Community Gardening…

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We spent a wonderful morning in the community garden. My little gardener dressed up as a monarch caterpillar for Halloween this year, so she really enjoyed the monarch caterpillars all over the community garden’s milkweed this morning! So cool!

Happy Gardening!

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October in the Garden

  

Since we last posted we have lots to report!  I’m so happy Fall gardening has finally started. I was so over the heat and bugs of the summer!  We added a tiny garden box for my littlest gardener. She is very excited for her own personal gardening space. 😉  We also had a school project that involved the classroom mascot doing a little gardening with us.

We have pulled up the sweet potatoes after having a second caterpillar attack. The vines had taken up more space that I wanted them to, so next year I will plant them in a different area. I was able to harvest a half-dozen sweet potatoes for dinner.

We had to start seeds twice this season, partly because I think I started them too early. The second round is going well! Here are pics of our Bibb lettuce, purple dragon carrots, and collard sprouts. Sprouts not shown: celery, green leaf lettuce, and orange carrots.

   

Our mystery plant turned out to be a pumpkin. Still not sure how it came to be, or what type of pumpkin it was!?!  The pumpkins were quickly attacked and eaten during our second caterpillar attack.  So I pulled up it, plus it was not planted in an area where it would have had enough room to grow. 

  

We do have Seminole pumpkins in our backyard, see below. They have recovered well from the caterpillar attacks and we are hoping for Thanksgiving pumpkins!

 

We do have TWO more mystery plants. I let the little gardeners plant wherever they pleased this season, but I didn’t take the time to label them.  The one below on the right is a seedling from some guerilla gardening seed balls, made by Wall Flower Studio.  I have a seed list of what it could be, but I still don’t have a clue at this stage. Current Guess: some kind of herb. My oldest gardener thinks she planted milkweed in the red pot below.  I do not.  Current Guess: ? It isn’t strawberries.

 

Some Gardening Troubles:

Our avocado plant is having problems.  I’m looking into brown spots and wilt. I’m thinking I should get it in a bigger pot or in the ground soon.

I have also lost some thyme that I purchased at the farmers market, and some potted parsley that got too dry! Here is a little ICU section of my garden. These are plants that I need to keep an extra eye on. 😉

Lastly, I am happy to report some garlic that has sprouted, almost forgotten from last season. It will be an additional bonus in this season’s harvest! Yum! 🙂

Happy Gardening!

Coloring on the River

While spending the day on the river, I brought along these very cool eco friendly crayons I purchased on Etsy.

Earth Grown Crayons are hand-made from soy wax. Crayons are 100% biodegradable and eco friendly and safe for young artists. Soy is pesticide and herbicide free, and contains no genetically modified material. Tinted with nontoxic pigments, each set is shaped in a design that celebrates one of earth’s treasures.  I selected the fish set for my little girls.

While on our day long boating adventure, we decided to picnic on one of the Intracoastal islands.  After lunch, I brought out the crayons to surprise the girls.  When they asked for paper I told them we were going to draw on nature today. We ventured off into the woods to find some nice pieces of palm bark and wood branches to color. 

While my husband fished and I read a field guide on identifying mushrooms, the girls colored on nature for hours!!!

     

When it was time to go home, we left the colored wood collection for the fairies. The little ones believe they would come dance around them at dark. 🙂

It was nice to know the cute crayons were both safe for the girls and the environment.

Eggplants!

Eggplants! Or as my littlest gardener would say, “Egg-ants!”

Our eggplant crop was the largest & most sucessful of our late summer gardening efforts this year.  The littlest gardener really enjoyed the purple veggies.

We chatted about ways to cook them on our Facebook Page this month & our followers came up with some wonderful recipes for me to try! Here’s two delicious suggestions:

Greek Moussaka (submitted by Mastergardening)

Eggplant, Flower and Haloumi stack (submitted by Caroline Webster, who is also fun to follow on Twitter)

 

My littlest gardener found she liked to draw with chalk on the egg-ants we harvested each week.

 

She also enjoyed kissing them! 🙂

And she even picked some of their flowers & counted to three for me one morning!!!

We are down to just a few eggplants left growing this season. I plan on making my families’ favorite Eggplant Parmesan (with fresh basil) one last time. 

Happy Gardening!

Nature Journal

Our oldest gardener will start Kindergarten in August.  To continue to develop her handwriting skills this summer we are starting a nature journal project.  Our first assignment was to make the journal!  So, I purchased a basic writing fundamentals notebook by Mead. 

We then talked about decorating the cover with things that remind us of Florida living.  We gathered last year’s nature magazines and a couple pairs of scissors, and started looking for anything related to Florida nature and wildlife.  I also helped her cut out the letters for the words Nature Journal.

We then talked about other materials we could use on our journal cover. I’m a huge fan of mixed media art, so I always try to remind her of non-traditional art supplies.  Shells, sand and other backyard finds were mentioned for our Florida themed cover.  We drew lines with glue and then went out to the sand box and dumped sand on them. 

We even placed three pieces of the Southern Slash Pine on the cover: pine bark, pine needles and pieces of a pine cone.

After our gardener was happy with its appearance and everything had completely dried, I sealed the cover with polyurethane to help it last through the summer.

Our First Journal Entry: 6/01/11

What she observed while taking a nature walk at dusk…

…a dark blue sky, two frogs and a bat (picture of sky and bat).

Journal Entry Two: 6/04/11

Take the camera and find something to take a picture of in the backyard. (Boy was she in for a treat)!

She found a Painted Lady Butterfly with a slightly injured wing. It sat quiet drinking on the lantana while she took a few (good) pictures.  As we were looking at the wing injury the butterfly flew up & landed on her tummy. She squealed with delight but held perfectly still!

  

Our little gardener has been super excited to WRITE in her journal and can’t wait for her next assignment!

Happy Summer! 

Our Garden Party

Last week one of our little gardeners turned 5 years of age. We celebrated the big event with two small garden themed parties!  We decided on two parties, as we feel smaller groups offer more learning and interaction for party goers.  Check out our previous post for all the fun gardening party preparations.  The parties were held two days in a row. The first one was 4 and 5 year old girls. The second was co-ed 4 and 5 year olds.  And of course a few younger siblings attended both parties.

Once all our guests arrived we put on our gardening aprons (that were part of the party favors) and headed outside!  We first talked about the garden and tried to name the things we could see, eat, smell, etc.  We also investigated the compost bins and what was inside.   Then we started picking!   

Our garden had enough produce at the time for everyone to pick one or two things. So at both parties we picked onions, radishes and carrots. I loved seeing the kids’ faces when I pulled up the first carrot! At the first party we ate lettuce leaves right off the plant. One child did it with me, one licked it and we all laughed.

At the second party we had more time to play in the garden, so we had the children plant okra seeds. I chose okra seeds because they are dark in color and a good size for the children’s small hands.  It is also something that if by chance sprouted, it would be in season.  They were able to plant more than one seed, which I think they enjoyed.  One or two wouldn’t have been enough. They enjoyed digging the holes much as they did planting and covering them up.  Of course we got out a huge watering can and took turns watering the seeds.

We also had time for each child to harvest a lettuce head.  The children snapped off the roots and threw them in the compost bin.  At the end of the party I sent the heads of lettuce home with the parents. I loved how each kid was so proud they had pulled it right out of the ground and given it to their parents to take home.  

Other fun backyard activities were the bean bag toss game, the sandbox and the bounce house. The bean bag toss was a big hit at the second party. Winners took home colorful packs of tomato, pepper and onion seeds.  The sandbox was a big hit with the younger children. We hid toy butterflies in it for them to dig and find.

After all the gardening and outdoor fun, the kids had worked up an appetite. At the first party we headed inside for drinks and healthy snacks.  Afterwards, instead of cake or cupcakes, we all sat down and made mud pudding!  Each child got a “flowering pot” or small clear green bowl. They scooped mud (chocolate pudding), dirt (crushed chocolate cookies) and worms (gummy) into their flowering pot.  Each child was then given a sprig of fresh cut pineapple mint to stick into their mud creation. Of course I had a bite of the mint to show the girls that it was yummy.  They all giggled and started in on the yummy mud.

At the second party we opted for a sunflower cupcake.  I totally took the idea from Martha Stewart Living Special Gardening Issue, March 2011.  We made cupcakes & decorated them with plain orange and yellow icing.  We placed a bowl of dark colored fruit (blueberries, blackberries, grapes) on a table and then surrounded it with the cupcakes. We added a stem and some leaves to finish it off.

I know by my daughter’s actions that she had a wonderful time at each party. Each offered a different chance to learn about the outdoors with her friends. Though gifts were discouraged, we did receive them (and are thankful).  Some gave thought to our garden theme and we had to include them in this post…

Handmade Childs Gardening Apron that was embroidered with the birthday girl’s name. The gift included gardening tools, matching gloves, a hand painted watering can and even a ladybug knee pad. Awesome!

An outdoor memory book was given with markers, stickers and other scrapbooking supplies. It is designed to help record outdoor adventures. We will use it to describe what we see, hear and smell. There are places for us to tuck nature treasures into keepsake pockets. It even has an easel on the back cover, where you can stand it up to display your photos and work. We will really enjoy this book in the coming months!

We are almost done writing all our thank you cards. And as I look back at the parties I have to smile. I didn’t have much time to take pictures but I really enjoyed working with all the kids in the garden. One child at each party enjoyed the garden more than the others. They asked a million questions and even stayed at the garden after all the kids had left.  I may never get another request for a garden themed birthday but if I do I will be thrilled.

Happy Gardening… and LOOK the children’s okra seed sprouts are already sprouting!!!!!!

 

Reading in the Garden

Since our Florida weather has warmed up we have taken learning outdoors!

Last month our Rock Bluff Garden gave us some left over pieces of azek.  Azek is a PVC material that is waterproof and great for outdoor uses. Our Rock Bluff gardeners used it to build their floating river garden boxes. We decided to use some of the pieces as garden markers! 

First we painted the azek pieces with chalk board paint and after they dried, we stuck them in the garden!  Our little gardener is learning how to read, so now the azek markers are helping her read outside! We use chalk to write words & messages to the garden.  We like to secretly change the marker to surprise the little one with new words each week.

 So far we have used the markers to help teach the following words:

  • Grow
  • Water
  • Keep Out
  • Garden
  • Rain
  • Eat Me!

Of course the markers could be used for traditional purposes, like marking seedlings & identifying crops. All around, this is just a great way to keep this material out of the landfill!

Happy (Learning and) Gardening!