September 13 - 19, 2015: Issue 231

  Salad Garden for Children 

Cherry tomato on vine - courtesy  Connormah

 Salad Garden for Children 

Do you have youngsters who love to play in the dirt or love to help out in the kitchen making all kinds of good things to eat?

This week we’d like to share an idea that occurs in many local schools where children grow their own food and then have a lovely feast once their home-grown crop comes in.

As we’re heading into Spring and Summer Salads will soon be what we all want to eat, and younger people love raw carrots and sticks of celery or little tomatoes (cheery tomatoes) or lettuces that can continue to provide leaves over the whole of these seasons simply by picking the outer leaves and allowing the others to continue to grow. Cucumbers are great to eat and can be made into a yoghurt raita too – great for carrot and celery stick dipping.

There’s beetroot for burgers and onions to go with sausage sandwiches, or garlic for salad dressings – everything they like to eat they can grow and have fun and gain a sense of great achievement bringing to the table the best food in the neighbourhood!

Do your children like herbs? How about growing some parsley or thyme, rosemary and basil. These scrumptious aromatics can add yumminess to roast chicken stuffing or a basil based pesto for pasta.

To begin some preparations and decisions need to be made

1. Garden Plot or Garden in Pots?

If you have a lot of possums and bandicoots in your yards, or limited space, you may want to think about planting your slada garden in a series of pots that can be covered over at night so these little munchers don’t have the pick of all growing before it’s big enough to eat. Small just sprouting plants taste great to these local furry residents. We grow our herbs in pots and just put a big bucket over them at dusk as we have found our resident possums just love our parsley.

If you think a garden plot will be alright for what you want to do then choose a spot in the yard where it will get enough sunlight to promote good growth but not so much that it will be too hot for your salad plants once Summer’s sun rises.

2. Soil Preparation 

Once you have decided on pots or a plot you need to make sure the soil itself will be healthy enough to feed all those growing youngster plants. A good compost bin works well here to mix in with the dirt and also some fertilisers – mum or dad or grandma and grandpa will have to do this bit for you – gloves and a mask are required. It’s also a good idea to let this new mixture sit in the soil for a day or two, watering and turning it over a few times prior to planting any seedlings or seeds. That way tender roots won’t come in contact with fertilisers that may burn them.

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You can also apply pellets of plant boosting food to pots, if that is what you have chosen to do. An adult to help is a good idea there too – you don’t want to put in too much and you need to work out what fertilisers will work best for what kinds of salad ingredients you want to grow.

You can probably help with the mulching – mulching is a layer over the top of the soil, in either some hay or some bark, that will protect the soil from blowing, feed it as well as it changes into compost itself, and keep water you spray, when watering your garden, in the soil a lot longer – very beneficial to your garden!

3. What to plant and How to plant it

Once you have prepared your soil make a list of what you want to grow and perhaps do a diagram as to how you will plant out your salad garden. Things that grow tall and on a trellis or supported by stakes, such as cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums, would look great at the back of the garden, where they will still get lots of sun. 

Smaller closer to the ground plants, like the herbs, will make an attractive and easy to reach border. 

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Lettuces in a row will grow best in the center of your plot, as will celery, and under the ground root vegetables with light green fluffy tops on either side of these will benefit from the sun overhead, while beetroots could go towards the back too, just before your capsicum/cucumber wall of green eatables. 

Corn would grow best in a row by itself too - and could be used as a bit of a windbreak as it grows if you have a yard that gets a strong sea breeze like those that run in November.

If you make your list, and do a drawing, you will not only do what’s best for ensuring you get a good crop, you will also have a garden plot that looks good – or ‘good enough to eat’ if you will pardon the pun.

4. How to look after

Once everything is planted you need to keep an eye on your babies. Watering them well in the morning, and if it has been a hot day, an hour before dusk too, will stop them from wilting or not growing – plants get very thirsty too! Aim the hose towards the roots of the plant, not their leaves so much as water sitting on leaves under sun can scorch them – the roots is where they drink anyway – they don’t need too much elsewhere unless it has been dusty and you want to clean dirt off the leaves so they can get more sunlight to help them grow.

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When and as they begin to grow, some plants will need some help standing up – this is where staking for tomato plants or a simple trellis or frame to help vine like plants such as capsicum and cucumbers stand or grow upright will need to be done.

If you have chosen pots to grow your salad garden in, you can still do this, just with smaller versions.

The other thing you need to do as your plants grow is keep and eye on their leaves – this is where the health of your salad vegetables shows – discolouration means something is growing wrong and you may need adjust their food. Perhaps too much fertiliser has been added by mistake and something else is needed to balance this out – or they may not be getting enough food from the soil, and something else needs to be added. 

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The other part about leaves is when they have gone brown and finished to gently pluck away those leaves.  That stops the plant sending everything needed to keep growing a leaf that has finished to that part of it and allows the plant to send, instead, all that good stuff to the parts still growing.

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As your garden grows there may be a few weeds that pop up here and there, blown by the wind as seeds into this wonderful soil – these too will needed to be pulled out so they don’t take the food your salad vegetables need. It’s a good idea to pull these out soon after you have done the watering – the soil will be soft and it will make it easier to get the whole weed, roots and all, and that will stop them growing back.

These weeds and discarded leaves can go into your compost bin to become more food for future gardens!

5. The feast!

After around six weeks the first of your salad and barbecue and pasta ingredients will be ready to pick. It’s Yummo Time!

You may even be able to put a whole meal together – some pesto spaghetti, with a nice salad on the side, or some mushrooms stuffed with your own herb seasoning.

As we have suggested salad vegetables and herbs that will keep producing throughout these two seasons, as long as you pick the outer leaves of your lettuces, or the rip tomatoes, you should be able to bring something to the table until the end of Summer.

We hope you have great fun with your very own Salad Garden and learn a little bit about all the nice things you like to eat this Spring and Summer!

Bon Appetite! 

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All you may require to put together this Salad Garden, from boards for around your garden plot, to pots, to fertilsers, garden trellis and the seedlings and seeds themselves, can be bought from your local Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 Hardware stores - just pop in to the Avalon, Mona Vale or Narrabeen outlets and talk to their trained friendly staff about your Salad Garden for 2015/2016.

Products advice is available from the trained friendly staff at Mona Vale and Avalon Johnson Brothers Mitre 10. 

Click on logo to visit Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 website

Johnson Bros Mitre 10 - Avalon            (02) 9918 3315

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