Category Archives: Gardening

The Grain Project 2

We have finally completed our grain project that we started way back in May.  I don’t think it was as successful a project as growing wheat was in the past.  The Kamut, Triticale and Oats were the only grains that we were really able to harvest.

The soybeans (centre of photo) seemed to do well — at least to the point when this picture was taken – but since they are not really a grain we didn’t include them in the harvest.

The biggest problem with this year’s grain project was the lack of cohesion.  Attendance was sporadic and we had so many changes to the group.  Some of the children that were here for the planting were not here for the growing and harvesting.  The summer children that were here for the growing and havesting had little interest in the project because they did not understand the history behind it.

Still, we did manage to complete the project.  We did not use all the grains.  Since the oats were the most abundant crop we used them.  The children separated the oat kernels from the rest of the plants.  It took a really long time over several weeks because it was a very tedious process.

The wheat was much easier to work with than this;

After some research we discovered that ‘steel cut oats‘ would be a more plausible product for us than rolled oats.  We did do some comparisons with our oats and store bought oats too;

Then for snack yesterday we had oatmeal made from a mixture of our oats and some steel cut oats that I purchased since we didn’t have enough patience to process all of ours.

MMmmmm!  Having tried these I will never go back to quick oats again.  However, most of the preschoolers were unimpressed — claiming this oatmeal was ‘too chewy’.  🙂

Our Garden Grows

The past two summers were very wet.  Plenty of rain meant we never needed to water our garden.  This year has been hot and sunny and the children are thrilled that we have had to water the garden every day. It is still very dry — we need some rain.

The prairie plants on the hill don’t seem to mind the heat and lack of water — being native to this climate they are resilient.  There is a stranger by the hill too;

Probably a weed or wildflower (same thing ?) but I like it so it stays.  Leave a comment if you know what it is.

In the garden, the spelt, triticale and wheat were planted close together and even though we have nametags in the ground we can’t really tell them apart;

The kamut was planted on the other side — I  think it is my favourite of the grains.  It is much larger than the other similar kinds.

The oats seem to be doing very well too but as one of our new type of plant we have nothing to compare it to;

The soybeans are new to us too and I wasn’t sure if they were healthy but they are just beginning to produce some ‘fruit’;

I think the swiss chard looks great! These were leftover seeds from last year when our swiss chard drowned and didn’t produce anything edible.

The broccoli has replaced the kale from past years and proves to be a favorite for the cabbage worms/butterflies;

There are many tomatoes hidden deep inside the dense foilage;

And two purple jalapeno peppers;

And even some Bolivian Rainbow peppers which we moved here from our indoor garden.  These plants were started way back in January and were the only survivors of the white fly infestation;

The corn is much shorter than last year — only about three feet tall so far — but we are hopeful;

We’ve even got some moonbeam squash starting to grow.  Last year it was late September before this happened and it was too cold to grow any more;

The cucumber plants are nearing the top of the trellis;

But the winner of the battle for garden space must go to the zucchini;

I keep cutting them back so they don’t overshadow everything else.  If all the flowers become actual zucchinis we will have hundreds of them.  Therefore I’ve been encouraging the children to eat zucchini flowers — which most of them are eager to do;

Patience

Impulse control and the ability to delay gratification are often difficult for young children.  One thing that gardening has shown me is that I may have some issues in this area as well.

In the past we have started our seeds indoors and then moved the seedlings to the garden once the weather was better and there was little chance of frost.  Last year we started our seeds far too early—twice — and they outgrew their containers.  Many of the seedlings  died before we could plant them outside.

With our unpredictable weather this year I was hesitant to start planting so we only did our grain seed experiment indoors. When the outdoor garden beds were ready we planted our grain seeds;

and some bean seeds and sunflower seeds were put in the planters around the yard.

Then we got busy with other projects until suddenly I realized that we had no vegetable plants or seeds to put in the garden!  Well, at least I can’t complain that we started them too early. Besides, Dave over at Sage Garden Herbs says that in our climate early June is the best time to start planting outdoors.

I made a quick trip to the store for some of our favourites – tomato plants and seeds for corn, peas, cucumbers and zucchini.  We finally start planting our vegetable seeds directly into the garden.

We used toilet paper tubes to mark the spots where we placed seeds so we wouldn’t accidentally pull the sprouts thinking they were weeds.  Hopefully the tubes would also help to prevent the cutworm damage we have experienced in previous years.

It rained for the next few days so we started some herbs indoors.  Since these were leftover seeds from last year or from our winter indoor garden project we were not sure how well they would grow.  So far they seem to be doing well.

I guess I shouldn’t always be using the term ‘vegetables’ since our tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and green beans are actually fruits.  We’ve also learned that the soybeans are also considered to be fruits even though we have included them with our grains.

Now comes the really difficult part for me – waiting.  Every day, when we go outside the children and I head to the garden first.  We marvel at the progress the grains are making – getting taller every day.

Then we check for any signs of other sprouts.  The children seem unconcerned when there are no visible signs of growth and they go off to play elsewhere.  I stay in the garden, waiting and wondering.  Were the seeds not good? Did we plant them too deep and the sprouts can’t reach the surface? I (barely) resist the urge to go poking around in the soil looking for them. I consider secretly planting more seeds in the same spots – more is better – right?

Why are they taking so long?  I know the seed packages say ‘7-14 days’ but the beans sprouted in just 4 days and a week later they looked like this;

Then finally, near the end of the advertised germination period we find the first zucchini sprouts.  By 2 ½ weeks we have corn, several cucumber and zucchini plants and just one of the peas.  You have to look very closely but they are there peeking out of the tubes.

The children are thrilled – they looked, cheered and went off to play again.  I inspect each new plant and then stare at the empty spots.  Why don’t you grow?  I notice all the vacant spots seem to be in the shadier parts of the garden.  That could definitely be a factor but still; it has been nearly three weeks now.

The children are content to wait.  They enjoy the whole process. I expect instant results.  I want to plant seeds one day and be eating fresh veggies by the end of the week.  I am an impatient gardener.

Our Grain Project

I figure it is time for a quick update on our project to grow other grains in our garden besides wheat — background info here. I had purchase some lentils, Rye seeds, Oats, Spelt, Triticate, Kamut, Barley, and Quinoa from the Scoop N’Weigh store.

We began by taking a few of each of the grain seeds to examine at circle time.  I shared some information that I had learned about the various grains, where they originated and what they were used for.

The children examined the grains and I wrote down some of their comments and observations.

  • The Rye stinks – it smells like rye bread (apparently not a favourite bread)
  • The oats look like the rye.
  • It smells like horse poo. (it does remind me of the smell of a barn)
  • I think it smells like carrots and celery.
  • To me it smells like perfume and dinosaurs. (Can’t argue with this since I don’t know what a dinosaur smells like).
  • The quinoa is so cute – it is tiny and cool – looks like a seashell.

Then we glued the seed samples on the paper with the information to keep for future reference.

The following day we planted some of the seeds as a test to see if they would actually sprout – I was still a little doubtful.  Everyone got a turn to put some seeds in the soil.

The quinoa is so small it takes great fine motor skills to plant these ones.

Then I put the tray under the grow light and we waited.  The quinoa was the first to sprout – took just two days! Only two of the six quinoa seed sprouted though so I’m not sure if it will be a successful crop.

All of the lentils, Rye, Kamut, and Triticate sprouted and grew magnificently as did half of the Spelt.  The barley and the oats failed to sprout at all.  I even planted a second batch of each and they didn’t sprout either.  Still, more than 50% of the seeds we planted actually did sprout so I can’t complain.

One of our grandmothers with a farm connection has promised to get us some oats and soybeans from the country.  Maybe we’ll have more success with those oats. Hopefully I’ll complete the work on the garden (that will be another post) and we can get the rest of our seeds in the ground outside next week.