MOTHER EARTH NEWS feels strongly that youths can be creative "doers," working toward more ecological and self-reliant lifestyles whether their tasks be raising chickens on a farm or maintaining rooftop container gardens in the city. To support the endeavors of our often overlooked "underage" citizens, we're glad to publish well-written articles from younger children and teenagers concerning projects they've undertaken.
My name is Ben Roth. I live in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania and I want to tell you about making my sandbox into a garden and my swing set into a bean house.
Two summers ago I decided to make a sandbox garden because I was too big to play in a sandbox anymore. First I had to get the soil ready. I hoed and dug up the dirt and sand that were in the sandbox. Then I had to get more dirt from my mom and dad's garden because there was too much sand and not enough dirt in my sandbox.
Next I decided what to plant. I chose carrots, peanuts, strawberries, onions, and cherry tomatoes because those plants are supposed to do well in sandy soil. (I didn't have to buy all my plants and seeds, but if I'd had to, it would have cost about $6.65: $1.30 for two cherry tomato seedlings, 85¢ for carrot seeds, $1.00 for five strawberry plants, $3.00 for four peanut plants, and 50¢ for onion sets.)
My first big problem was with rabbits. They ate many of my peanuts and carrots, so I had to put a fence around these plants to keep the rabbits from eating more. I made a big mistake by not putting up a fence in the beginning!
My next problem was the drought. That summer was very dry in Dillsburg, so I had to water my garden a lot (almost every day).
Another problem was the weeds that threatened to take over the garden. I had to pull weeds at least once every two weeks. Sometimes it was hard to tell which were weeds and which were garden plants. Also, I had to thin out my onions and carrots because they were growing too close together. Then the plants that were left could grow bigger.
The most fun of all was harvesting. First I pulled out some carrots and spring (or small) onions. When the cherry tomatoes turned red, I picked them. Later I pulled out the bigger onions and carrots and then the peanuts. The sandy soil was especially good for the carrots and onions. (I didn't get any strawberries, because I'd just transplanted them and they needed another season to mature.)
I'm going to plant my sandbox garden again this year. It will be a lot of hard work, but it will be a lot of fun, too. Anybody who has an old sandbox around can turn it into a flower or vegetable garden for just a little bit of money and some time. Try it!
My Swing Set Bean House
This past year I decided to make a bean house out of an old swing set as well as raising my sandbox garden.
To make my bean house I bought a cord trellis for about $3.00 and pole bean seeds for $1.29. My dad and I moved the swing set's frame into the garden early in the spring, and I got the ground ready by digging it up. Later, we put the trellis up, dug a shallow trench, planted the beans, and waited for them to grow.
I planted the beans on June 6, and they sprouted on June 11. The vines really took off after that! We first picked beans on August 5. I got four quarts. We picked again on August 11, 19, 29, and September 15. Altogether, we harvested about 20 quarts of green beans. There were still more beans out on the vines, but my mom was sick of freezing and canning, so we left some to dry for seeds for next year.
My bean house also was a birdhouse! One time I went back to look at my garden and I heard chirping. When I got closer, I saw a wren fly into the crossbar of my bean house. She flew back and forth to it a lot. Later I could hear baby birds chirping in the nest she had built there. The baby birds were safe in the bean house, since our cats couldn't climb the poles to get them.My bean house worked so well that my family plans on making it a permanent part of our garden and growing all our beans on it. It was a good bean tower, a neat place to hide, and a birdhouse, too!