“A garden is like a puppy, everybody wants one, but they have to be taken care of each day, and they can be messy.”
Hilarious, right!! And so true!! That quote is by Scott Feille, of Real School Gardens who I heard speak at the Children and Nature Network conference.
Its candid truth stuck with me, and since it is spring and everybody is getting their puppies, I mean gardens, going full swing, I offer you spring organic gardening tips for home, school, and community green thumb life! –And a few quotes from conference speakers sprinkled within the tips!
10 Spring Gardening Tips
1. Be sure your soil is high quality and that you loosen it up with a tiller, garden fork, or shovel so that it isn’t compacted and roots can grow! Also, be sure your soil is moist before you plant. Water it for about 15 minutes after you loosen it but before you plant, so it will be nice and damp for the new plants and seeds. Set your plants up for success right from the start!
2. Plant your starts within a little well. This helps keep the water from just running off away from the new plant’s root ball. It is easy: just build a little circular wall around the base of the plant about 8 inches in diameter or so with the stalk in the middle.
This is garden was planted by the awesome artist Mumbot and family for Mother’s Day!
3. Water everyday for the first 2 weeks after planting your garden (or anything for that matter). Whether using seeds or starts, this will get things established and sprouting. Ideally, water in the morning, before 10 am so the garden is well hydrated for the heat of the day and to prevent fungus setting in at night on wet leaves. After the initial 2 weeks, you can back off to a few times a week, adjusting for windy or very dry weather.
4. When you hand water, water the base of the plant rather than showering the leaves. This also helps prevent fungus, as well as improves the absorption of the water into the soil rather than it just evaporating off the leaves. Water each plant individually for a count to 10. Then, if it is really been dry, repeat.
This fellow is making sure the base gets plenty water.
5. Even with the best soil, gardens need to be fed. I recommend using a fish emulsion solution once a week. It’s great because it is safe for children to water with and you can’t burn the plants like you can with some fertilizers. You can even dump this right on the leaves and it won’t hurt them, it will actually foliar feed them!
6. Stake it up! Many veggie plants will get so heavy with fruit that they can have a tendency to fall over and risk breaking. Most people know to stake tomatoes, but have you thought about staking your peppers and eggplants? Does your cucumber have a stake or trellis to climb? What about your borage or cilantro? Use bamboo stakes and tomato cages for a wide variety of staking projects. Get creative – no stake or trellis is too weird if it works! I also recommend using the velcro garden tape to attach your plants to the stakes. I like it because it can be reused and it doesn’t cut into the plant stem, stalks, or leaves.
These 2 know about preparing the soil for their seedlings!
7. Just like a puppy is always getting into something and messing it up, it often seems like there is always some obstacle to overcome in the garden, so be proactive! Get out poking in your garden everyday for a few minutes, or as much as possible. Look under leaves and in and around the stalks for any signs of insects, snails, or other unfriendly garden visitor.
Children are awesome at finding snails, bugs, mites, and caterpillars on plants. Pick caterpillars off and dispose of them however you feel comfortable: squishing or feeding to your neighbor’s chickens (this is what I do) are a couple ways. If something seems off to you, it probably is. Trust your inner green thumb!! Being proactive is the best course of action in garden maintenance.
8. Even with all that poking around, sometimes we need a stronger fix. There are many organic solutions out there for dealing with all kinds of garden pests and problems and for maintaining a healthy garden bursting with produce.
When I need to pull out the big guns, my go to’s are: Fertilome brand Triple Action Plus and Dipel Dust. Both are acceptable for organic gardening. They work on a range of pests, including helpful bugs and butterfly caterpillars, so only use this when you really have a harmful bug imbalance.
Triple Action is a miticide, insecticide, fungicide spray combo primarily comprised of hot peppers, neem, and chrysanthemums. Diple Dust is a BT powder that you sprinkle on plants whose leaves are getting chewed up and it kills the chewers from the inside out. Brutal I know, but gardening can be a war over produce! Follow all manufacturer instructions on the containers. I do not let children apply these. Though organic, they still aren’t awesome to get on your skin or inhale.
When you have little legs, the plants (and their attackers) are eye level!
9. At the conference, Dr. Scott Sampson said: “Nature connection is a contact sport, and kids and nature can take it.” Let the kids pick and poke and tear. Of course teach them how to harvest without puling the whole plant out of the ground or yanking off a limb, but a few lost plants, bugs, or toads in the scheme of building a childhood love of nature are well worth it in the big picture!
10. Let them eat!!! In my children’s school and community gardens, which are all organic, I like to plant what I call pick and pops. These are veggies that the children can literally pick and pop into their mouths.
Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, green beans, pickling cukes, herbs, and edible flowers are all good examples. They gets the children’s minds and stomachs building delicious relationships with food and place. It bonds the children with the garden space, integrates the importance of gardening and nature into the daily practice of eating, and creates wonder filled memories that lay the foundations for a life loving nature. So pick and pop away, as much as you can eat straight from the garden the better!
(Of course if you have just sprayed or dusted, wash well before popping in your mouth!)
Even a kohlrabi leaf is on the table when it comes to eating straight from the garden!
Richard Louv reminded everyone in a conference keynote that, “Conservation is no longer enough. We need to create nature where we live,” and what better way than in a school, backyard, or community garden? SO there you go! Take these 10 tips to set yourself up for springtime green thumb gardening success where you live!!
Have some tips of your own?
Share them in the comments below!
Then share your garden pics on Instagram #wingswormsandwonder so we can see!
Seeds to Sprout:
Want to mix your own organic gardening pest and fungus solutions? Check out the book Great Garden Formulas by Rodale. I have it and think it is great!
Want some trellising tips? Check out this post I wrote on trellising ideas.
Want to build a raised bed to avoid the troubles of poor soil and help with weeds? Check out my self paced video course Let’s Build a Garden. This combo video and very detailed illustrated action plan course is everything you need (and more) to build a raised bed, fill it, and plant it successfully!
Want more garden building and growing guidance? Check out the Let’s Build a Garden Bonus Package. I’ll be your email consulting garden gnome for a year to help you build, grow, and maintain your new garden!
Want to bounce some ideas off someone or get some specific tips or customized info for your new or existing garden? Well, that’s why I have phone consultations. Check ’em out here!
(For the record, I don’t receive any perks from any of the books or brands I mentioned in this post. I just use these products personally and find them to be effective. Simple as that.)
This garden was built from a combo of the Let’s Build a Garden course and an on-site consultation. Isn’t it beautiful? They did such a great job and 3 more children get to know the joys of growing their own!