One of our favorite ways to be active, not busy during spring and summer is gardening! What a great way to get your little ones outside and teach them about plants and the nutritious food we can grow in our own backyards! Now, with summer coming to a close, it's time to harvest your garden and put it to bed so that next year's garden will be a success.
Here are a couple of tips to help you and your little one put your garden to bed—and a great recipe for using up the last bit of produce.
Harvest the Last of Your Veggies
The first item to check off your list is harvesting the last of your summer bounty. This tends to be vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, squash, and potatoes. You'll want to collect them all and ripen them immediately to use in a tasty dish (just like the recipe listed below) — this is a great way to get kids involved! You can ripen tomatoes quickly by placing them on a sunny window sill. There are plenty of methods you can look up to help produce ripen more quickly or more slowly.
If you still find yourself with extra produce everyone loves the neighbor that shares the fruits of their labor, or you can preserve them for use in the winter – see the suggestion below.
Preserve Excess Produce
Certain plants can be removed from the garden and potted to live out their winter in the house. Typically, that will be your herbs. Pick the rest of the herbs that you are unwilling to pot and dry them to use for the rest of the year. Herbs that dry easily and will be useful during the winter include lavender, basil, thyme, rosemary, and chives.
For saving the fruits and veggies it's time to get creative! Freezing produce is always a good option. You can even cook or bake the produce into meals or dough that you can periodically unfreeze and use throughout the year. If your freezer is at max capacity as many are then canning, jamming, and pickling might be the better option for your excess produce. There are millions of incredible recipes out there for preserving your garden goodies using these methods. It will be test and learn at first to see what is (and isn't) worth the time and effort. But, in the end, you might end up with a family favorite that your little ones ask for weekly!
Save Your Seeds for Next Year
Save the seeds of your plants that performed the best. Place them in labeled envelopes with descriptions (as detailed, or not as detailed as you prefer) — have your little ones draw on the envelopes to add some additional flair. Different types of vegetables might have specific best practices for saving seeds, so it is always wise to double-check. Be sure to store them in a dry place and keep them safe from rodents or other vermin. These will be a great help in starting up your garden next season.
Build a Compost Pit
Having a compost pit is useful for gardening and extremely helpful for all of your food produce waste most of the year. At the end of the gardening season having your compost pit set up and ready makes the dismembering and disposal of your garden that much less of a chore. To learn more about composting and how to start check out this article.
Composting is a great way to teach your little ones about recycling!
Weed Beds and Remove Diseased Plants
Now comes the fun part (dirty part?) – Weeding your beds. This is some of the most labor-intensive work, but typically kids are eager to help! Remove the weeds, roots, and all, and place them in your compost pile (be sure your pile is far from the garden since you will be throwing weeds there).
Lastly, you will be removing dead and diseased plants, and disposing of them far from your garden. Next, it is time to chop the stocks of standing plants and assess which plants should be left in the soil. There are many reasons to leave certain plants in the soil. Some give great nitrogen when decomposed and should definitely be left in the soil (beans and peas). These roots can be left and even the chopped stalks thrown back into the garden to decompose.
Other plants, like garlic or other bulbs, can survive safely beneath the soil all winter. Do your research and learn what in your garden can survive. This will save you time and money in the spring without a doubt.
Likewise, there are plants that definitely should not be left in your garden. This is because they are the perfect host for diseases and insects. Squash is a great example of a plant that needs to be removed or you'll find yourself with a squash bug infestation in no time.
Fix Up Your Soil and Put It to Rest for the Winter
This topic is disputed. Some say preparing your soil for winter means tilling it and turning it over. This can expose and expel critters from their burrows and dens. This can help make the soil critter-free, mix it up, and oxidize it. Others state it is crucial to leave it as is and let the lower levels of soil stay protected under the crust of the topsoil. You can run your own tests to see which method works better for your garden.
In either method, as you get into late fall you must cover your beds for protection. The optional covering forms include topping your soil with aged manure or compost first. This can create a great source of nutrients for your plants in the Spring. Second, you'll need to cover your beds with some type of organic mulch like wood chips, grass clippings, or leaves. This will protect your soil and allow it to soak up the nutrients of the manure or compost.
That's our list of To-Do's for you! It can feel like an overwhelming task, but remember that there are many benefits for you and your little ones to get outside and play in the dirt. This doesn't have to be a chore. It can be a great outdoor family activity. We hope this will help you to Be Active. Not Busy. this fall and as promised we have a yummy recipe for you below – enjoy!
Harvest Carrot Cake Recipe
We are so excited to share this tantalizing fall recipe from our friends at Primal Palate! This delicious gluten-free and dairy-free carrot cake features their little palates apple cinnamon seasoning which makes it the perfect fall bake for you and your littles!