19 Jul 12
Clean Food Organic Australia’s healthy, sustainable lifestyle magazine Issue 13
Leonie Shanahan is passionate about the health of our children and growing organic food. She has taught thousands of school students to set up organic gardens, grow food this is alive and full of flavour and experience the joy of eating their own produce. Here are her tips for setting up a pint-sized patch in your own garden.
The most important The most important part of gardening with children is allowing kids to be involved and letting them have ownership of that veggie garden. I am well aware that not all children will embrace the garden some won’t want to get dirty, don’t force them, allow them time, which could take months for them to adjust to this dirty idea – they will come around, in the meantime let them water, look at bugs and plants with a magnifier and just be in the garden space. Then we have the enthusiastic child where they plant 1 seedling and stand on 6 in the process – enormously frustrating but stay patient and look at it as a learning experience for them!
LET'S GET GARDENING
Firstly buy gardening equipment that is the appropriate size – small watering can (or milk bottle with holes in the lid), trowel and gloves their size. You will need a mask if using potting mix.
Set aside a small area for your child’s garden 1m x 80cm is ideal for small children, if its too wide then kids have to walk onto the garden to get access – keep the width so that children can reach into the middle without stepping onto the garden.
A barrier between pathway and garden bed to distinguish the difference is advisable; some ideas are tank gardens, rocks, bricks, logs/palm trunk gardens.
THIS SOIL RECIPE FOR TANK GARDENS CAN BE USED FOR ALL VEGETABLE GARDENS
1/ Cover ground with newspaper approx 15 sheets thick overlapping each other
2/ Add all, or some of the following; grass clippings, farm animal manures, and mushroom compost. Whatever is available locally. The more variety the better. Make this 30cm thick.
3/ Add leaves (not gum leaves) 15cm thick.
4/ Manures (Farm animal manure) 10cm thick.
5/ Hay - loose layer 15cm.
7/ Soil – 5cm layer (good topsoil from your property if available or from a dam edge) to add life to your tank garden, or add compost.
8/ Dolomite, sprinkle.
9/ Worm castings – sprinkle.
10/ Rock minerals, sprinkle.
11/ Compost, homemade or brought 10cm thick.
12/ Chicken manure pellets – 4 handfuls.
13/ Hay mulch organic and loose - 4cm thick.
14/ Water in with seaweed solution - two tablespoons per 9-litre watering can.
Making a garden is lots of fun, the kids get dirty and work gets done. This recipe will ensure your seedlings are bursting out of the ground. Get your soil right from the beginning and you’ll never look back.
HEALTHY SOIL, HEALTHY PLANTS, HEALTHY PEOPLE
The most important reason for growing your own food is to have the freshest, most nutritious food at your doorstep. Most ‘fresh’ food you buy lacks nturitents because Australia has old and depleted soils. Everything starts inthe soil, so to grow healthy produce we need to bring soils to life by building themup with organic matter.
To allow the soil life to start breeding, leave the soil to rest for approximately two weeks while watering each day.
You need to plant seeds/seedlings that grow quickly so kids don’t lose interest eg: radish. When buying seeds only buy Organic seeds which are a stronger seed that will produce a plant that will have more nutrient in it than a ‘conventional’ seed. Organic seeds don’t have any chemicals on them and you can save the seed from them when they flower.
Pre-soak seeds in a weak seaweed solution an hour before planting.
Plant seeds to a depth of twice the seed’s width, if the seed is 2mm wide you would plant it 4mm deep.
You can either plant in a ‘drill’ (line) or individually to the appropriate depth then gently replace the soil on top and water in with a tablespoon of Epsom salts in a watering can. Stir. Water in a back and forth motion so it’s like rain.
Epsom salts (magnesium) is only added when we first plant seeds, not every time we water
Plant a variety of seedlings that won’t take too long to grow eg: lettuce, tatsoi, nasturtium, parsley, spinach and ensure that there is always something to harvest fresh.
Plant seedlings into a mix of compost and worm castings.
Water in with diluted seaweed solution.
Water each day for the first week.
Fortnightly spray all parts of the plant with diluted seaweed solution this keeps the plants strong and less prone to disease. When you do see insects in the garden remember there are more good insects than bad insects and sometimes it’s a matter of waiting for that balance to come to your garden.
We need to embrace the beautiful energy and free spirit that children possess.
Make their veggie garden fun. With all these suggestions, materials can be any size, made out of whatever recycled materials you can get your hands on
Make and decorate
- Teepees for plants and decorate them too
- Dream catchers
- Make plant labels, make quirking names for plants
Exploring the garden including the soil - with a magnifier; measure the growth of plants expecially those inthe pea family.
Set up a worm farm (quiet pets)
GROWING IN SMALL SPACES
If you haven’t got a backyard, you can grow in pots, remember to buy only good quality organic potting mix. You want to grow food that is going to keep giving, is hardy and food that you will use eg; parsley, rosemary, oregano, lemongrass, lemon balm, nasturtium, spring onion, garlic chives, spinach and some usually herbs that are good for you such as Herb Robert. Plants in pots require more attention, make sure you water them regularly and spray with diluted seaweed solution every two weeks.
If you haven’t any outdoor space, growing sprouts in a jar. It only takes days and is highly nutritious addition to salads, sandwiches and many other dishes.
I encourage you all, to just start gardening!!! There are many ways to garden, so just give it a go!
Need A Guest Speaker?
- 11 May 13
- 22nd June Saturday ECTA conference Sheldon Qld Conference for Early Ch... read more
- 11 May 13
- This World Environment Day inspiring organicgardener, Leonie Shanahan... read more
- 05 Apr 13
- Getting kids to eat healthy food is easier said than done,but here’san... read more
Join our Newsletter
Find out the latest news and happenings with Edible School Gardens.sign up here >>