6 hours daily watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer. When I was a child, if we didn’t want to play outdoors, my mother made sure we did anyway. Nowadays, perhaps we as parents are so busy that we don’t think about it. Or maybe the children are simply following our example.

At any rate, children are fatter and less healthy as a result of living sedentary lifestyles. In addition to health problems, staying indoors more has decreased awareness of the environment and the value of nature.

I myself am guilty of enjoying my gardening tasks without involving the children. However, something just occurred to me–if gardening is a source of joy for me, relieving stress while providing exercise, it can do that for my children too!

Yesterday we pruned together, and this afternoon, we’ll be planning a garden! Children love to plant things. Even though we’re in the middle of winter, now is the time to plant many cool season vegetables.

Consider letting your child help you plant some Sugar Snap Peas, Beets, Radishes, and Lettuces. These seeds germinate quickly, which will excite your child about his garden. Flowers to plant now from seed are Larkspur and Poppies. If you don’t have a garden in which to do your planting, just get some large pots. Then your child can have a garden even if you have only a patio or porch.

What and where you plant your garden will not be nearly as important as the time you spend with your child. Remember to take photos of your little ones planting their seeds. The pictures will mean alot to you when the children are older. And the children will remember this time spent with you.

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