How gardening helps grow kids

Did you know that 98 percent of kids who grow their own vegetables will actually eat them? That means kids will want to eat peas, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and maybe even spinach! This is the official word from the American Gardening Association which offers programs to encourage kids to head outdoors and into the garden.

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and community. Click this link to listen to a truly inspirational gardener! » Watch TED Talk

toddler gardeningGardening is catching on in schools all across the country and that includes a big emphasis in Nevada. Every year, more schools are building gardens on their campuses and using them as an educational opportunity. And some of the produce ends up in the school cafeteria.

If you have children, consider getting them involved in gardening at home as well. Already, kid-sized tools and boots are showing up in garden centers. Helping kids pick out their own properly sized implements will make the process more fun.

Then head over the seed aisle and let them select veggies, herbs and flowers they would like to grow. This kind of involvement is more engaging than handing them your packet of seeds early some Saturday morning when it’s time to plant.

Here are four ways to keep the engagement going:

  • Help kids to learn by doing. Even a 3-year-old can tuck some seeds into the soil and will love holding the water wand to sprinkle water over newly-planted seeds. What child doesn’t like to play in the dirt or spray water? Older children can do more – and as the growing season takes off, you can make pulling weeds a game rather than a chore.
  • Keep it simple. Kids are most motivated when they grow plants that are easy to grow and that show fast results. Sunflowers and pumpkins, for example, grow quickly and are dramatic in their size and shape. They can be started indoors before it’s time to plant outside. Kids can stand by the window sill and check out the changes as seedlings emerge and become little plants.
  • Make it “mine.” Remember those seeds that the little ones selected? Create an area for those plants and allow children have their own group of plants to care for. Having them water and weed their own plants – and pick the harvest later on – imparts pride of ownership.
  • Teach value. At harvest time, weigh some of your harvest and write down how many pounds of zucchini, tomatoes or other veggies your young gardener has grown. Then go to the grocery store, find the current price of these items and help them do the math. There’s a good lesson in knowing that you’ve just grown $5 worth green beans!

Turf & trees have different water needs

Trees and turf often share space in home landscapes, but they have different water needs. Understanding this can help conserve water and save money.

A tree is a thirty-year investment that can easily add up to $5,000 to a property’s value!


Tree suffering from overwatering

Tree suffering from overwatering

Bluegrass turf requires about 1inch of moisture per week during the spring and fall and about 1 1/2 inches in summer, depending on temperatures and winds.

Water should be applied once or twice a week on heavier soils in spring and fall, and potentially two to three times during the heat of the summer. For lighter, sandy soils watering may be needed more often.

This frequent irrigation is good for the turf, but not so for the trees that live within the turf.

This frequent, shallow watering encourages trees living within the turfgrass to develop shallow roots. When periods of drought occur, these trees do not have a deep root system that would allow them to pull water from deeper in the soil profile and that’s when we see them become drought stressed.

One other problem that trees encounter while living in the over-irrigated turfgrass environment is that daily watering of turf also prevents the soil from drying out, this also is harmful to trees.

Tree roots need oxygen to develop correctly. Soil that is constantly saturated with water will prevent oxygen from being present in the soil. This will prevent proper root growth and this will lead to drought like symptoms.

Furthermore, trees planted in irrigated turf must try to compete with turf to capture moisture and nutrients within that top 12 inches of soil. Inevitably the turf will win every time.

Homeowners will find it more practical to meet the differing needs of trees and turf if they group trees within large mulched beds. Trees would prefer to be watered deeply and less frequently than lawns. They should be given 1 to 2 inches per application.

Healthy grouping of trees on a separate drip line

Healthy grouping of trees on a separate drip line

We encourage watering trees deeply and infrequently to encourage them to develop a deeper rooting system, which makes them structurally stronger and more resilient to years of drought because they can capture water deeper in the soil profile.

A typical tree has most of its water-absorbing roots in the top 12 to 24 inches of soil. Those roots also expand out more than one and a half times further than the drip line of the tree. These massive root systems allow trees to draw moisture from a larger area.

The objective to watering trees should be to irrigate to the depth of the root zone and provide adequate water to the area under the drip line and beyond.

Trees would prefer to receive moisture every seven to 10 days, possibly even 14 days, depending on species. The best way to know if a tree needs to be watered is to insert a soil probe or a 12-inch-long flat-head screwdriver into the ground. If it goes in easily there is no need to water; if it is difficult to insert into the ground, it is time to apply some moisture.

It’s also important not to apply too much water or fertilizer around the trees near the end of the growing season, prior to first frost. That would stimulate tender new growth that could be damaged by the freeze. However, after the leaves have dropped, if winter is dry, water should be added once a month.

Other factors to consider when trying to figure out a watering routine and amount to apply are:

  • Soil: Heavy soils require more water less often. Sandy soils require more applications, but in smaller amounts
  • Location in the landscape: Trees placed on south and west sides of buildings and homes require more frequent watering than trees on the north and east
  • Time of year: Trees need to be irrigated less often in the spring and fall, because temperatures are lower and less evaporation is occurring
  • Species of tree: Some trees species require more water than others

Knowing trees’ water requirements is more than a good way to conserve water; during a drought, it might be the key to saving valuable trees. If water restrictions are enacted, homeowners should give trees higher priority than turf.

 

Special thanks to Amy Seiler and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for information on this article.

Let’s get planting!

At last, spring really is just around the corner and it’s about time to plant the first seeds of this year’s garden.

Depending on the altitude and whether you have a warm southern exposure, you could get outside and plant as early as next weekend

Here’s what you need:

  • Soil that’s warm enough to till – such as a southern exposure. The south side of a building that provides reflected heat will warm up for planting sooner than other areas of a yard.
  • A cultivating tool to even out the soil.
  • Soil that was composted and tilled last fall – or compost to till in now to prep the soil.
  • Seed packets or seed tape which is a strip of paper with seeds placed along along it. Using the tape guarantees a straight row of plants.

What can you plant early?

  • Green Onions
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Radishes
  • Carrotts
  • Peas

Once planted, all of these seeds will stay in the soil quietly waiting to germinate. Some will germinate at a soil temp of about 40-45 degrees and others may need a bit warmer temperature. The good news is that the seeds can sit still in the soil until conditions are right.

Snow and frost shouldn’t bother them and snow will give the soil needed moisture. If there’s no precipitation after planting, watch the soil and if it dries out, be ready to water.

If you’d like to add improvements to your garden irrigation system, call Tina, our Installation Coordinator to schedule a free consultation. We’ll make sure your garden will grow healthy and hearty with a simple to manage watering system. Call Tina at (775) 857-4333.

Vegetable-GardeningDepending on the weather, your veggies should be ready to harvest sometime between the end of April and early May. Then it will almost be time to plant the warmer season crops.

If you want to extend the growing season, you can do what commercial growers do and place strips of black plastic about 18 inches wide on top of the soil. On sunny days, the plastic will absorb heat and bring up the soil temperature faster than if left alone. At higher altitudes where the growing season is even shorter than along the Sierra, this procedure can give an earlier start to the growing season.

When it’s time to plant, simply poke holes in the plastic and install the plants. This procedure is especially good for warm season crops like tomatoes, egg plant and peppers. Using walls of water – the plastic towers filled with water – around plants will also add to the warmth and help protect tender plants against frost damage.