Dig In! A Peek inside a Kids in the Garden Class

Sunshine peeped through clouds as fourteen happy families gathered around Farmer Jones for the eagerly anticipated March 13th Kids in the Garden class. Following COVID protocols, the class was divided into two sessions so families could sit at separate tables and everyone had worn colorful & garden themed masks. Kids class volunteer, Donna Weber, checked in families with cheery greetings, took pictures, and helped lead composting and planting time.

Dirt is all around us.

“What is this brown stuff around us?” asked Farmer Jones? The kiddos answered, “Compost,” “Dirt” and finally, “Soil.” Farmer Jones reviewed and passed around sample trays of four types of soils: compost, sand, rocks, and clay “Can all of these soils support plants? Which is the best for gardening and growing our veggies?”

Compost is nature’s amazing way to recycle nutrients back into the soil. How about your kitchen garbage? Little hands shot up – all curious to share the contents of the family kitchen garbage they were instructed to bring to make composts.

Farmer Jones showed and shared the GREENS: the garbage that adds NITROGEN to the compost, along with coffee grounds, green weeds and grass clippings. She cautioned against stinging nettle – it can go into the compost, but you don’t want to pick it bare-handed.

The BROWNS that recycle CARBON are newspaper (so much fun to tear and shred), junk mail (without the glassine windows), straw, and dead plant parts (leaves). Be sure to add minerals (crushed dried eggshells) and moisten (to activate the bacteria on all this cool stuff).

Composts shouldn’t include bones or meat (they smell and attract critters) or fibrous plant parts (they don’t break down easily). With this mixture of components and the help of compost critters like grubs and larvae, the compost will heat up and break down to crumbly, nutritious soil for gardening. Worms help too, but not in a hot compost.

Tomato, Broccoli, Cabbage, Zucchini, and Strawberry - Oh My!

Planting was the final focus of the class. Farmer Jones demonstrated the depth of the planting hole, adding and wetting compost, and then proper handling of the plant starts – hold carefully, tickle the roots, fill in the dirt, and make a moat to keep water in the root area.

Now the families were ready to join in. They checked out their tray samples filled with unfinished compost at the tables and explored the components: soil, leaves, weeds, straw, and bugs. They shredded newspaper and added their garbage to make a compost. Wetting down and including those in our Children’s Garden compost container will make some great soil!

The kids dug in with hand trowels, making sure their holes were deep enough, added a handful or two of compost, wet it down, then carefully chose their vegetable to plant. “I like broccoli.” “I’ll take cabbage, please.” The chance to plant and grow these veggies stimulates interest, promotes trying, and perhaps even adding these nutritious foods to their list of favorites. An especially dedicated budding gardener planted a bed with wildflower seeds to brighten up our garden this spring.

Now that we’ve planted our starts and added fencing to discourage the bunnies from nibbling, the kids can watch these “Incredible Edibles” grow with every visit to the gardens and see where their food comes from.

Kids in the Garden Class is free with Family Membership in the Gardens

Families need to pre-register for the class with Farmer Jones at farmerjonesavbg@gmail.com. The next class will be April 24th “Caring for our Earth” Day. The schedule for the year is posted on the AVBG website and in kiosks at the Gardens. https://altavistabotanicalgardens.org/kids-in-the-garden-classes-saturday/

Farmer Jones has loved teaching the Kids in the Garden class at AVBG for 12 years. She is a 25-year Master Composter who is ready to answer all of your composting questions (kids and adults too): farmerjonesavbg@gmail.com