The anticipation of seeds sown in freshly turned, moist soil is almost more than I can bear! The vision of the neatness of the rows, imagining the bounty of the harvest, seeing my kids eat fresh food right out of the garden that they won’t eat anywhere else; these are the just some of the joys of gardening. I was so excited when my package of seeds arrived from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed company (www.rareseeds.com).
We have been enjoying fresh greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard and lettuce) most of our very mild winter (see my previous post from February 27th for more information on that). Our garlic looks absolutely amazing this year and we have more of it this year than in previous years. Now our rhubarb, asparagus, onions, kohlrabi, peas and broccoli are up. Jeff started his peppers and tomato plants and the fresh new leaves on them are the most beautiful, deep shade of green.
Recent studies, that I find so very interesting, have uncovered that there is more to the joy of gardening than aesthetics and personal preferences. Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium found in soil, interacts with your body creating feelings of joy and contentment. Gardeners, (and children playing in the soil) breathe it in while digging and planting. It also enters the body when dirt gets into a cut or under your nails. http://blog.nwf.org/2011/03/it’s-in-the-dirt-bacteria-in-soil-may-make-us-happier-smarter/. This bacterium stimulates serotonin production in the brain and exposure to it can decrease anxiety and increase the ability to learn. Yet another reason to get outside to play, garden and learn with your kids!
This spring, I was able to help with stations in my daughter’s kindergarten class. I led an activity that helped the children make observations about and draw seeds from two different plants, calendula and morning glory. They wrote their names on the backs of the pre-printed planting instructions I brought with me and drew pictures of the seeds they observed here. They then moved into making their own “seed tape”. I took the idea from here – http://www.giverslog.com/?p=2484 . The teacher is using these neat little packages as part of the Mother’s Day gift bags she will be sending home with the children.
Another idea that I took from the gardening book Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy is the morning glory tee-pee. To make the frame I used the tops of small sumac trees that grow in a weedy lot adjacent to ours. They are easy to bend over and break off to about a length of 9 or 10 feet. Because these broken stems will sprout without even being planted, I inserted them into the ground upside down and wrapped a length of twine around them as high as I could reach to pull them together at the top and form the peak of the tee-pee.
Next, I planted a few morning glory seeds around each pole. I used Grandpa Ott’s Bavarian Heirloom variety from Baker Creek Seeds. (The seeds that fell from the plants into the flowerbed last summer are already up, although barely surviving the cool weather we are experiencing!) As the vines grew, I did have to selectively pinch off some of the leaves on the inside of the structure to keep it nice and open for the kids to get into. This creates a magical little space for the kids to play or have a popsicle on a hot summer afternoon. My only wish is that it was big enough for me! As you plan your garden for the coming year, consider including your children by implementing these ideas and more!