Veggie Gardens 101
Right now, I’ve got a dream job working as a food/garden consultant at Mount Kisco Child Care Center for their Feed Me Fresh garden to table curriculum. What makes it so special is the fact that I had worked there close to 10 years ago, developing the food piece of their curriculum. Back then, I pushed a little cart into the classrooms and cooked with the children. These days, the teachers are completely invested in cooking once a week with the kids. Nothing floats my boat more than seeing young children enjoying kale, green pea soup and freshly sauteed asparagus.
In my years of school food advocacy, I learned that the earlier you get kids enjoying real food, the better. The Feed Me Fresh program has toddlers and preschoolers growing, preparing and enjoying fresh local food. Alice Waters would be so impressed if she were to visit this edible pre-schoolyard!
This year the center is diving deeper into the garden piece thanks to the addition of an amazing little greenhouse. Made possible by grants from both IBM and the local Slow Food chapter. Fortunately, I’ve gained some good gardening experience over the years working with the SunRaven Mindful Gardening project, the garden at Camp Ballibay and my own little spot in the Chappaqua Community Garden. While I’m not a master gardener or anything fancy like that, I know enough to help inspire you to get your hands dirty and grow some food of your own.
Mother’s Day weekend marks the unofficial start to the gardening season. Many local Garden Clubs are holding plant sales this Saturday. These sales can give you a jump start on your veggie garden.
Unless you’re a hard core gardener who likes to start seeds indoors in February or March, its a smart idea to buy some of your garden plants as seedlings. Here’s some ideas to help you decide which ones to choose for your garden.
Super Easy-to-grow vegetables: If you plant these in the next two weeks or so, these vegetables are almost foolproof: broccoli, bush beans, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, squash, Swiss chard, and tomatoes.
Heat-loving vegetables: These vegetables will do exceptionally well if we have a hot sunny summer like last year: beans, corn, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Vegetables for shadier gardens: If you have a garden plot that receives fewer than six hours of direct sunlight, try these vegetables: beets, carrots, kale, lettuce, radishes, scallions, spinach, and Swiss chard.
Kid-friendly veggies: The following vegetables are fun, easy-to-grow plants, kids love to harvest and eat them – sometimes without even leaving the garden! Try carrots, cherry tomatoes, pole beans on a teepee, pumpkins, seedless watermelons and Swiss chard.
Herbs are easy too. You can start with a small plant it will take off and provide you with with abundant amounts of fresh herbs all spring, summer and fall. There are lots and lots of varieties of basil, but don’t forget rosemary, parsley and cilantro.
Other veggies do best when started from seed.
Radishes are great to start from seed. They grow very fast – if you’re the impatient type, this one veggie that will give you great satisfaction. For an added bonus, if you let some go to flower, you will find lots of new beneficial insects coming to your garden. Radishes grow well with carrots or beets, which will take more time but are worth the wait. Plant a few rows of these seeds in your garden, they don’t take up too much space!
Beans are another no brainer that do best by putting the seed right in the ground. You can choose between bush beans or pole beans, ones that like to climb.
Squashes are easy to get going from seed or you can buy a few seedlings. You won’t need too many because they take up lots of space and you’ll get lots of squashes per plant when they are growing happily in the sun. Choose from summer squash: zucchini, yellow and patty pan squash are easy choices. Winter squashes include butternut, acorn, kaboocha and of course, pumpkin.
Give it a try! Either seedlings or seeds. You’ll be amazed at what Mother Nature brings you. Get your hands dirty! Stay tuned for more garden tips as the season progresses.