Coffee Grounds, Carp And Vegetable Gardens

What Do Coffee Grounds And Dead Carp Have To Do With A Great Kid-Friendly Vegetable Garden?

I was talking with my brother the other day about projects that would be fun for kids.  I told him I was doing research on a pretty cool method the Japanese use to grow watermelons.

Japan is a densely populated country and space is at a premium.  Farmers don’t have nearly the land we do in America to grow fruits and vegetables.  But, they have discovered a way to help many Japanese enjoy watermelon.  The farmers of Japan have come up with an ingenious way to grow “Square-Shaped” watermelons.

The reason they grow these square-shaped watermelons is because they fit compactly in most Japanese refrigerators.  How cool is that?  The Japanese are expert gardeners and it is no surprise they came up with a way for people to enjoy watermelon in practical terms.

My brother was telling me his son is super excited to start a garden in their backyard.  When my brother told him about the square-shaped watermelons he went bananas.  He thought that was the coolest idea ever!

That got me to thinking about the impact my childhood garden had on me.  Many years later I still have very fond memories of the lessons I learned.  I remember my mom would always put leftover coffee grounds all over the garden.  She didn’t even think of using commercial fertilizers because it was too expensive.

We also did something else to enhance the richness of our garden.  We lived by a fresh water lake in Illinois that was teeming with a fish called carp.  We really never ate the carp, but our mom instructed us to bring the carp home for fertilizer. 

We always had a blast burying the carp in our garden.  We felt like we were making a great contribution because our garden yielded absolutely great tasting tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, squash and other assorted fruits and vegetables.

Having a garden is a great teachable moment for kids.  The things your kids can learn from having a garden are priceless.  Kids and adults learn so much more when they watch and participate in any activity they do.  Gardening fits very nicely into this category too.

Get your kids off the video games and have them get their hands dirty.  Kids love projects that involve fresh air and getting dirty.  It may be best to start small so kids aren’t overwhelmed with a large backyard garden.  Here are some ideas you can do to teach your kids about growing fruits and vegetables:

Get your garden wish list together:  Have your kids come up with the fruits and vegetables they want to grow that will grow in your geographical zone.

Do your research:  Show your kids how to determine what growing zone you live in, what type of soil exists in your area, when the last frost dates usually occur and what pests and diseases they need to be aware of.

Determine the size of your garden and the budget you have:  We’ll discuss simple, small options you have in a little bit.  You also need to determine how much money you’re willing to spend on plants or seeds.  It’s best to look at reviews people give if you are buying gardening supplies online.

Prepare a To-Do List and calendar:  Make sure your kids understand that growing any plants is a process that requires nurturing and consistency.  The benefit of having certain responsibilities will be the pride your kids will take in growing a small garden.

Your strategy may be to start small.  Here are some great ideas to grow micro-gardens to get kids started.  And if you kids are willing to take on larger projects, think about working in 4 foot by 8-foot garden zones.  Most kids can easily work this size garden without having to step inside the boundary to weed or water the plants.

Grow plants in a microenvironment like a terrarium.  This may be best suited for very young kids who are just interested in growing anything.

Recycle your pizza boxes into a garden.  Pizza boxes are the perfect size for micro-gardens.  They are a great experimental size if you want to start small and teach your kids a hands on project.  Once you’re done with the boxes, you can put the cardboard boxes in a compost pile.

Grow a Ratatouille Garden.  A company by the name of sells theme gardens.  For example, the Ratatouille Garden has names for each of their vegetables like The Great Zucchini, Belle Peppa, Eggbert and Tomicio.  How fun is that to have themed gardens your kids will love?

Now that you have established a micro-garden or a small, kid-friendly garden, what is it that you want your kids to remember about their gardening experience?  It’s important to establish a learning foundation for your kids.

The Ratatouille Garden is one of several great themed gardens your kids can establish.  Three of the other memorable themes are Taco Garden starring Hal E. Peno, Salad Garden starring Duke the Cuke and Pizza Garden starring Regan O.

The reason I bring up these names is because they’re cute.  Kids love giving names to things and if they’re giving names to their vegetables there’s a greater chance they will like eating them more too.

You want to evoke a powerful emotion when you are teaching your kids.  Do you really think your kids think about where the green peppers, tomatoes or mushrooms come from on their pizza? Probably not, right?  This is your opportunity to teach them valuable life lessons.

I have coffee grounds and carp burned in my brain.  I know they are good for gardens and even though I never thought of them as being organic products, my mom taught me about organic gardening, accidentally.

You are planting a very important seed in your kid’s brain when you have important teachable moments like gardening.  You have given them the gift of knowledge that no video game could ever do.  You have also taught them to appreciate where their food comes from.

As a sidebar, you are also teaching your kids to eat healthier.  They will always think about the little garden that they grew or that square-shaped watermelon they placed in a plastic container to form its shape.  As a result, they will probably think more about their food choices because they know the effort it takes to grow food.

Talk with your kids about growing a garden.  You’ll be amazed at the enthusiasm they have to get started just like my nephew.  He is absolutely chomping at the bit to show off his square-shaped watermelons.  Let your kids grow and nurture characters like Hal E. Peno or Duke the Cuke.  The memories will last a lifetime.

Be healthy and never stop your quest for healthier choices.

Ray Riechert

Kid-Friendly Vegetable Garden

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