Plan and Plant a Learning Garden

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner and Homeplace Earth
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Wow! The world is changing so fast these days and so many are finding themselves home looking for fulfilling things to do. You could clean out your closets, but a more exciting thing to do is to plant a garden. Even if you already have a garden, you could put a new spin on it, especially with the kids at home.

Selecting seeds. A garden can be a great teaching/learning experience. You can browse the seed catalogs or seed company websites to decide what to plant. Be sure to note if what you want to grow is suitable for your area. Also take notice of when the best time to plant is and if you will be putting seeds or transplants in the ground. You’ll have to decide how many seeds or plants to order.

Grow a pizza garden. You could plan and plant a themed garden, such as a pizza garden where you grow as much of the ingredients as you can for pizza. Since you use the same sauce for pizza as spaghetti, you’ve planned more than one type of meal. As long as you are growing so many tomatoes, you might as well make tomato soup and can it. Ingredients to grow for these dishes would include tomatoes, of course, and peppers, onions, parsley, oregano, basil, and whatever else you want to include. You will have to wait until the fall to plant garlic.

Gardening science project. Let your kids take part in this. They can explore recipes, ingredients, seeds, feeding the soil with organic amendments, when to plant and when to harvest, etc. In the process they will be have studied science, social studies, math, and reading, plus they would have used technology in the process. Physical education would take place digging and maintaining the garden. Double digging is a great experience because you discover the soil layers (see photo). Maybe they can research how planting times have changed over the years. They might start a phenology journal to record the times when things bloom, birds return, and so on, that signal changes in the seasons. Many things are triggered by day length and soil temperature.

Culinary arts should be a mandatory subject for kids out of school right now. They can help with the meals, opening up so many topics of conversation about the source of their ingredients and the source of their recipes. You could post a map of the country and mark where each thing comes from. You might need a world map. That exercise alone might drive home the necessity of growing your own ingredients, or at least, sourcing them closer to home.

Adapt existing resources. All this is a lot to learn, especially with the world seemingly crashing down on you right now. There are many resources available to help you, including resources from me. I taught the sustainable agriculture classes at our community college for over a decade and know, from leading my students through it, how much time and energy it takes to organize a project like this. As teaching tools to help those who couldn’t take my classes, I produced DVDs about cover crops and garden planning and wrote the book Grow a Sustainable Diet. Together they are a whole curriculum to take you through the process of planning and planting a garden and, with my book, further consideration of planning your diet and permaculture homestead. They are available through my website at Homeplace Earth.

You will find free continuing education about all this from my Homeplace Earth Blog. Good luck and happy gardening.

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what Cindy is up to at Homeplace Earth, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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