Environmental Learning Gardening Q & A Green News Natural Play

Three Little Gardens Part III: Science Squared

Growing Green Hearts was able to coach (and coax) gardens into all three backyards and the hearts of families that play there.  The storms of June 2013 huffed and puffed but they could NOT destroy these three little spirited starter gardens!  From suburbs to city, these stories talk of creating space and time for some healthy eating and exercise with backyard garden plots and playspaces.  Our third case study takes us to St. Louis Park, Minnesota.  Renae is an engineer with two playful preschool kids and an athletic husband, Ryan, who is also an engineer but he’s not into the green scene as much as she is…yet.  Their recently remodeled home has a moderately sized yard with beautiful trees for shade.

As a civil engineer, Renae knows how parts of a system work together to run smoothly.  She wanted a place out her back door where she could experiment with gardening for herself, grow some favorite foods for Ryan to cook with, and allow the kids to observe science in action.  In conversation with Renae, she thought that this could become a permanent fixture in the yard.  I recommended raised beds in a sunny spot where they would be seen but not trampled (as compacted soil is not condusive to high yields)!  She chose a place alongside the garage.  In conversations that followed I recommended creating boxes for the raised beds that are 4’x4’ squares.  This size is user-friendly for adults and children to plant, mulch, pick or weed from around the edges.  4’x4’ raised beds should be high enough to keep the bunnies and squirrels out, keeping in mind that the higher off the ground the more compost fill you will need.   Having raised bed of varying height creates and stylish look.  Renae also picked out a classy wooden trellis for climbing plants such as peas, beans, and cucumbers.  As one busy mom to another, I shared the importance of mulch to reduce weeds, retain water, and regulate soil temperatures.  Newspaper, grass clippings, cedar, or straw work well.

In June they had put in vegetable plants purchased on a family trip to the garden center, and in August were picking Roma tomatoes by the bowlful.  Homemade pizza, roasted tomatoes with pasta, or an Italian caprese salad might be on the menu!  Maybe next year they’ll start their own from seeds on a snowy March day?  Or get cookin’ with heirloom varieties?  or cook then can some homemade tomato soup and put it away for a snowy day.  Only time will tell how this science squared story continues! Play. Learn. Love.

September 2013