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Greetings from the Garden Patch

Do you remember our community garden patch? I wrote a few posts about it last year. Before we knew it, the new growing season was upon us this year. We had to make haste to get our soil ready and crops planted.

We found some potatoes we forgot to dig up last year had volunteered already. So we left half of one of our patches and just filled in some holes. The other half we planted with carrots, beets, kohlrabi. It is always tough to make decisions of what to plant when space is limited.

On the second patch our two families rent we devised a new plan. Last year a terrible thing happened. Some thieves came over night and stole our watermelons. Can you believe it? Who would do such a thing – steal crops from a community garden?

The husbands came up with the idea to plant a maze to keep our watermelons safe. The two outside corners of the patch have fences now. The fence was built using some scrapwood and wire mash. We planted plants (squash) that will climb the wire. A third side of the patch has a construction made of bamboo poles and knotted sisal netting. Underneath this intrepid construction the guys planted stringbeans. Hopefully the beans will grow up the netting and make for nice green shield from that side. Along the fourth side we planted brussel sprouts again.

Hopefully this will keep the thieves out so we can actually eat the watermelons this year. Keep your fingers crossed for us. The children were so disappointed. They work so hard weeding and taking care of the garden, don’t you think they deserve a treat at the end?

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A Year in the Garden, Part 3

My seedlings are growing strong inside and all signs of freezing night weather have passed, so it’s time to plant my cool weather crops outside! I’m very excited in case you couldn’t tell. Earth Day activities always get me in the mood for planting and gardening in general.

In our family, we eat a big salad every day and we like a variety of baby greens, so we are planning to plant spinach and 3 kinds of lettuce this year. As I mentioned a few posts ago, last year I finally reclaimed a prime area of our yard for my garden. We follow the Square Foot Garden methodology by Mel Bartholomew. I highly recommend his book if you like to garden and are short on space. Heck, even with 3 acres, we use this method, as it’s easy peasy and pretty darn fool proof. Last year was the labor-intensive year, as we had to build our raised beds and mix our soil. This year, I get to reap the rewards though as my garden is ready to plant with no work needed at all. I merely evened out the soil with my hands and the beds were ready for seeds.

So lets get started! With the amount of lettuce we go through, I have an entire 4’x5’ bed dedicated to lettuces and spinach. That bed isn’t divided into 1’x1′ squares like my other beds. That’s because I plant a whole row of each lettuce type and I find it easy this way given that the bed is dedicated to lettuces. I also planted 4 other square feet with lettuce since it will be a few months before the summer watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkin crops can be planted there.

Lettuce seeds are tiny, so it’s hard to sow just one in each hole for planting. Never fear, you can cut the weaker ones that sprout once you see what it coming up. I’ve even had good luck transplanting little seedlings to other spots where a seed failed to sprout. This is a great thing to get the kids involved with too. Every child can drop seeds into the holes, no matter the age. My 8 year old pokes the holes, and the 5 and 3 year olds drop in the seeds.

I have a sprinkler set up in the garden and hooked to the hose is a timer so the seeds can get daily water, but not too much. I’m eventually going to do a drip irrigation system in the garden hooked up to a rain barrel to maximize our water conservation efforts, but that’s for another year. 

When it gets a bit warmer, we’ll plant more of the garden, some summer crops this time. I’m itching to get the tomatoes and peppers that I’ve started into the ground, they are all growing indoors quite nicely.

Now is a great time too to firm up your garden plans, and decide what you are planting and where it should go. Don’t forget some flowers too, they are great for attracting bees, and annuals like marigolds are good deterrents for aphids and other bugs that you don’t want in the garden.

Kristi Ashley is a homeschooling mom of three who spends time in the garden or hiking nearby her Hudson Valley, New York home. She is fabric artist, amateur photographer, scrapbooker and avid reader. Find her work and blog at Tickety Bu.

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Planting with children

{getting everyone involved)


This is a variation of one of my favorite projects seen here.

It is important to remember that:

children LOVE to work with their hands!

they ADORE getting dirty!

and they love being part of a greater project that they can literally WATCH grow.

{all hands on deck}


The easiest thing to forget when planting with children is that they will want to get their hands right in there so allow enough room for everyone to work. We used an egg crate for each child and modeled it while planting our own egg crate. In all on this day we planted 4 different types of seeds to be sown as soon as ready.

With egg crate planting you can plant the egg crate in the ground and thin where needed or you can transplant them out of the egg crate when they are ready (with gentle hands of course).


Needed for planting with children:

*A good clear workspace (outside is preferable, but this DOES make a good rainy day project as well)

*One egg crate for each child

* a medium bag of potting soil

*seeds, we love these and these, but any will do!

*gloves for you and the children (if you don’t like getting too dirty) at our house and school for this particular project we like getting our hands in the dirt and making that connection…but not all children will like the feel of dirt (adults included)!

* a watering can or spray bottle

{make sure you get the right amount of seeds in each spot}


You simply fill the egg crates about 3/4 full with potting soil, push a small hole in the middle of each and plant your seed. cover loosely with more soil and water gingerly. set on a sunny windowsill and watch. Your children will be amazed at what they have helped make and when the time is ready (read seed packet for germination times) they can help you transplant into your own home garden.


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The Humble Dandelion- Uses and Making an Infused Oil

It’s dandelion season! And if you’ve not mowed them all down yet, my bet is your yard is covered with them just like ours. Dandelions get a bad rap, though. Don’t look at them as weeds. Look at them as a happy little makeshift herb garden, all over the place! Did you know that the entire plant is edible and that it has so much medicinal value? Well, I didn’t until just few days ago. Sure, I knew you could make a salad from the leaves but I thought that was just about all they are worth. Wrong! Doing a little online digging I came up with so many ways to use the whole plant, right down to it’s roots, which can be roasted and used like coffee or use them as a red or pink natural dye. Of course, the flowers make a lovely yellow dye.
/If you’d like to try eating them you can learn about when to pick here and tips on cooking the greens. They’re also great raw in a simple salad. That link also tells you how to fry and even pickle the flowers. Pickled dandelions… might be fun to try! Read through that link. It’s particularly fascinating. Near the bottom read about making an infusion to be drunk at mealtimes to aid digestion.
/OK, so we’re dying with dandelions and eating them, even drinking an infusion for digestion… what else? Well, the health benefits are numerous. I’m not going to repeat them all here as they been laid out quite nicely already here and here. Who would have thought?! Aren’t plants amazing?  To take advantage of some of those wonderful benefits my little ones and I set out to gather as many dandelion flowers as we could to make dandelion infused oil. This is such a great activity to introduce children to the healing power of plants and actually using them. From start to finish a young child can make the whole thing themselves. This technique works for many plants.

/So get out there and gather those dandelions! All you need to make the infused oil is the flowers. Make sure you are not gathering  from an area that has been sprayed with chemicals! Also leave those near animal dropping. Shake them off to get out any little bugs.


Once you’ve gathered as much as you want (no specific amounts here) pluck the stem off and tear them open to loosen the petals. Place them in a clean jar and then fill to the top of the flowers with vegetable oil. We used grape seed because I like that it’s light and odorless, but you can use any. Stir them about just a bit and tightly close the jar. You might want to label it with the date and then you’re going to let it sit for 4-6 weeks in either a sunny window or a dark cupboard, your choice. Check it the next day to make sure the oil is still above  the flowers. The flowers absorb some of the oil and any air will cause mold. When it’s finished ‘brewing’ strain out the flowers with a cheese cloth and put the clean oil in a sealed container and label. The site said this infusion will last for a few years, especially if refrigerated or in a cool place.


I’m looking forward to making a salve with ours. Just add a little beeswax! What else have you made with dandelions?
Julie Hunter is a wife and mama, raising 3 spirited girls, two babydoll sheep, angora rabbits and a gaggle of chickens and ducks in the North Carolina Foothills. She spends her days at home, crafting with her children, homeschooling, taking long gathering walks in the woods and knitting Waldorf-inspired toys. You can find her blogging and keeping shop at This Cosy Life.

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A Year In the Garden, Part 2

Spring has definitely sprung in NY and it seems the rest of the country too. I don’t have any confidence it will stay this warm (who ever heard of 85° in March in NY?), but it’s made me want to continue with my seeds indoors and plan out the full garden so I can plant outside as soon as it is warm for good.

Last time I talked about garden planning, buying seeds and thinking about what I want to grow. Plans in hand, it’s time to start some plants indoors that need extra growing time, like tomatoes and peppers. We eat a lot of salads and red sauce, so we like a variety of both of these yummy veggies.

Starting seeds indoors can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. I know some that have grow lamps and a mini indoor greenhouse. Those are very handy if you don’t have a lot of light. I am lucky and have French doors in the kitchen that provide lots of light for my seeds and young plants.

In year’s past, I have started seeds in just about every kind of container you can think of. I love the pints that blueberries and cherry tomatoes come in since they have drainage holes in them already and lots of room for roots to develop. Yogurt containers also make great seed starter containers, just make sure to poke some holes in the bottom before planting. This year though I did buy a seed starting planter. It was on sale and I was drawn to its self-watering capabilities. Watering is my weak spot, I tend to forget and with seedlings that can mean easy death to young plants. It even has a handy paper grid for marking what seed is where so I won’t forget what I’ve planted.

Planting in this, or any other container, is easy. Just make sure you have garden soil or peat to start the seeds in, that they have plenty of drainage, and that you mark your seeds as to not forget what you’ve planted (unless you want to surprise yourself later!). Add soil to the container, push the seed into the soil about an inch down and then water from below. If I plant in yogurt containers and the like, I sit those in a larger container or bin and fill that with about an inch of water, giving the planters a chance to draw water up from below, giving the seeds a continuous amount of moisture for germination.

I’ve planted 4 kinds of tomatoes and 3 kinds of peppers and they are coming along very nicely indeed. Makes me excited for the coming weeks when I plant the cool weather crops outdoors, like the spinach and lettuces!

Kristi Ashley is a homeschooling mom of three who spends time in the garden or hiking nearby her Hudson Valley, New York home. She is fabric artist, amateur photographer, scrapbooker and avid reader. Find her work and blog at Tickety Bu.

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A Year in the Garden

To say that I’m excited about this year’s garden is a bit of an understatement. Those who know me know that I love to garden, any type of garden. I have done shade gardening, container gardening, flower gardening, herb gardening and vegetable gardening. If it’s green and it grows, I like it.

Since moving to New York six and a half years ago I’ve been on a non-stop learning journey. I’ve lived in the South my whole life, so the challenges of zone 5 have been all new for me (learn about your own zone here: I spent the first two years here just watching the garden, learning about the shorter growing season and native New England plants. Then, I began planting, rearranging, and taking out things that just didn’t work for us. We have a well established yard with tons of heirloom plants, so it was exciting but daunting.

What was missing from my gardening adventure was herbs, fruits and vegetables. I craved the opportunity to grow our food, but after three years of trying various places around our property I finally decided to take more drastic measures. We took out several large bushes that we didn’t particularly like and reclaimed the perfect spot for our vegetable garden.

This year will be our second year with our vegetable and herb garden. I’m excited to try new things, re-create our successes from last year and enjoy a long year of yummy edibles of all kinds. So let’s get started with this, a first of many posts in this series.

Although my old friends in the South have been enjoying warm weather and have no doubt already completed their first planting of the season, it’s still actually winter. And in the north, that means it’s still cold and there is still a chance of frost and freezing weather. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to be done. Now is the time for planning!

I’ve been scouring my favorite seed websites lately, thinking about what we like to eat and contemplating new things to try our hand at. Here is my short (ok, it’s actually long) list:

Lettuces—read leaf romaine, baby bibb, romaine, spinach
Tomatoes—grape, cherry, roma
Yellow Squash
Bok Choy
Green Onion
Chinese Long Beans
Baking Pumpkins
Bell Peppers

In addition to those fruits and vegetables, we also plan on several herbs and flowers:

Thai Basil

Now that I have my list of what I’d like to grow, I look around at the many varieties. There are hundreds to choose from, but it’s a good idea to stick with heirloom seeds when you can. That way you can ensure your family is getting the best food possible with no genetic modification. Hybrids can be fun, bue ensure that they were developed from good parent plants. That’s usually only possible if you work with local gardeners. Go ahead and order those seeds, some might take awhile to come in and depending on your location, you might need to be planting soon.

From here we need to plan out the garden and perhaps start some of the seeds indoors. We’ll talk all about that next time. In the meantime, happy seed shopping!

Favorite Seed Sites:

Park Seed
Wayside Garden
Heirloom Seeds
Victory Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds


Kristi Ashley is a homeschooling mom of three who spends time in the garden or hiking nearby her Hudson Valley, New York home. She is an amateur photographer, scrapbooker and avid reader. Find her work and blog at Tickety Bu.

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Guess what flower these seed pods come from

Can you guess what plant these seedpods are from?

Here is a hint:

by Fairyfolk on Etsy


The answer:  Snap Dragons!

We have been collecting seeds as the weather gets cooler.  I am not a very prolific gardener so I don’t really even know when I am supposed to collect seeds.  My husband, on the other hand, grew up with this knowlage and has been harvesting the small amount of seeds we have this year.  Marigolds, spinach and snap dragons. It was a lot of fun for our daughter to shake the stick of skulls until all the marbles fell out of the heads!


Written by Rachel from Oast.  A Waldorf doll maker from Canada living in the rolling hills of the English countryside with her daughter, her gestating son and her awesome husband. She also writes at her blog here.

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The Most Beautiful Plant

The most beautiful thing we grew in our community garden patch this year was an artichoke. We had never seen one in bloom before. The intense purplish blue color was stunning. It reminded us of some kind of sea creature – a starfish or maybe and octopus?  You just can’t see such things at the grocery store. You must grow the plants like this in your garden to learn about them.

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It’s been an amazing summer in our community garden patch. We have grown countless yummy veggies and even some fruit. The watermelons are getting big and the kids can’t wait to bring one home soon.

I think one of the funnest things to grow in your own garden is potatoes. I know “funnest” is not a word. But the children insist that this word applies when it comes to potatoes. Have you ever grown potatoes yourself? If not you definitely must give it a try. Even if you don’t have much space they are so worth it.

First you dig a hole. You lay your potatoes down in it. Cover it up with dirt. Water your garden.  Soon you will find green leaves sprouting above.  You never know what’s going on down under. As you watch the plants grow bigger and stronger you just know about the treasure under the soil. You wait and wait. And then one day you grab a pitchfork and go dig up your dinner.

Don’t use a spade or shovel or you may cut your potatoes in half and chop right through them when you dig! The pitchfork is the only way to go unless you want to dig with bare hands. We used our fingers too…

We grew red potatoes and little yellow fingerlings. The golden fingerlings were served the same night. Sorry you won’t find any picture evidence from that dinner. They disappeared too quickly. Tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with some salt and pepper we baked them in the oven. There they turned creamy and yummy. Fresh from the earth they went straight down in our tummy. I swear they were the best thing we ate this year.

Good thing we planted  half of our patch with potatoes. Each week we can dig up a few more…

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What’s growing in our Garden? Guessing Game Giveaway!

This is our second year of owning a community garden patch. Last year we grew a Three Sister’s Garden and grew so many squashes they lasted us all winter.
This year we wanted to try some different plants – plants we cannot grow in the little garden by our house because we don’t have enough space. We planted watermelon,  potatoes, red and white cabbage, cauliflower, parsnips, radishes, carrots, beets and many many more..It’s amazing how much we could fit in our 15×15 feet lots.

One difference I have noticed this year, is that the children are having a much easier time getting into the routine of weeding and working in the garden. Last year there was a lot of complaining and whining about the chore. This year they are really excited to go visit and work. I wonder if they like it better because we planted a greater variety of things, and they are curious about watching the plants as they grow and change. The kids are learning to identify what each plant is, as they get bigger and the produce looks more like food they see at the store. Some items they were not too happy with…

Weeding has been much easier this year since we put down some straw to keep the weeds down. It has helped immensely and I highly recommend doing it. Putting a layer of straw around the mature plants also preserves moisture so there is less watering to do!

One strange thing happened in our garden this year. We found a plant in bloom that I had never seen in bloom before. So I wanted to share a picture with you and encourage you to guess what plant it is.

I will give you one week – until midnight next Friday – to make a guess at what this plant might be. If you guessed right you will be entered in a drawing for one of my little Miniature Dolls in the color of your choice! 

Don’t forget to leave your email address in the comment so I can contact you if you win! I will reveal the answer and the winner next Saturday July 15th, 2011. Don’t forget to have the kids guess too! I remember when I went to camp as a child I really enjoyed the treasure hunts where we had to bring back leaves from a certain plant. What better way to teach kids about nature!

Have a wonderful week! Ulla
Sorry for the lateness of this announcement! THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED! Looks like 15 is Jennifer’s lucky number! She won this Giveaway for a custom miniature doll!