My grandkids are built for play and if I want to spend lots of time with them, I have to find creative ways to get outdoors and have fun in ways that make sense to my 50+ body. 🙂 Grandma doesn’t do much tag or merry-go-round riding anymore, but I do love to “play” in the garden. It’s the best kind of outdoor fun to me. I love that I have had opportunities to share my garden playtime with the kids and that like me, they find it a fun and exciting adventure. I love their faces when they see the first vegetables begin to form or when they run into the house and the first words out of their mouths are, “Can we pick tomatoes!!!??” lol Like cooking together and sharing meals together, growing food as a family is a fun activity that has so many lifelong benefits for children. They learn a strong work ethic, patience and perseverance. They learn to provide healthy, nutritious food for themselves and their family. Plus, kids who participate in growing their own vegetables are more likely to enjoy eating them. Gardening with kids is a natural extension of teaching them to cook and sharing family meals. It’s the “play” I’m built for, without a doubt.
The girls and I have been doing some summer and fall plantings over the last few weeks. We cleaned out the lower beds, composted old plants and planted some new crops in the upper deck container garden. The most important part of gardening with small kids, so you can keep them busy and interested, is to plan ahead, be prepared and have everything ready before you start. Then you can all focus on your fun. Before my granddaughters had even arrived to get down to our gardening play, I made sure I had the right tools on hand, seeds gathered and was prepared for anything that might come up in the course of our time together. Being active outside, especially in the garden, means that we can experience an occasional scrape or cut; and while I hope it won’t happen, I like having things on hand, just in case. All our grandkids know that skinned knees and scraped elbows are a quick-fix at Grandma’s house. BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages and NEOSPORIN® are always on hand for help in healing and protecting minor injuries. This week, I added some BENADRYL® Itch Stopping Cream in case we were unsuccessful at warding off hungry mosquitoes and some BENGAY®, for achy back and shoulder muscles if Grandma ended up having to do any vigorous raking or digging. (I lucked out on that one and we had an easy day of container gardening, instead.)
For those of us in the Midwest, and regions further north, it’s traditionally time to plant vegetables in early May, in order to get the best yields from our gardens. Sometimes, though, weather conditions (or just life, in general) keep us from making those deadlines. I hope you didn’t give up on gardening when all the super wet weather kept us from getting plants and seeds into the ground on the traditional timetable, this year. As a matter of fact, you still have time to enjoy fresh garden produce, this year, whether you’re just getting started or are ready for your mid-summer “second planting”.
This time of year, there are some excellent choices that you can still be harvesting into September (or maybe October, if we avoid hard frosts). If you want to reseed cool weather crops like Buttercrunch or Romaine Lettuce you’ll probably want to provide them a bit of shade, during the hottest parts of the day. I like planting them on the deck on the east side of the house, where they get the morning sun, but don’t get “fried” in the afternoons. Fresh lettuce in boxes and pots, close to the kitchen door — it doesn’t get better than that! Most lettuce will germinate and reach maturity in 55-60 days, depending on the variety.
I’m going to do another row or two of green beans, too. Blue Lake Bush Beans are the ones I remember from my childhood and they are good producers, germinating and producing delicious “snap beans” for the table in about six to eight weeks. They’re great for freezing or canning which means you can enjoy the fruits of your harvest this winter, too. I’ve never tried dehydrating snap beans. I’d love to hear your experience and tips, if you have. I’m looking forward to having fresh beans at the end of September and maybe into October if we can avoid a hard frost.
Gold Princess Onions are a cipollini variety. I never have much luck growing onions, but I am intrigued by this type and am told they mature in 75-90 days, when planted in the spring or summer. Typically, I start onions from bulbs, but I am going to direct sow these. I may actually do one more planting, in October or November. I’m told they will winter over and mature in June or July of next year. Maybe that’s the secret I need. Anyway, I am direct seeding this planting and I am keeping my fingers crossed for a good crop, though we will likely only get some green onions for the table from this planting. Gold Princess Onions even tolerate light frosts, so I do have some hope for this mid-summer planting to reach maturity, but I’ll be satisfied with either size. I’m excited at the prospect of being able to cook with them. Italian cipollinis are popular with chefs because of their high sugar content. They’re great grilled, sauteed or roasted. They can be stored up to 180 days in a cool (32 to 50 degrees), relatively dry (60% humidity) space, like a cellar or even a well-insulated garage.
This is also the perfect time to sow a second crop of your favorite herbs. We’re putting in some summer savory, Genovese Basil and some more Rosemary. There’ll definitely be plenty of dried herbs to last through the winter and flavor our favorite dishes.
Radishes, carrots, and turnips are good second planting options for your garden, too. They mature quickly (50- 60 days) and are simple to grow. Another vegetable that fits into this category is beets. I’m planting some, this summer, though I’ve never grown them before. My only memories of them as a kid, were of having them pickled, and I wasn’t a huge fan. I’m reading more and more about the health benefits of beets and I can’t believe how many varieties there are to choose from. I recently roasted beets cut into chunks with onions and carrots, tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper. My family gobbled them like candy! So, I feel like it’s a good time to try to grow this nutrient-rich veggie for ourselves. I will be planting both Bull’s Blood and Golden varieties and I’m hoping to share some delicious savory side dishes prepared with them, this fall.
Shallots and Garlic are perfect for late summer and fall plantings, too, and if you’re a kale or spinach lover, now is the time to get another crop of those cool weather loving crops going. I can never find shallots in our local grocery stores and I’m told they are delicious — milder than garlic but deeper in flavor than onions — enhancing other flavors and reducing the need for so much salt. Shallot bulbs can be planted in late fall to winter over for a midsummer harvest the next year. I wish I had thought to order a few bulbs, but I’m told they can be planted next spring, too, for late summer harvesting. They’re “on my list”. 🙂
With a little planning and preparation, your late summer and fall garden can be as great a success as the one you planted in spring, so why not try your hand at the fun activity and start building memories and a legacy into the little ones in your life who are, after all, #BuiltForPlay!
For more fun ideas and inspiration on how to incorporate play into your life, as well as tips for building your own first aid kit, visit the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® website. Be sure to print the great coupons to save on Johnson and Johnson products to fill your first aid kit, too!