Central Farm Markets

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5 Tips for Happy Gardening with your Kids

Gardening with kids

For many of us, gardening is a rite of Spring. Beds are turned and seedlings are planted in the cool damp earth. As the new garden fills with tender young green plants, we envision a summer filled with flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Gardening with kids can be a truly amazing experience. It is an easy, fun and educational way to spend time together.  Gardening incorporates a hands-on activity with developing skills, knowledge and understanding of nutrition, agriculture and the environment. Studies have even shown that by involving kids in gardening, you can improve their diets.[1]  When summer comes and the vegetables are ready to eat, the kids can help you plan meals around their garden. Choosing healthy recipes and involving the kids to make good choices will instill nutritional habits that last a lifetime.

Some area schools now have gardens and neighbors banding together to create community gardens. Whether it’s in your backyard, at the school or in a shared space, gardening provides a happy and healthy social gathering place for all.

 Here are 5 tips for happy gardening with your kids:

1).  Ask for help and advice if you are new to gardening; talk to your local Master Gardeners or horticulture club.

2).  Keep your garden project child focused and child-led. Keep it simple, colorful and easy to walk around in.

3).  If your garden produces an overabundance of vegetables, have your kids go with you to the local food bank to donate some of the produce. It teaches them about the world around them.

4).  Be sure to have a reliable source of water, watering cans or colorful hoses and small gardening tools for the kids to use.

5).  Work with your children to learn how to prepare new snacks and family meals around your garden veggies.

 

Reading is another way to teach your kids about gardening and eating well. We recommend these books for you and your family:

 1. Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert

2.  Eating the Alphabet. Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

3.  The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin

4.  Blue Potatoes, Orange Tomatoes: How to Grow a Rainbow Garden by Roselind Creasy

 

We wish all of you a great gardening experience! If you have a family or community garden send us pictures this summer so we can show you off to all of our readers!


[1] Morris J, Koumjian K, Briggs M, Zidenberg-Cherr S, Nutrition to Grow On: A Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education Curriculum for Upper-Elementary Schoolchildren. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002; 102:91-93

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The joys of fresh Baby Bok Choy

Baby-Bok-Choy

As the world around us fills with the green of Spring, so too, do the produce stands at the market. One of the joys of spring can be found in the tender and fresh baby Bok Choy.  They are a delight to look at and a treat to eat.

Bok Choy is a form of leafy green cabbage and originally hails from China, Philippines and Vietnam. If you think Bok Choy is a relatively recent addition to our food scene, you might be surprised to find that an archaeological excavation of an ancient Chinese village found Bok Choy seeds that were more than 6,000 years old!

Today baby Bok Choy is making a sweet statement to main dishes, showing up in restaurants across the US.  It is a wonderful vegetable, low in calories with a high nutrient and anti-oxidant content. The best part is that you can eat the entire plant; leaves, stem and bulb. The baby Bok Choy  is really the full-sized variety harvested before the plant has a chance to grow into an “adult.”  You will know you have the “baby” if the head is seven to nine inches in length with fully shaped leaves on short stalks.

Bok Choy can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days in a paper bag. It is easy to cook and  will maintain its beautiful shape under high heat, but be careful because the delicious sweetness can be easily overwhelmed.

We recommend using simple ingredients that allow the sweet flavor to shine through. As with all fresh produce, it is best to let the natural flavors come through. Heavy sauces or too much of a glaze will overpower many fresh vegetables.

Here is a lovely Spring recipe for Baby Bok Choy, which are now available at the Young Harvests stand at Bethesda and Pike Central Farm Markets. While you are at the stand, ask Rob, the owner, to tell you about the other “baby” greens he grows. He will even give you a taste right there.  Enjoy and sweet eats!


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Green Gardening Tips from the Master Gardeners

gardening tips

On Saturday, April 20, the Montgomery County Master Gardeners will hold their first walk-in plant clinic at Pike Central Farm Market, and will be there to give out gardening advice and to answer any of your gardening questions.  The Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who are dedicated to educating Montgomery County residents about safe, effective and sustainable gardening practices that build healthy gardens, landscapes and communities.  Here are three green gardening tips from the Master Gardeners:

1. Match the right plant to the right place: some plants need a lot of sun, while others are better off in the shade. Test the pH of your soil and group plants with similar sun, nutrient and moisture needs together.

2. Conserve water use: skip the sprinkler; let grass grow dormant in the summer.  Water your garden one inch at a time in the morning to reduce evaporation.  It’s also best to add 2-3 inches of mulch in garden beds to retain moisture, but you should keep mulch away from tree trunks.

3. Be careful with pesticides and fertilizers: select the least toxic and most effective products to control pests, and apply compost to the garden for a healthy living soil.

The Master Gardeners will hold their free plant clinics on the third Saturday of each month at Pike Central Farm Market. For more information on the Master Gardeners, please visit their website.