Ecoyards provides complete lawn and landscape services with an emphasis on quality customer service and environmental responsibility.

Posts in the category "Vegetable Gardening"

Straw bale gardening – using a bale of straw as a raised vegetable bed

March 24, 2013 @ 8:00 am
Straw bale garden. Photo by GradyJames via Creative Commons license.

Straw bale garden. Photo by GradyJames via Creative Commons license.

Several years ago when I took an organic gardening class through Seattle Tilth, our wonderful instructors introduced us to one of the more intriguing ways to garden. It involved using a bale straw as the “raised bed” for your vegetable plot. If you lacked good soil or any soil for that matter (perhaps you only have a concrete patio out back?), you could use straw bales as would-be container. Scratch the top of the bales, add a few inches of compost or potting soil, plant your seeds, water (set up a drip irrigation hose), weed, and watch the lettuce and other veggies grow. At the end of one or possibly two growing seasons, take the bales apart and add it to your compost pile. Easy, right?

The New York Times recently published an article on straw-bale gardening, which got me thinking again about the process this week. Is it a gimmick? Could it work? The NYT interviews Joel Karsten, who wrote a new book “Straw Bale Gardens.” The article also notes that it’s not a new practice;  “commercial growers experimented with straw bale, arranging it in greenhouses or laying it in outdoor trenches” from the 1950s through the 1980s. It was apparently common in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Local urban horticulturalist Linda Chalker-Scott, with the Washington State University Extension in Puyallup, also weighed in; she liked straw-bale gardening as a low-cost technique that uses natural waste materials and mimics natural processes. “This is one of those practices that disappeared for no good reason,” she told the NYT.

Vegetables growing in straw bales. Photo by GradyJames.

Vegetables growing in straw bales. Photo by GradyJames via Creative Commons license.

How does straw bale gardening work? The straw bales (the kind you would find at your local pumpkin patch – choose weed-free straw over hay, which tends to have weed seeds) create a raised bed that’s about two or three feet high; it’s wheelchair-friendly as well as old-joints friendly! If you can find the bales (which retails for about $15 for a full weed-free bale), it could be more affordable than building a planter box or raised bed. Another advantage is that you could move the bales around from season to season. The straw slowly decomposes over time, releasing nutrients as well as residual heat to keep your plants happy against the Northwest climes.

You’ll need to condition the bales before you start planting. This will take about 1-2 weeks and allow the straw bale to decompose a bit. Here’s a good tip sheet from WVU Extension on the step by step process of getting the bales ready for planting (this will require placing the bales, keeping them damp, adding fertilizers and waiting a bit for the bales to cool down. Here’s another fact sheet on straw bale gardens. Seattle Tilth usually has a straw bale garden at its garden at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford in case you want to see one in action.


Filed under Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

Try planting edible perennials in your garden

March 20, 2013 @ 10:51 am

As you plan your edible garden this year, you may want to consider adding hardy and edible perennials (plants that live for more than two years) to your standard list of tomatoes, peas and lettuce. Perennial vegetables and fruits, such as asparagus, leeks, raspberries and herbs like rosemary, give you lots of bang for your buck, are productive over multiple years, and often don’t require much maintenance. Here are just three of our favorites:

Growing asparagus. Photo by Willow Gardeners via Creative Commons License.

Asparagus. Photo by Willow Gardeners via Creative Commons License.












Asparagus. It make take a few years before you can harvest the spears from asparagus, but once well-established, your plant can continue to produce for 15 to 20 years. How’s that for an investment? Many garden stores and catalogs such as Territorial Seed sell asparagus roots that will give you a one- or two-year head start over seeds. Plant the roots (or crowns) in well-drained soil, about 8-10 inches deep, in early spring, usually from April 15 to May 15. In fact, most seed catalogs and stores sell/ship the crowns in April, and you may have difficulty finding roots for sale after that time period.

Cardoon. Photo by knackeredhack via Creative Commons license.

Cardoon. Photo by knackeredhack via Creative Commons license.










Cardoon. Cardoons are lovely perennial plants that are part of the aster family and related to artichokes. Their striking gray-green foliage make them a great choice for low-maintenance landscaping beds; they enjoy full sun, require minimal water and can tolerate rocky, clay soil (perfect for the Northwest). Cardoons grow fairly tall, about 5 feet. They produce large, purple, thistle-like flowers. But unlike artichokes, which are prized for their edible flower buds, the thick stalks of the cardoon are the tasty part of this plant. You can harvest them in the fall by cutting the stalks at soil level. As Sunset magazine suggests, you can boil the stems, or sizzle them in butter and oil.

Rhubarb. Photo by Ecoyards.

Rhubarb. Photo by Ecoyards.












Rhubarb. This gorgeous perennial thrives in the Pacific Northwest with its beautiful red stalks and forest green leaves. The stems die at the end of the growing season but return in the spring. The stalks range in color from green to red. They’re great for pies, jams, cakes and sauces. The leaves are poisonous! In the spring, cut the plants blooms so it can focus its energy in the stalks and leaves.


Filed under Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

From lawns to gardens – removing grass areas to make room for more veggies

January 31, 2013 @ 10:49 am

If you haven’t had a chance to read it, the New York Times’ Mark Bittman has a good piece on the benefits of converting lawns into gardens. Bittman calls attention to a situation in Orlando, where a couple was threatened with a $500 a day fine for planting vegetables in their front yard. A neighbor had complained about the yard being an eyesore, or rather for looking “like a farm.”

According to the NYT, when faced with a violation from the city, the homeowner “stood outside his polling site during the last election circulating a petition to change the current code, and then appeared on a local TV news station, telling the reporter and any city officials who happened to be watching, ‘You’ll take my house before you take my vegetable garden’.”

“The battle has been raging for months, and the city’s latest proposal is to allow no more than 25 percent of a homeowner’s front yard to be planted in fruits and vegetables,” Bittman writes.

Fortunately, the city of Seattle has been encouraging residents to plant urban gardens for a number of years as the urban farm movement has taken hold. The mayor and others even recently expanded the number of P-patches in the community where residents can garden if they don’t have their own plots. Still, it wasn’t long ago when homeowners were chastised for not obtaining a $225 street use permit to plant vegetables or flowers in the city-owned property known as parking trips (located between the sidewalk in front of your home and the street). We wrote about the city revising the rules in 2009 after much citizen uproar. The new guidelines are here, and homeowners are free to plant fruits and vegetables in that city-owned parking strip, with some exceptions; for example, the city says don’t plant fruiting cherry, apple or pear trees that may drop fruit and can pose a safety risk to oblivious pedestrians.

Not every homeowner will want to tear up their front lawns or even devote the time to keep an urban vegetable plot. Let’s face it, vegetable plots can be very time consuming, and not too pleasing to look at during the winter months (the city suggests planting a winter cover crop to keep soil from running off the property and into the storm drains). We think there are certainly benefits to having lawns (think young kids and pets), as long as they’re maintained and grown responsibly. Read more about how we maintain lawns in a ecologically responsible way, including leaving grass clippings on the lawn, using organic fertilizers sparingly, avoiding pesticides (weed and feed products), planting grass seeds that thrive in the Northwest, and going easy on the watering hose.

We’d like to hear from those who are tending vegetable gardens in parking strips. What are you growing in winter months? What are you planning to grow this season? Are there vegetables or fruits that work better than others?

Contact Ecoyards to setup a consultation if you’d like to convert your lawn area into a new garden.

Filed under Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

Gardening in planting strips

October 27, 2012 @ 8:00 am


Ecoyards makeover of West Seattle parking strip.

All across Seattle, homeowners have been reclaiming the parking strip — the city-owned no-man’s land between the sidewalk and the street in front of their homes — and remaking it into a more beautiful or useful part of their home landscape. One of our neighbors has been working on a DIY project to transform her grass-covered parking strip into a low-maintenance but edible garden space. Because the city-owned property is public, she wants to install edible plants that would provide bounty to anyone in the neighborhood who wants to help themselves.

Other residents are making use of these parking strips to plant vegetables, install raised beds, add extra beautify to their landscapes or creating a landscape that doesn’t require mowing. After much uproar from citizens, the city of Seattle relaxed rules on gardening in planting strips back in 2009. Residents no longer have to pay the old $225 permit fee to plant in the space, but you still have to follow certain setback rules and height requirements.

The city keeps a master tree list of trees that can be planted in the parking strip. It offers useful information such as mature height, whether it can be planted under wires and what fall color it offers.

Here are some other questions and answers, taken from the city’s memo on the subject:

Do I need a permit? No permit is required if you are gardening in the planting strip in front of your house. A FREE street use permit is required if you plant a tree or install hardscape elements, such as a raised bed or pavers.

Can I grow food? Yes. The city allows you to grow food in planting strips as long as you follow certain height and setback guidelines. The city doesn’t allow “certain trees, including fruiting cherry, apple, and pear species that can pose a safety risk to pedestrians when fruit falls on the walkway.”

Where do I get a permit? Apply for a Street Use permit online, or in person on the 23rd floor of the Seattle Municipal Building at 700 5th Ave.



Filed under Seattle Landscape Design, Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

To peat or not to peat

October 10, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

Peat bog. Photo courtesy of peupleloup via Creative Commons License.

The New York Times recently covered the controversy brewing in Great Britian over the use of peat in gardening. As the newspaper reports, the British government drew some fierce criticism from both sides after it announced plans to gradually eliminate peat from all gardening products. Gardeners love the stuff (it’s spongy, airy, improves soil structure, holds water without being soggy; and it is widely used in potting soils, planting mixes and as a soil amendment). But environmental critics say the practice of harvesting peat isn’t sustainable. Peat “is scraped off the tops of centuries-old bogs, which are vital ecosystems that also serve as natural stores of carbon, just like rain forests,” the Times reports.

Most of the peat used in the U.S. comes from Canada. Its use is no less controversial here, though there doesn’t seem to be any effort afoot to ban the product.

At Western Washington University, professor Linda Chalker-Scott makes the argument for why peat moss isn’t a sustainable resource. She writes that peatlands play an important role in the environment. Like wetlands, she says, peatland systems store and help purify water; and they’re the single largest terrestrial store of carbon. While natural, peat can often take centuries to replace.

Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture, however, suggests that it’s OK, if you use it conservatively. The department recommends using peat for starting seeds and cuttings because it minimizes disease problems. But it says it’s a better idea to turn to compost and manure for larger quantities of organic matter in your garden.

Chalker-Scott writes that there are a number of suitable substitutes for peat. Compost is the best known substitute. Coir, or coconut dust, is also another suitable alternative, according to Oregon State University. Coconut “peat” is usually the short fibers of the coconut husk; the longer fibers are removed and used for doormats, brushes and ropes; the short fibers often end up in horticulture products. According to OSU, researchers at Auburn University and University of Arkansas compared peat and coir as soil amendments for gardening and found that coir performed as good as peat. Coir can hold moisture and wet, similar to peat.






Filed under Seattle Landscape Design, Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

Ripening green tomatoes in the Seattle area

August 30, 2012 @ 8:00 am

Waiting for green tomatoes to ripen. Photos by Ecoyards.

Puget Sound gardeners are a patient lot, especially when it comes to tomatoes. We plan our tomato harvest in the spring, look forward to late May when we can set the plants in soil, and then we feed, water and coddle them through the summer months, hoping for that bumper crop of juicy, red tomatoes.

In many years, we wait and wait and wait for those green tomatoes to ripen on the vine. It’s a phenomenon that seems particular to our region. By late August, depending on how many warm, sunny days we’ve had, our tomato plants may be bursting with red fruit or bursting with some red tomatoes but mostly green ones. Fried green tomatoes may be OK for some, but what to do if you’d rather enjoy your tomatoes plump, red and juicy as Nature intended?

Tomato experts say two things determine whether tomatoes ripen and change color: temperature and the presence of a naturally occurring hormone called “ethylene.” It might surprise you that tomatoes won’t produce the pigment that allows them to turn red, when temperatures are above 85 degrees. According to horticulturists at Purdue University, extended periods of extreme heat can actually cause tomatoes to stop ripening, instead turning yellowish orange or yellowish green.
Here are some ways to get a better redder crop of tomatoes:

– Don’t panic yet. There’s still hope through the month of September and October for those tomatoes to ripen. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the fall frost date in Seattle starts around Nov. 17. Actually, cooler temperatures in September may actually help ripen tomatoes.

– Triage. If you have blossoms or young green fruit around this time, chances are they’re not likely to make it in the next several weeks. Remove those flowers and young fruit, and give the other tomatoes on the vine a fighting chance.

– Prune your plants, but don’t give it a complete crewcut. If you see new young shoots, clip them back. Don’t prune too many fully-formed leaves because they provide the fruit with nutrients. Clipping some of the younger shoots helps redirect the plant’s energy into helping the other tomatoes ripen.

– Cut the plants root system. The experts at Washington State University Extension say: “A stressed plant will hurry to produce offspring before it dies. One way to stress a plant is to cut its root system. Push a shovel into the soil halfway around the plant, about 8 to 12 inches from the base.”

– Cover the tomato plants with plastic, or a floating row cover.

– Pick tomatoes before the frost hits and ripen them indoors. Don’t rip off the stems; leave at least a short bit of stem. Ripping the stems from the fruit may open them to decay. Discard blemished fruit. Pick only the ones with glossy green coloring and have reached near maturity, at least 3/4 their full size. You can wrap them in newspaper and put them in a box out of direct sunlight, which could take 2-4 weeks to ripen. Check them frequently to make sure they haven’t spoiled. Put them in a paper bag with an apple or banana, since this fruits give off ethylene gas that encourages the tomato to ripen.

– Some suggest pulling the entire plant and hanging it upside in a cool dark location, such as a garage or basement. Harvest the tomatoes as they ripen.

– Mark this down for next year: pick and plant the biggest, healthiest plant you can find (starts rather than seeds), and don’t set them out until at least mid-May when the soil is nice and warm (or so you hope).

– Pick tomatoes with shorter growing seasons, such as cherry tomatoes, ‘Early Girl’, Sungold and Early Cascade. Find other good tomato varieties for this region.

– Plant tomato plants as deep as you can. Plant them at least 8 inches deep, even if it means stripping the bottom leaves to do so. This encourages root growth. Advice from the WSU’s Extension: dig a trench, rather than a hole; lay the tomato plant on its side and bury part of the stem. Those new roots will form along that stem, and will be in warmer topsoil.

– Black plastic (or red or whatever color you like) helps warm the soil even further.


“Outwitting the picky tomato plant,” Washington State University

“Ripening that huge crop of green tomatoes,” Colorado State University



Filed under Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

Good bugs, bad bugs – take time to figure out which ones you should keep around

August 18, 2012 @ 11:53 am
seattle bugs, ecoyards

Photo by jpockele via Creative Commons License.

They’re squishy. They’re slimy. They have weird spiky things coming out of their heads. Bugs are unsightly creatures, and creepy to boot. But many of them are fairly benign in the vegetable garden; some such as ladybugs, damsel bugs and lacewings are beneficial. The good bugs eat the bad bugs that chew holes through your plants, so take time to figure out which ones you can keep around. The Southwest Community Land Trust has an excellent Bug Book that describes both good and bad bugs, has photographs of the damage they can do to plants and details how you can encourage the good ones and discourage the bad ones. The book also offers recipes for natural homemade sprays (garlic and chili pepper, for example) that can be used as an alternative to insecticides.

The Bug Book lists quite a few good bugs, including lady beetles (or ladybugs), praying mantids, soldier beetles, lacewings and damsel bugs. To attract these beneficial bugs, add nectar- or pollen-producing plants to your garden: daisies, dill, marigold, fennel, calendula, alfalfa, sunflowers, parsley, lemon balm, anise, zinnia, angelica, yarrow and coriander.

According to the Bug Book, here are a few bad bugs and what to do about them in your garden:

Aphids suck the juices off leaves, and sometimes spread plant diseases. As adults, they’re pear-shaped. Solution: control by spraying aphids off plants with a stream of water from the garden hose. Also plant dill, nasturtiums or calendula to attract aphids to those plants and away from other plants.

Cabbage loopers love to chew holes in lettuce, cabbage, celery, collard greens and tomato plants. They’re most damaging in the larvae stage, as green caterpillars. Solution: hand pick the bugs off the underside of leaves and throw them away; use row covers to prevent adult cabbage loopers from laying eggs on your plants.

Cucumber beetles as adults are very damaging to squash, melons, eggplants, tomatoes and peas. The adults are striped or spotted, and are yellow with black stripes or spots down its back. Solution: Hand pick the bugs off plants, spray with a garlic and pepper spray mixture; remove all weeds and plants from the garden at the end of season.

For more information (and photos) of good and bad bugs, here’s another good  detailed guide

Filed under Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

Snails, snails and more snails

August 9, 2012 @ 8:15 am

Brown snail introduced from France in 1850s as food.  Photos by Ecoyards.

I had the unpleasant task this morning of hand-picking about a dozen snails from my garden in Seattle. It seems like these little hungry creatures multiplied overnight, but in reality I’ve ignored my garden during these busy summer weeks and allowed the perfect conditions for the mollusks to grow. I left plenty of damp, hiding spots for them, and plenty of overhanging weeds; for example, I left a tarp in one corner of the garden, which provided perfect cover for the snails to grow and I’m growing plants they particularly love.

Common brown garden snails, otherwise known as Cornu aspersum or Helix aspersa) are a menace because they feast on both living and decaying plants, and they grow rapidly. Plus they’re kind of slimy and gross. Brown snails were brought to California in the 1850s by the French as food (yum, escargots). They love young tender shoots and seedlings, and herbaceous plants that grow close to the ground (strawberries, artichokes, tomatoes). They also like to eat lettuce, marigolds, dahlia, beans, basil, and other veggies. They don’t like woody ornamental plants, such as lavender, rosemary, sage, geraniums, begonias and nasturtiums.

Snail’s mucus.

OK, so what can you do when you’re overrun by snails? Hand-pick them off your plants, fences and walls, and crush them. (This morning I threw them into a garbage bag, and tossed a few into the street for the birds). Hand-picking isn’t the most appealing method for those pest-adverse gardeners, but it really is the easiest and weirdly satisfying. In the past I’ve also tried trapping snails and slugs by putting out a little container of beer at ground level; I’ve never found beer-trapping to be that effective, but others report otherwise. You could also use a little sugar water and yeast to get the same effect. Your container should be deep enough so that snails don’t just crawl out of the sides. (There are plenty of YouTube videos describing how to make one of these beer traps). The experts at the University of California say such traps aren’t very effective for the amount of time it requires; you have to constantly replenish the beer (or other trapping liquid) and they only draw the pests within a few feet of the container.

If hand-picking and beer-trapping aren’t for you, studies have shown that copper barriers can work in repelling snails from containers and raised beds. Supposedly the copper works because the copper reacts with a snail’s slime and effectively “shocks” it and messes up its nervous system. You can wrap copper foil around a tree trunk or planting boxes to keep the mollusks away. If you use these barriers on planting boxes or raised beds, make sure you don’t have any snails or snail eggs inside the container before installing the barrier; one friend discovered that her copper barrier had trapped snails inside her raised bed.

Plenty of garden stores also sell snail baits that are toxic to snails, but the ones containing metaldehyde are also poisonous to cats and dogs. There are some baits containing iron phosphate (i.e. Sluggo) that are safe around children and wildlife. Read the directions carefully and time the use properly (they’re usually not as effective during very hot, very cold or very dry times of the year).

My take-away from this morning’s snail hand-picking session is to do a better job of keeping my garden clean. I’ll try to remove  boards, weedy areas, stones, branches close to the ground where snails thrive. Unfortunately, my vegetable garden is located close to our fence and garbage cans, when boxes and such tend to pile up. Inevitably, snails will come even if you keep a clean garden, so hand-picking will be just another routine.

Filed under Seattle Landscape Design, Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

Exploring the Early Learning Garden at Mercer Island Library

March 28, 2012 @ 12:58 pm
ladybug rocks, ecoyards, mercer island

Painted ladybug rocks, set on basalt column; all photos taken by Ecoyards

As parents of a rambunctious toddler, we’re always interested in getting our son outdoors to explore and learn. So we were excited to learn about the Mercer Island Public Library Early Learning Garden from our clients on Mercer Island. (Ecoyards frequently works with Mercer Island customers on design-and-build landscape projects; we also help many Mercer Island customers maintain their lawn and landscapes). The public library garden opened last fall, thanks to sweat and labor from hundreds of community volunteers.

The Mercer Island Library worked with the Pomegranate Center to build a unique outdoor space that connects kids with nature and literacy. The landscape design does a lot with a relatively small space that surrounds the library. A short trail starts at the parking lot and wraps around the west and north sides of the public library. It connects three gathering circles: basalt columns in the smallest, granite boulders next and cedar benches and stumps to sit on in the last and largest gathering circle.

cedar circle, mercer island, ecoyards

Cedar circle

The garden recognizes that literacy and life-long learning can go beyond books and reading. Young kids have a sense of wonder and imagination that can be cultivated early on, both indoors and outdoors. Alphabet tiles handmade by children and other volunteers are placed throughout the trail to help the library’s youngest patrons develop early literacy skills. The tiles illustrate animals and plants that can be found on Mercer Island, such as B for butterfly and J for jay.

Maple pavers, mercer island, ecoyards

M for Maple

The paths are filled with empty hazelnut shells (yes, they come from Washington), and make for a fun crunching sound under feet.

Child walks on path full of hazelnut shells.

There’s a lot for gardeners to love as well. Northwest native plants such as rhododendrons, ferns and Oregon grape.

Rhododendron, Mercer Island


Filed under Seattle Landscape Design, Seattle Lawn Care, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »

Gardening with kids in Seattle

March 13, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

Getting water from the rain barrel

My toddler son loves to dig around in the yard, so I decided to put him to work a few weeks ago when I needed to weed our landscape beds after a winter of neglect. After watching me dig up a few weeds in our raised beds, he grabbed his little metal shovel and began copying me. He put the shovel into the ground, pushed it down with his feet, and then hauled up a few weeds — which he promptly dumped, along with a scoopful of good dirt, into the gravel walkway. Oh, well. At least he was having fun digging. I gave him an empty bucket, and he spent the next 20 minutes filling it with compost.

There are different ways, large and small, to get your toddler or older kids interested in gardening or being outside. Toddlers love to imitate, so you don’t have to have a planned activity to get them excited about gardening. If you pull weeds, ask them to help you put them in the yard waste bin. Find worms together, and show your kids how to handle the insects gently. Look for birds in your trees. Smell different plants in your garden.

Here are some other ideas to get your toddlers out in the garden:

Visit children’s gardens and let your kids explore. The Bradner Gardens Park, Magnuson Children’s Garden, and Good Shepherd Children’s Garden are some of our favorites.

Sign up for a children’s gardening class, if your school doesn’t already offer gardening in the classroom. Seattle Tilth has a 2012 Summer Garden Camp for kids 1-14 in Rainier Beach and North Seattle neighborhoods. One day sessions for young tots including “Don’t Squish that Bug” and “Wiggle, Squiggle, Giggle.” Other classes teach about ladybugs, let your toddlers plant seeds, and explore other creatures.

Keep your kids safe. Supervise young ones when they’re using tools or planting seeds that could be potential choking hazards. Keep fertilizers out of their reach. Avoid using pesticides! If you’re concerned that your soil may have lead or arsenic, get it tested; King County explains how you can do that.

Get your kids good-quality tools that fit small hands, rather than having them wrestle with adult-sized tools. Practice safe handling of those tools, and teach them how to put tools away. My son has a blue metal shovel, a yellow hoe, and a bamboo shrub rake. Each cost between $5 and $10. We bought all three at the West Seattle Junction True Value Hardware store; check your local hardware store. 

Plant a garden, but keep it simple. Pick a few vegetables that are easy to grow, that grow fast, and are visually cool. Sugar snap peas or snow peas come to mind; the seeds are easy to handle for small hands. Radishes and lettuce also are great for the impatient toddler. Plant root vegetables that are fun to dig up, such as potatoes. Plant weird stuff, like purple carrots.

Later in the summer, let toddlers help you harvest tomatoes, carrots and snap peas, or pick raspberries and huckleberries (though teach your kids to only eat foods after asking for permission). Get a small watering can or spray bottle, and let them water your plants. My son likes to fill up the watering can at the rain barrel, and water our potted plants.

Grow seeds indoors. has some great articles that caregivers can do with their young ones, including planting a windowsill herb garden, gardening with creative containers, or garbage-can gardening.

Read books about gardens and bugs. The National Gardening Association came up with this list of gardening books to read with your toddler: Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert; Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington; Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens; This is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schaefer; Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman; The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss; The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle; Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French; Stone Soup by Marcia Brown; Alison’s Zinnia by Anita Lobel.

Visit farmers markets throughout the year and talk to your kids about what’s fresh at the market and growing in gardens. Visit farms where toddlers can pick their own strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, and so on.

Check out this National Wildlife Federation guide for other helpful tips.

Find more lessons or activities at the KidsGardening website.

Filed under Seattle Landscape Maintenance, Vegetable Gardening · No Comments »