By Joshua Burman Thayer
Nature is a great teacher, and there is so much that kids can learn out in the garden while helping produce food for the family table. Sowing seeds for spring crops directly in the ground is fun and a perfect place to start. Spring crops add richness to the soil that will benefit the summer crops that follow.
Step 1: Good choices for spring crops include sugar snap peas, fava beans, radish, parsley, and collards. Buy the seed packets at your local garden supply store.
Step 2: Clear the planting area of weeds, rocks, and old leaves. Use a rake or hand fork to break up the soil and level the planting area.
Step 3: For each person who will be planting, find a stick that’s about the width of a chicken bone. You will also need some long sticks to use as stakes for the sugar snap peas to climb on. All of these sticks can be fun to collect on a neighborhood nature walk before you start work in the garden.
Step 4: First plant the sugar snap peas and fava beans. These seeds should be planted to a depth that’s twice the seed’s size. Have the kids stab the soil to make holes spaced about 1 foot apart. You can let them make their own estimate on the 1-foot distance, since this does not need to be exact. Add a tall stick as a stake at each sugar snap seed so the vine has something to climb.
Step 5: Now scratch a line in the soil that’s about the depth of the width of the stick. Into this furrow sprinkle your collards, radish, or parsley seeds at a 6-inch spacing. Make a separate furrow for each vegetable. Cover lightly with soil.
Step 6: Gently water your seeds until the ground surface is wet.
Step 7: Water the plants 3 times per week.
Step 8: Once the seeds have sprouted, thin out the seedlings so they are not crowding each other. Begin to mist them daily with a mixture of 1 tablespoon kelp meal added to a 750mL spray bottle filled with water. This gives the seedlings the nourishment they require.
Read more on gardening with kids here.
COMPANION PLANTS: ALL IN ONE POT!
Want to do more? Plan ahead and sow some summer crops into 1-gallon pots. Keep them in a sunny window for the next month until it is time to put those summer veggies into the ground (generally after mid-April in the San Francisco Bay Area). The following list shows some summer crops that do well planted together in a 1-gallon pot. All of the following can be direct sown from seed. Follow the same planting and watering instructions as in the above instructions.
Try one of these combos:
- Borage with tomato
- Basil with tomato
- Cucumber with beans
- Peas with squash
- Corn with beans
May 2021 be our best growing season yet! Happy gardening.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Let Joshua Burman Thayer help you can create a year-round vegetable planting calendar and activity use plan.