Garden Time With The Kids!
Story by Dave Feral
June is here, school is out, and it’s garden time! Year-round my wife and I make our living on our small family farm, and each day we are able to get our work done and enjoy our lifestyle, but when school ends in June our children add another level of juggling to the farming. We have always strived to offer our children the opportunity to share in the farm chores while keeping in mind their most important work is play!
Over the years we have experimented with many different fun things kids can do in and around the farm. One thing we all know is young kids love secret places where they can explore, imagine, and role play. This article shares how to create these special places and make gardening less work and more play, so you and your kids can enjoy summer garden time together.
One of the top favorite kid-centered garden related projects is the straw bale fort. This will offer you and your kids a multi-staged activity that is fun, and has a purpose beyond building the fort. The first stage of this activity is planning the fort. Have your child work with you to draw up a plan of what they think the fort should look like…realize you may not have enough room to build Camelot, but even with a small 10’ x 10’ space, a few bales of straw, some cardboard boxes, and some fabric you can create your very own castle on the farm.
You are going to want to purchase rice straw at your local feed store. Rice straw is ideal because it will have little to no weed seed, which is a pro-blem with wheat straw or Timothy Grass. Another more pricy option is organic alfalfa. One huge bonus to using rice or alfalfa to build with is they are both great for mulching once the fort begins to decay.
Once you have your plan and your materials, it is time to build. As you lay out your bales you will want to alternate the layers so the bales overlap, and to be sure to tie the bales together so they don’t slip around. Straw bales are very heavy so if you are going to build up higher than two bales high you want to keep that in mind.
If you have questions there are plenty of do-it-yourself videos online, or you can check out a book on straw-bale house building. There really are no limits to this activity!
Our next farming fun activity is the Scarlet Runner Bean Teepee. For this to work out you don’t have to use Scarlet Runner Beans, but you do need Pole Beans. These are the classic climbing beans of the famed Jack and the Beanstalk tale. To build this you will need at least 16 beans, 8 six- to eight-foot tall poles, and a space that is about 8 feet in diameter. First prepare your soil, next set your poles in place, and wrap in twine, then plant and water in 2 bean seeds per pole. By Mid- August you will have a beautiful kid- friendly teepee!
Another one of our favorite farming activities is the corn/sunflower maze. Again, this does not have to take up too much space, about 12’ x 12’ should do it. First pick out your favorite corn and plant the way you usually do, then around the perimeter dig or till a 6” deep furrow, then thickly spread sunflower seed around the entire corn crop. As your corn and sunflower plants grow to about 6” tall, thin the corn to 12” spacing, and plan a pathway to the center of the patch. As the sunflowers and corn grow tall, be sure to create a place in the middle of the patch for your kids to play. The maze will be ready by late July, and provide many hours of exploration and fun!
Happy family farming this summer!