January in our warm Florida Garden!

jan_garden4

January has been really warm again this year. Warm, and wet here in Central Florida!  We are still getting mosquitoes and sunflowers in our backyard!

2015-01-16 16.07.35 2015-01-16 16.07.47

When we do get a touch of cold, the winter veggies love it.  Our collards, bok choy, cauliflower, and broccoli have done well despite the warmer season.

jan4

We have volunteer tomatoes growing up our sunflowers. I think they are going to be cherry tomatoes. Yum.

jan9

Our moringa tree is getting almost as tall as the banana trees. I am planning on re-potting it soon.

jan10

Our little gardeners have a renewed interest in our gardening efforts this month. Both girls have been awesome little worker bees!  They are planting seeds, growing flowers, and helping us lay new edging and improving our soil for spring.

One lone orange is left on our tree, but I am super excited that my lemon tree is in bloom for the first time!

Winter is my favorite time to garden in Florida. Warm afternoons, cool nights, and delicious veggies, what is not to love?!  We’ve had a dozen fires in our backyard fire pit this month. We also have been ordering seeds and preparing things for spring. Yes, I am in love with January gardening in our sunshine state!

The next blog post is a book review on an interactive children’s gardening book, and then I promise to update about the school garden.  The children have been busy getting ready for spring!

2015-01-16 07.59.56

Happy Gardening, Bee

A Salad Party!

School Garden Update

The students were so excited to harvest the first of their lettuce crop!

The class decided to throw a “salad party” to celebrate.  A few parents brought in salad dressings, bowls, utensils, and bread.  I even made some cucumber infused water and called it “garden water.”

I am happy to report every one of the students tried the lettuce (but not all liked it).   They were really excited to have their principal come by to have a bowl of their lettuce with them!

We thought our first attempt at gardening was a great success.  I had eighteen 5-7 year olds excited about growing vegetables!  They learned about different soils, measured rainwater, and even learned to remove snails eating in their garden beds.

Now the debate begins about what to do with the remaining 12 heads of romaine lettuce growing in the garden.  I hope the children will share it with other classes in their building!  Everyone has been watching our little garden grow!

School Gardening Project

garden21

I was blessed with the opportunity to head up a gardening project with a Kindergarten / First Grade class at a local elementary school this fall.  I kept notes to share on the blog, to hopefully encourage other parents and volunteers to organize a garden project at their own school!  It was so easy, and it has been amazing to share the garden with the students!

This project has cost about $200, and is currently two months old.  Mostly the cost has been the wood, hardware and dirt. I was able to get some project materials donated by businesses in our community.  The parents of the children in the class donated a large portion of the gardening soil, and my husband and I purchased and made the garden boxes for the school.

2014-10-21 09.06.25

Gardening Supply List:

Wood 10″ wide, cut into four 5 ft and four 3 ft pieces

Stainless steel hardware

20 cubic yards of organic gardening soil (10 for each box)

Peat moss (we needed about 3 cu ft)

1 schoolroom watering can

Lettuce sprouts (donated by Full Moon Natives)

Organic Radish & Carrot Seeds

Flower Seeds (Zinnia & Marigold so far)

Kids Aprons (donated by our local Home Depot)

2 old tires (donated by a parent who needed new tires for her van)

1 Rain Gauge

1 Do Not Disturb gardening sign & stake

17 energetic kids

garden4

First we met with the school’s principal, to get approval and listen to his concerns about the project.  We promised to weave the garden activities into their classroom curriculum and got the final approval for our year long project.

Next, we constructed two 5″ x 3″ wood garden boxes, and then filled them with peat moss and gardening soil. The kids enjoyed feeling the difference in the peat moss and the gardening soil.

garden2

The kids are currently growing a salad garden, since lettuce, carrots, and radishes have a shorter growing season.  We have a goal to harvest our winter garden by the holiday break in mid December.  In the spring, they will plant native milkweed and learn about our endangered monarch butterflies.  They will also continued to grow different selections of vegetables throughout the rest of the school year.

garden11

The students will learn to use the garden’s rain gauge.  It is a plastic gauge with magnified numbers found at our Home Depot for about $5.  We will record rainfall measurements and discuss the occasional lack of rainfall.  I secured the rain gauge to the side of the garden box with a stainless steel screw, so that the students can not pick it up and play with it.

garden8

Last week we added unwanted tires to the garden space. We painted them the school color and filled them with soil and previously sprouted zinnia seeds!  The kids were really excited about their tires.

2014-11-07 13.26.23

Our class teacher came up with the “Gardening Teams” idea.  Each morning, I spend about 15 mins with a small group of children.  They get one on one interaction in the garden, while we are taking care of it each week.  Gardening Team 1 is on Mondays, Gardening Team 2 is on Tuesdays, and so forth.  I enjoy answering their silly questions and listening to their interesting stories.

2014-11-07 13.26.18

Our romaine lettuce is looking great!  I am hoping that not only will the kids eat it, but also share it with teachers and staff at their school.

I will update as this gardening project continues.  I am so excited to help teach food education to our youth!

Happy Gardening, Bee

2014-11-10 07.56.12

 

 

 

Connecting Kids to their Food: Vero Beach Farms – Indian River County

“On average, U.S. students get less than four hours of food education per year. Millions of kids aren’t learning about the importance of fresh, nutritious food at home or at school, making it almost impossible for them to be healthy adults. ” ~Food Tank

 

One of my passions is teaching children about the food we eat.  Check out our most recent field trip to visit two Florida farms! The kids loved collecting the eggs right from the hen’s coop, as well as seeing the fish swimming in the hydroponic gardens!

Children learn through experience.  Be sure to look for ways in your own communities to strengthen your children’s relationship with the food they eat! And if you are lucky enough to visit or live in the Indian River County area, please stop by and visit these fantastic farms:

 

White Rabbit Organic Farms & CSA

Osceola Organic Farm

Happy Gardening, ~Bee

Hello Blog! Hello Summer Garden!

rainbow1

Wow, time flies! We haven’t written since spring!  We have been enjoying the summer and all the season brings to our Florida backyard! Sunflowers, tomatoes, and elderberries have been the highlight of our gardening efforts. Florida’s beaches, state parks, and local farms have been our sources for summer entertainment.

We purchased a new blender, and have been exploring the world of green smoothies.  My little gardeners delivered a few salad baskets to loved ones, and we are anxiously awaiting our first harvest of pineapples!

 

But the best thing I have to report since I last blogged… is my husband and sweet girls gave me a lemon tree for Mother’s Day!

lemontree1 lemontree1

 

 Happy Gardening, Bee

Florida Nature App for Kids: mom reviewed

Nature Viewing Along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail,

by Natural Guides, LLC  439MB

photo (2)

This is a great family app we discovered for the backyard.  Designed with non-experts in mind, this is great for my little gardeners. They can search for and identify flowering plants, butterflies, and birds found in sunny Florida. There is also a nice section on Florida’s unique habitats and state parks.

The app uses child friendly icons and images to identify flowers, butterflies and birds by color, size and appearance.  You can even select the seasons to narrow your searches.  My seven year old says her favorite thing she has identified is a male Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Mom’s favorite thing is how independently they can use the app and still come up with proper identifications.

photo photo (1)

Nature Viewing App is supported by:
Florida Museum of Natural History
Florida Wildflower Foundation
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
to name a few.

Hope you are enjoying your own backyard this summer!

~Bee

Our Orange Themed Backyard Brunch!

orange_party1

To celebrate summer this year, my little gardeners threw a summer brunch for a few of their friends!  Today I wanted to share with you what nine kids did in our backyard!! First we decided what to do…

“Orange you Glad It’s Summer?!” Themed Brunch

Menu:

Yogurt Bar (different types of yogurt & toppings like granola, raisins, etc)

Fruit Kabobs

Homemade Blueberry Muffins

Homemade Lemon Cookies

Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice, Water & Tea

Activities:

Paint with Oranges

Pick Orange Carrots in the garden

Goodie Bags

 

Prep work

First we cut and dried oranges in the oven. The kids will use them to stamp orange paint on an art canvas.

orange_party5 orange_party4 photo (17)  

We made goodie bags (and tested our orange paint stamping idea). I purchased white paper bags and stamped them with an orange half covered in paint. We filled them with a few goodies: orange water gun, orange pencil & eraser, mango applesauce, Annie’s fruit snacks, a sun craft, and a YummyEarth lollipop. 🙂

photo (18) orange_party21

 

The Party

Guest arrived in the morning… they ate & squeezed their own OJ.

orange_party19  orange_party9 orange_party18

We made orange prints in the backyard!

orange_party8 orange_party20

 

Loved how different each turned out. 🙂

photo (20) photo (21)

One family went home and embellished their project a little more! So cute!

IMG952060Before we washed up from the paint, we headed over to the garden to pick carrots. A few of the children had never seen carrots pulled from the ground.

orange_party22

It was a really fun morning!  We will have a garden update next week!

Happy Summer, Bee