We just came in from planting kale and collards that I started from seed 6 or 8 weeks ago. I still have chocolate-brown soil underneath my nails. The smell of fresh soil in the spring is wonderful! My kids love helping, learning, and getting right in the middle. The whole planting experience becomes a homeschool lesson. We talk about how to plant, why heirloom vegetables are good for the body, what makes healthy soil, and, of course, our favorite subject—worms! James and Jeremiah had a hard time doing anything but comparing who found the biggest worm. You know you have healthy soil when it looks like a worm bed. James said, “We are my heroes!” as he was observing the dark, chocolate-brown, beautiful soil full of life. Last year we started working on a series called Making Vegetables. We did a lot of research and interviewed people around the world on everything pertaining to gardens. From soil and compost to veggies and preserving the harvest and so much more, we’re putting together the best tried-and-true and cutting-edge information in the world.
Last year, we put in a sustainable hillside garden. It started with carving away our driveway. We live on the side of a hill, and we have a circular driveway around our house. We made three large, curved steps terracing up the hillside. We dug a footer along each step wall. We poured footers and laid blocks, enforcing with rebar and pouring every other one solid. We had a strong wall. After letting the concrete set up for a few days, we backfilled. We added two feet of topsoil, two inches of compost, and an inch or so of manure. We used a rototiller to mix it all together, and covered it in about 3 or 4 inches of wood chips. We had our hillside garden!
The best part of our hillside garden is the way we built up our soil. That was the first and last time we will ever need to rototill our garden. The 4-inch layer of organic matter on the top of the soil acts like a skin that protects and feeds the soil, making it a great home for worms. Every year we will sprinkle a little compost or manure on top, and add more wood chips. This is called “weedless gardening” because the wood chips keep the weeds from coming up. One year later our soil is rich, soft, full of worms, and begging to be planted! We are growing organic, nutritionally dense foods again this year. They taste so good!
People ask me all the time how I get my kids to eat veggies. Well, it helps to have really good ones, but mostly they eat them because that is what I feed them. Penelope’s first taste of food was an onion. They are developing taste buds, and I make sure they develop healthy taste buds by feeding them lots of fresh veggies. I am so excited about our garden this year because it is not just fun, it is growing my children into healthy people. It makes me smile!