Friday, March 25, 2011

Gardening with Grandma

Smells as beautiful as it looks!
Spring is coming, I know it! It just has to, right? There's ten inches of snow of the ground, how can spring be right around the corner?  One of my most adored verses and my adopted mantra keeps me hopeful: "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" was said by Laozi. I didn't have to try to hard to see spring.  My beautiful hoya is blooming despite the snow!
My hoya is the most coveted plant in our home. It was given to me by my grandmother when she moved to an apartment in 1999. I can still remember how she let it hang around the window near the back door of her basement. It now sits in my kitchen and is thriving. I've never seen so many blooms! It sweetens the kitchen with it's perfume and the clusters of blooms are stunning. I've been thinking a lot about my grandmother these past few days. Her health has taken a turn for the worst after fracturing her hip.  She's also suffering from Alzheimer's. Right now, she's in the hospital recovering, so I'm taking her the hoya blooms this weekend to cheer her up.

Hoya in the kitchen
I am blessed that my grandmother loved to garden and took the time to share that love with me.  She always had a large fenced-in veggie garden every summer. It was so much fun to help her in the garden. She'd grow morning glories every year and let them run through the chicken wire fence. Those soft, delicate blooms would welcome me into her garden.  This year, I've purchased 'Grandpa Ottmorning glory seeds so they can climb the chicken wire fence surrounding our veggie garden. I'm so excited to start the seeds and get growing! Recreating the magic of my grandmother's garden is pure nostalgia for me and inspiration for my two little girls!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Little Sprouts: Vermicomposting

This is an awesome activity to try with your children during those cold winter months.  If you're successful at vermicomposting, then you'll have some wonderful compost for your garden or potted containers come springtime!

Notes: Uncle Jim's Worm Farm is the most affordable place I could find that carries red worms.  I've provided links with the books and Uncle Jim's Worm Farm.  Worms can be purchased via or directly at their site (see direct links below).  You will only need about 10-15 worms per bottle, so make sure you have a plan for the excess worms you're purchasing, since the smallest amount is 250 wrigglers!

Tuesday evening was brimming with squirmy fun and excitement!  Master Gardener Bonnie Rogers showed each Little Sprout how to make their own tabletop vermicomposter (fancy word for worm composter) to take home.  Compost is wonderful for the garden and it is basically plant matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment.  We read some fun books, one called Wiggly Worm by Betty Ann Schwartz and illustrated by Brenda Sexton and Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrated by Ashley Wolff (I erroneously reported to you for the last note that we read this last meeting).  Our evening snack was dirt cups with chocolate pudding, crushed Oreo cookies and gummy worms and slugs!  Master Gardener Bonnie explained what worms do to enrich and aerate the soil and how they help our plants grow healthy and strong roots.  We also learned the do's and don'ts for composting kitchen scraps.  Each Little Sprout was given a pre-assembled compost container, which were made out of two, two-liter soda pop bottles. 

Each Little Sprout went through seven stations to complete their vermicomposter.  The first station they were given sheets of paper and ripped them into small pieces.  Next, they soaked their torn paper into a bucket of water and squeezed out the excess water and placed it into their composter.  Then, they added top soil (important to note that you cannot use potting soil for this step for the livelihood of the worms!).  We had a large bin with worms inside and one of our Girl Scout helpers from Wellsboro Cadette Troop 755 grabbed handfuls of worms and gave everyone the opportunity to pick out the worms for their composters.  It was exciting to watch the kids pick out their worms.  Little Sprout Emma's mom told me after the evening's events she shared with her mom during the car ride home, "First I didn't like worms. Then I learned about them. Now I like worms!"  Now the Little Sprouts can watch the worms break down kitchen scraps.  Each Little Sprout was charged with the duty of adding their leftover kitchen scraps and keeping their plants watered.  There are plants in the top of the composter and when watered, this trickles down to decompose the scraps and keep the worms happy.  The last stage of the composter collects the "compost tea" at the bottom which they can re-use to water their plants, since it's rich in nutrients that plants love!  So many wonderful lessons are encapsulated in this one little activity!  I already see the enthusiasm and success of the vermicomposters at home.  Our Little Sprout, Ara, wanted to save some of her dinner salad for the worms last evening.  This project is a brilliant way to teach children about composting with worms and is an excellent technique for recycling food waste!  Did you know that worm castings in the home garden often contain 5 to 11 times more nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium as the surrounding soil?  The Little Sprouts learned that worms really do a lot to help our gardens grow well.  I'll be posting a worksheet on the Little Sprouts Facebook page that shows how to make one on your own. We also have pictures and videos posted as well:

Special thanks to Master Gardeners Kathy Odenweller, Lori Redell, and Ann Vayansky for assisting.  Thanks to the Wellsboro Cadette Troop 755 Girl Scouts Ashleigh Abplanalp, Shyann Foreman, and Katie Pacific and co-leader Renee Rogers for their assistance at the evening's program.  Thank you as well to Master Gardener Bonnie Rogers for leading the evening's class and donating the red worms, top soil and all the rest of the supplies for making the vermicomposters.  As always a debt of gratitude must be paid to the Friends of the Library, whose monetary support makes these classes possible and FREE for every Little Sprout!

On the 8th of March, Little Sprouts will learn about bulbs and how to plant them! We'll have tulip bulbs for everyone to plant into peat pot containers donated by the Tioga County Penn State Master Gardeners. Each Little Sprout can take their pot home and watch their bulbs grow and bloom. We'll munch on delicious granola cookies while we listen to some really great books all about bulbs and how they grow. We have three new books that the library has purchased for the evening and hope we'll have time to read them all:  Tulips by Melanie Mitchell, How Tulips Grow by Joanne Mattern and From Bulb to Daffodil by Ellen Weiss. By the end of the evening, all the Little Sprouts will have a basic understanding of the life cycle of a bulb.  Following the class, the books will be available for check out.
Click here to download the instructions for the vermicomposter:

Sharon Lovejoy's Grimy Hands Girls' Club!

Sharon Lovejoy

I received an invitation to join Sharon Lovejoy's Grimy Hands Club!
I'm super-excited to join this club!  Sharon has written so many wonderful books about gardening with children.  I highly recommend her books!