Friday, March 18, 2011

Gardening


copyright Petra Louise-Fotolia.com
 The recent wave of warmer weather in my neck of the woods has me inspired for this year's garden.  We recently moved so this new garden will, in fact, be very new.  We're starting from scratch. 

That has me thinking there'll be a lot of work involved.  I don't mind.  Even though plants fear for their lives when I walk by (and, with my track record, well they should) I love to garden.  Something about getting into the dirt, digging around, and looking forward to that first fruit of my labor is so satisfying. 

As far as homeschooling is involved, gardening is a minefield of learning opportunities.

For instance, you can graph progress:  how long before each type of seedling emerges, measure and see how long the plant is each day, did it grow more on sunny days or shady days, on average how long does it take each kind of plant to bear fruit, calculate the percentage of seeds that sprouted into plants, etc.

You can also test hypotheses: plant the same type of seed in different environments.  Which environment yielded the best results?  Does red plastic under a tomato plant really help it produce more?  Are the results from using commercial fertilizer really as good as the commercials imply?

The kids can learn vocabulary:  yield, sow, reap, mulch, compost, etc.

Science.  Oh, the science you can learn through gardening!  You can test soil pH.  You can test different growing environments, you can test what different nutrient or lack of nutrients make a plant behave, you can try to graft plants, on and on and on...

Your garden study could even branch out into other fabulous topics such as bees, pollination, plant anatomy, insects, soil composition, worms, and more.  So, you see you could make gardening into a whole involved unit study complete with all kinds of hands-on learning.  In fact, here's a unit study on gardening you can purchase for download.  Oh, and here's some others.  And, I'm fairly certain that CurrClick would have some unit studies on gardening, too.

But, now you have to plant your garden. 

Here's a few resources to help get you started if you are interested in starting a garden this year.  I think the hardest thing for me will be to not go overboard.  I finally have a decent plot where I can really grow things.  But, too much and I'll be overwhelmed.  Check with me mid-summer and see if I went crazy with the garden or if I was able to hold back to something more manageable.

I positively drool over the Gardener's Supply Company website.  Oh, if only my thumb were green instead of a puke-y brown color!  But, one thing they did add this year was a garden planning tool.  They have gardens that are already planned out for you.  But, you can also just go ahead and plan your own.  They appear to be using planting methods that are used in the Square Foot Gardening book.

Is the cost of gardening making you go "nuh-uh"?  Well, it can cost as far as equipment and labor is concerned.  But, doesn't everything?  Still, I totally understand wanting to keep things as cheap as possible.  The Dinner Garden site can help you with free seeds.  Check 'em out!

This article has a longer list of ways to get free seeds.

Don't have a lot of space for a garden?  Try container gardening.  Almost any type of container will work.  This article has some great information on how to get started.  Raised gardens are also great for small spaces as well as for those areas with less than ideal soil.

Then, for help, should you need any, be sure to tap into the wealth of resources and information that your local county cooperative extension office and /or master gardening club has to offer. 

Personally, with the direction the prices of produce is going, I'm more than glad to grow my own veggies and herbs.  But, even if my garden doesn't grow well, it'll be fun to go out and play in the dirt a little.

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