Growing Communities Through Gardening

My family and I have lived in North Carolina since 2008. I moved to a very small town, and immediately planted my first flowerbed ever, and the sunflowers we grew in the front of my home were just AMAZING!

Almost immediately, I took an interest in gardening and through it, I’ve worked to create a new and better understanding of the world I live in, I began with the exploration of how to grow myself through the experience of growing the food my family and community eats. I quickly found a group of neighborhood children who were also interested in gardening, and I created a small club of five, not including my three girls.

We turned it into a Community Garden in just a matter of a year! Here are some pictures from that venture, and a few other community gardening projects I have done since then. Happy growing!

Here are ten easy edibles to grow from seed with your children and your family:

1. Beets
Beets are cool weather crops that do best after the harsh winter cold and before the mid-summer heat. They can also be grown when planted in the late summer for a fall harvest. Perfect conditions for bountiful beets include soil at around 60 degrees F, plenty of water, and all the sun they can get.

2. Radishes
Radishes are a great choice because they grow quickly and easily in both the spring and fall. They can be ready to eat in less than a month from the time you plant seeds.

3. Peas
“Nothing beats peas for growing with kids” says Farmer John. Both shorter and taller varieties like to climb. Plant peas early in the season in well-draining soil on both sides of a trellis, by the time it gets warm, you’ll be shelling away.

4. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is rich with vitamins and minerals and is a low-maintenance green.  It is more frost and heat tolerant than other greens. Sow the seeds directly into well composted manure, add water and watch them grow.

5. Beans
Like peas, most beans like to grow up. They can do well when seeds are planted directly into warm soil with something to climb. Beans are for beginners because most varieties produce for weeks and weeks if they are picked. Give them full sun and plenty of water at the root.

 6. Lettuce
Lettuce comes in so many varieties that you’re sure to find one that meets your growing and eating needs. When it’s very hot, most lettuce needs shade. Since they grow close to the ground, they’re perfect to plant in the shade cast by taller plants like tomatoes and beans.

7. Spinach
Spinach grows well in cool weather. If you want a lot, you have to plant a lot. Harvest it like lettuce, either by picking the largest leaves or by cutting all the leaves back to about one inch. If you choose the latter method, spinach will grow back several times throughout the season.

8. Tomatoes
Start tomatoes indoors in February or March.  Once they’re in the ground in a spot with full sun, many varieties will be extremely prolific. For a strong root system, plant the starters deeply, burying the stem up to the lowest leaves as the roots need to develop a strong foundation. As the plant grows, water regularly and expose it to plenty of sunshine. Trim and remove weak leaves and fruit as it grows to allow for ripened fruit and leaves to flourish.

9. Cucumber
Cucumbers are flexible in their growing environments and can grow in containers, raised
beds, rows, or hills.  As long as there is warm weather, ample sunshine (6-8 hours per day), and lots of water, a cucumber will grow. One plant grows an abundance of cucumbers since they grow as bushes. Be sure to space the plants over two and a half feet apart if growing several plants in a row.

10. Basil
Farmer John thinks herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow from seed, but the most versatile is basil. It can be grown both indoors and out. Ensure that it gets plenty of light, at least 6 hours, natural or artificial, per day. Basil thrives in properly drained, nutrient packed soil and needs thinning maintenance at the early stages to ensure strong plant growth.