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PreSchool Garden – For Happier, Healthier, (Smarter?!) Students

Headlines have called dirt the new Prozac. We dig it! Educators, parents and community members that have read studies that show how working in soil makes people more relaxed and happy – and possibly smarter – might want to get students involved in gardening projects. For those planning projects for the upcoming school year, take inspiration from this schoolyard community garden. Where last year stood a parking lot, this year grows a bumper crop of veggies and keen minds.

A depaved parking lot serves as a preschool garden.

Most striking about this school garden is the hand-made signs that the kids made to identify the crops. Most have illustrations and color. The occasional backwards “Y” or the “watermelon” sign stretching onto 3 sheets of paper makes them even more endearing.

Kid-made signs add cute color and extend the garden teaching into the classroom.

Why not take 3 signs to write "watermelon"?

To the side is a nice gathering area with natural stump/logs for meetings and lessons.

Stumps to the side of the garden create a nice meeting space for kids.

The layout of the garden uses keyhole gardening principles – basically loops so that you can access many different parts of the garden from different entry points.

Keyhole garden layout at a school garden allows access to multiple beds from one space.

The concept of companion planting is employed, putting plants that grow well together next to each other, like basil and tomatoes.

Companion planting in a school garden with homemade signs.

In addition, after noticing that hummingbirds were attracted to the nasturtiums, they placed a mini-hummingbird feeder above the flowers to encourage more visits.

After noticing hummingbirds attracted to the nasturtiums, they installed a small hummingbird feeder to encourage these welcome visitors.

One section has a series of triangle-shaped mounds that have the squash. It’s not hard to imagine the squash sprawling all over into the adjacent empty spaces throughout the summer.

Triangle raised bed mounds for melons.

Robust squash plants will sprawl every which way.

 

Hops and Fruit Fences

Are you a beer lover? Or perhaps you love to see plants grow before your very eyes?  If so, and if you’re looking for gardening inspiration, you might want to consider growing hops!  These vigorous vines make Jack and the Giant Beanstalk looks like a rookie. Here are directions on how to get hippity hopping next spring with a plant that – according to the owner of the hops plants below – grows more than 6″ per day in the peak season.

Hops can grow more than 6" per day! These are reaching for the sky.

Four flavors of hops, vigorously growing up strings.

Looking to get started on a gardening project earlier?  Love fruit?  This fall/winter consider putting in an espaliered apple tree that can go against a shed (as in this photo) or be used as a natural fence. Harvest Power’s soil products – and tips for planting trees – can help you get your fruit fence established.

This espaliered apple tree will produce lots of fruit.

What gardening project are you planning?

Landscape Inspiration: Mixing Gardens, Raised Beds, and Whimsical Features

In this post we add a new dose of landscaping inspiration presenting a backyard garden that mixes a berry patch, gardens, raised beds and whimsy. What we really liked about this backyard garden is the mixing and blending of function, fashion, chaos, order, whimsy, and practical. Here is a virtual tour.

On the south side of the garden, in the late spring/early summer, the raspberries produce a bumper crop of berries, perfect for a morning bowl of granola or evening fruity dessert.

rasberries

The heart of the garden features an abundance of greenery with plants every which way that create a wild feel. Bursts of flowers provide colorful accents amidst the tomatoes, peppers, kale, lettuce, squash, and other veggie plants. Yet just when it feels too wild, a clear pathway of bricks and stepping stones allow access and create a sense of order.wild garden with veggies and flowers

pathways through veggies and flowers

In addition, throughout the garden, veggies planted directly in the ground grow alongside potted plants and container plants, such as this chard next to a barrel of cosmos and dahlias.

mixing raised beds veggies with potted plants

On the outskirts of the foliage where the garden transitions to a bit of lawn lies a sweet retired wagon that serves as a mini raised garden bed. The 3-inch layer of quality potting mix, plus a blend of flowers and herbs, creates the perfect accent to a small space.wagon with potted plants

dahlia

This garden also integrates a bit of whimsy, illustrated here with a ceramic chicken nestled in the greens. (A nice juxtaposition to the real chickens hanging out in their coop in the corner.)

ceramic chicken

Curious: Which of these garden features appeal to you?

In Bloom Every Month of the Year

During my career in the nursery industry, I was lucky to encounter an amazing wealth of experts in many parts of the United States. As a result, I am able to enjoy something in bloom during every month of the year in my home garden.

SPRING/SUMMER

There are lots of choices for flowering plants during the spring and summer. This is the period when garden centers are full of blooming shrubs, trees and perennials. What takes more research is to extend the excitement of flowers in the fringe seasons, fall winter and early spring.

LATE SUMMER

TricyrtisIn the late summer when most perennials are finishing up their flashy display, I look forward to the flowers that herald the coming of fall. Most of my landscape is dappled, dry, sandy shade, with few full sun locations. August is when such flowers as Tricyrtis, or Toad lilies, begin to bloom. These unusual flowers are easily grown to fill in the empty patches where spring bulbs have gone dormant.

While most people have to buy replacement fall mums every year, there are varieties that are truly perennial. I have a sunny spot that is planted with Montauk Daisy, a somewhat woody shrub that blooms in the mum season with white Shasta Daisy style flowers. Cut it back in winter to about 18” and by bloom time it will likely be 4’ across and 3’ tall.

FALL

camelliasBack in the woods, with an eastern exposure, the fall Camellias begin blooming in October, usually lasting until Christmas or later except when an early winter cold snap freezes the last of the buds and blooms. In some of the milder winters, spring Camellias begin blooming just as the fall bloomers are finishing. (Photo courtesy freestockphotos.biz)

Also in October, hardy cyclamens come out of dormancy and grow new leaves that usually persist through winter. These tropical looking perennial bulbs begin blooming in February and last about 2 months. Happy in part shade, these plants make small colonies, spreading by seed and developing corms that can grow as big as a dinner plate over time. Two species are the most available: Cyclamen coum and Cyclamen hederifolium. Coum begins blooming earlier than hederifolium.

WINTER

Christmas rose, or Helleborus niger begins its bloom season in late December or early January, with its flowers preceding the new leaves. Flowers are usually white or creamy green. Its cousin, the Lenten rose or helleborus orientalis, is named because it flowers during Lent. It has a wider array of flower colors, from charcoal black, to burgundy to pink, yellow and white. Flowers can be double, semi double or single. The spent flowers stay attractive long after the color fades. Cut the old foliage back before new flowers emerge.

About the Author

Jim McFall manages accounts and inventory for Harvest Power out of the Pittsville, MD location. He says, “I’m in Delaware, about 5 miles inland from the ocean and about 2 miles from the Indian River Bay, so those water bodies help to moderate temperature extremes in both summer and winter. It is weather zone 7b. Southern Delaware climate, topography and soil structure is different than northern Delaware.”

Landscape Inspiration: Clothespin Labels and Pallet-Based Greenroofs

Friends of Harvest Power often ask us for garden- and landscape- inspiration. We saw these two ideas at a garden show and wanted to share.

Inspiration #1: Clothespin Labelsclothespin labels - lettuce

Do you like to label things in your garden, either so you remember what it is, or help guide guests towards what they’re viewing? We do, too, only we don’t always like the labeling options available at the store. (Drum roll please….) We saw this cute idea of using clothespins as labels. They’re simple, scalable, easy to move around, and you can customize them to meet your needs.

clothespin labels - amethyst basil

Here is one for Salad Bowl Lettuce, and another for Italian Parsley.

clothespin labels - salad bowl lettuce

clothespin labels - italian parsleyInspiration #2: Pallet-Based Greenroof

As you know, we are all about green roofs and their benefits to storm water management and runoff. Some folks want a green roof, but cannot remodel their home. Or perhaps they just need a bit more surface area to garden but don’t have space on the ground. Voila: pallets! Pallets can give shape to a simple greenroof that you can put on an outdoor shed or children’s playhouse. Just line the pallet with liner, add potting mix, and your favorite shallow-rooted plants.

pallet green roof garden pallet green roof

What garden inspirations have you seen recently?