Thursday, July 29, 2010

Little Farmers.

The first time we ever planted a vegetable garden we were blessed with seedlings by friends of ours who lived on a farm. This made the whole experience so much easier! Our garden grew quickly and we reaped a good harvest. Ray enjoyed experimenting with his own planting and he planted mealie, butternut, beans and marrow seeds too.

But all good things must come to an end and after enjoying an easy start to the whole veggie garden experience we had soon eaten all our produce and were left again with an empty veggie patch. Maintaining the garden at that time hadn't been easy as well. I had had lofty ideas of the kids getting involved with the maintenance side when in reality they enjoyed the reaping side more! Picking veggies before they were ripe, pulling spinach leaves off for "rabbit" food and pulling off flowers before they had a chance to become fruit was more of a regular occurrence than picking of ripe veggies.

And so my dreams of a veggie patch were shelved for a while.

At the beginning of the year one of my goals was to start one up again. But I just never seemed to have the time! Until one day Jen asked if she could plant her own vegetables! Perhaps this meant we were ready for a second try. I started to plan-I had learnt that having too much of one crop and planting veggies we didn't eat ended in wasted food. So I decided that we'd only plant what we eat regularly and in smaller amounts at first.

Jenna decided she'd like her very own patch. She quickly designated areas for herself and Michael. This got me thinking of an idea I'd once discussed with our friends of their kiddies sharing some of our garden space. And so we invited them to join us too!
Now I know we probably should have waited until the weather warmed up but I figured: while we were all enthusiastic we'd jump right in and hope for the best! After visiting Hart's nursery in Ottery-they sell individual seedlings which means you can get as many as you like instead of the usual six pack-we were ready to start.

Ticha (that's Charity's husband) was very keen to help so we had the man-power necessary for the first stage: compost. We've been adding to our compost heap for a while now and there seemed like enough for our small patch so with his help we added compost to our soil.

It was rainy, hence the rain coats. But that didn't put the kids off. They happily pretended they were farmers getting their field ready.

A little bit of manual labour to warm themselves up in the cold weather.

Finding new ways of turning the soil when the work got too tiring!

The veggies waiting to be planted: lettuce (two kinds), onions, spinach, cauliflower, brocolli and a strawberry plant. Yes, I do know that's not a veggie! But I couldn't resist buying it as last time we'd tried growing strawberries from seeds and they didn't grow. So I thought I'd give myself a better chance of success and bought one that was already showing signs of producing fruit.

Even farmers need to rest sometimes.

We use old tiles turned over in between our patches to walk on. Here the children are putting tiles in between the four patches.

There was so much learning happening through the whole process. Sorting, counting, sharing, problem solving. I love real life maths!

As there were no tomato seedlings we also planted some of those along with a few beans.

Jenna loved the whole experience and got stuck in to all the little jobs to be done.

Michael enjoyed the seed planting the best!

A day or so later Ticha dug another patch for our carrot, butternut and (possibly) mealies patch. But it was all too tempting and the kids just couldn't resist playing in the mud. As we're still waiting for butternut and green pepper seedlings to grow, which we planted in tins, they've taken full advantage of creating little roads and dams in the sand.

What I really enjoyed about planting the veggies was seeing all the learning happening. Jen had asked if we could make signs for her veggies so I came up with a very simple plan. I wasn't sure at first if Michael would be keen to make his own as he hasn't shown any interest in drawing. But he really enjoyed using real vegetables or pictures from the seed packs to copy onto his own signs! I know I should have taken a close up photo of his drawings but if you can take this proud mommy's word for it-they really looked like the real thing! Maybe he'll be like his daddy one day-Ray is really good at still life's.