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Plants In Space: Going Higher RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Larry K.
IT Administrator

In earlier posts we talked about Tomatosphere™, an innovative project which allows students to grow tomato seeds that have been exposed to outer space and compare their performance with similar terrestrial seeds. The project is inexpensive and can be done by a single class or grade. The window to obtain seeds is still open (through March 2015) for this year.

There are two more ambitious ways to experiment with plants in space. These include "near space" experiments and "real space" experiments – those actually flown on the International Space Station or other spacecraft.

Near Space

What exactly qualifies as "near space"? A commercial jet airplane will seldom fly above 36,000 feet. Near space, however, starts much higher than that. Beginning at an altitude of 60,000 feet, near space caps off somewhere around 120,000 feet.

Students can send plant organisms to near space, thereby exposing them to conditions similar to "real" space. Experiments test and compare the low temperatures, near vacuum and exposure to high levels of cosmic radiation of near space to those down here on Earth.

Ready to launch into near space? Make sure you have a proper spacecraft that will hold its own way up high. A typical near spacecraft will be able to hold your experiment(s), a GPS tracker, and a parachute. Top it off with a weather balloon that will be large enough to carry all that weight to the edge of space!

A typical flight may take 2-4 hours and at the highest point, the balloon will burst and the rest of the craft will descend back to Earth by parachute. The GPS tracker - which has been transmitting the craft's position throughout the mission – will signal the location of the experiments. Now, students are able to study the ability to grow plants in space, which is critical for future long-duration spaceflight and for studying the possible habitation in other parts of the galaxy!

Plant Satellites

If your students think near space isn't close enough to the real thing, schools – and their communities – can compete in an annual program run through NASA to design experiments that will actually be flown in space. The NASA Student Spaceflight Experiments Program is a national competition that is run on a yearly cycle and requires involvement by an entire community to design an experiment that will fit within a tiny satellite called CubeSat.

CubeSat is a 10 cm cube with a maximum weight of 1.33 kg. This standardized form was developed for tiny satellites that could be launched for commercial, scientific, and educational purposes. CubeSats are launched into real space, usually into a low-earth orbit. Because of their tiny size, they are limited in power and capability, often to one or two single functions.

Learn about the 99 communities across the U.S. and Canada that have been engaged in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program and be amazed at the individual experiments that have been conducted so far.

So what are you waiting for? It's time to utilize your school garden for a STEM project that's out of this world!

Great Green Éire RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Amanda S.
E-Commerce Specialist

After a year of planning our wedding, Ireland was the place that my husband and I chose to begin our story. After the big day, we headed out together, east over the Atlantic, to get a taste of a country known for being quite literally, green. After our arrival in Dublin, we headed out of the city, west to Connemara County, a little north of Galway. Twisting and turning on roads with no room to pass, we took in the vast Irish landscape: stone walls, peat moss, and rolling hillsides. Once we crossed the county border, we stumbled upon an Irish treasure (must have been those few rainbows we saw on the way). Nestled in a hillside valley, on the edge of a small lake, sat the Kylemore Abbey (1868).

Built by a gentleman named Mitchell Henry, the Kylemore Abbey was built on 13,000 acres surrounded by streams, woodlands and wildlife. Mister Henry had taken his wife, Margaret, on their honeymoon to this area 150 years ago. They both fell in love with the landscape and enjoyed their trip so much that he built a castle for her there (now that's romance!). But tragedy struck 6 years later, when poor Mister Henry lost Margaret to a fever. After losing his forever love, he then built a small church for her in her memory, where she was then buried.

On the opposite side of the estate, was Kylemore Abbey's Victorian Walled Garden. Built on a bog, one half of the garden was once made up of greenhouses, a flower garden and gardener's corridors; the other half was a kitchen garden. The rock and brick walls that were once greenhouses gave the presence of old ruins, much like what you would see in the fields and hills of Ireland. They did have a couple of working greenhouses -- one was even full of grapes vining their way around! Along the interior of the walls were espaliered fruit trees, full of vines hanging from trellises. What I loved most about the garden were the mountains around the estate. Although the garden was walled, the mountains gave it more of a sense of privacy and offered a beautiful view.

Now, Kylemore Abbey is the home of the Benedictine Order of Nuns in Ireland. The estate is still maintained for visitors, tours are given and food is still grown in the gardens.

As I garden now, I often keep Ireland and the Kylemore Abbey in mind. I not only want my garden to provide our household with fresh fruits and vegetables, I want it to tell a story. I want every stone, brick and tree to have meaning -- much like Mister Henry's castle he built for his wife and then the church he built in her memory.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

What zone am I in? RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Susan B.
Director of Development

You've been dreaming all winter of growing a garden. But not just any garden. A perennial garden that incorporates native plants for pollinators and tasty edibles for you and the kids.

But before you drop those seeds in the ground, make sure you answer this important question: do you know what zone you're in?

Perennials are plants that, once seeded, grow back every year. Neat, huh? In order to grow back and produce flowers and fruit, however, the climate conditions need to be just right for perennials to thrive. Knowing what zone you live in can help you match the best plants for your area – the ones that will tolerate your region's year-round conditions, such as the lowest and highest temperatures and the amount and distribution of rainfall.

Here is a short list of common perennials that will (depending on your zone) come back year after year:

Pollinator-loving plants

Bleeding Hearts
Wild sage


Globe Artichoke
Onion Family Members
Sea kale

Know your Zone

So how do you find out what zone you're in? The USDA has compiled a Hardiness Zone Map with 13 different zones in the United States. The lower numbers correspond to the colder areas of the nation and work their way up to warmest. Some zones are also broken down further into "a" and "b" to denote further temperature differences. The state of Massachusetts, for example, contains 6 different zone divisions!

Basically, you want to make sure that the perennials you choose will be able to make it through the winter in your area. Even though I would love to grow big globe artichokes in my garden, because I live in northwestern Vermont (Zone 4b) where the average annual lowest temperature is between -20 and -25 degrees F, my artichoke plant would not survive its first Northern winter. Instead, I'll plant asparagus, which is a much hardier perennial suited for my zone – and just as delicious!

But it's important to remember that zones are just a broad guideline; within any zone there will be variations depending on elevation (higher elevations will be colder), how close you are to a large body of water (which moderates temperatures), amount of snow cover (this protects plants), wind exposure, etc. So consider zone designations when deciding on the best perennial plants for your garden, but remember to keep in mind the particular conditions in your own landscape.

Find plants suited for your zone with the help of this perennial inventory from Perennial Solutions, a guide categorized by zone/climate.

Happy Gardening!

Fun with Nutrition: 4 Tips to Get Kids Eating Healthier RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Got a picky eater at home? This week's blog post from our friends at Veggiecation is here to help!

Nutrition can be a difficult topic. Vitamins, minerals, macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients all have names that don't mean anything to people outside of the nutrition field. And no matter how indirect, processed foods are marketed to children to be cool, fun, and exciting. But nutrition can be cool, too! All people – regardless of age – respond to what nutrients do for their body. Whether it's clear skin, healthy weight, or strong bones, talking about all the good stuff that nutrients do for your body "markets" healthful foods in a similar way with more wholesome results.

Veggiecation is dedicated to increasing vegetable intake among kids by promoting the positive health benefits that are most relatable to growing bodies and minds. This concept was born out of the idea that vegetables could be "marketed" to children by proving their usefulness. By keeping nutrition information concise and to the point, we can make sure that our lessons stick!

Here are 4 tips to help you "market" nutritious foods:

1. Vitamin A-Z and everything in between!

From fiber to magnesium, there are so many nutrients, each with their own name and properties. It's difficult to keep track of what each one does. Focusing on the nutrients that are present in a specific food item, and relating those vitamins to their health benefits will surely stick better than talking about just the vitamin itself!

i.e. Spinach = Folate = A Good Mood

2. Ask Questions

Every nutrient has something it does for you. If a nutrient makes you strong, ask kids to show you their muscles. If a nutrient is good for your brain, ask them when they might need to use their brains. Here are some of our favorites:

Iron = Growing Tall – Do you want to be tall like me some day?

Protein = Better Athlete – Do you play any sports? What sports do you play?

Vitamin A = Strong Eyes – Can you give me an example of when you might need to see better?

3. Give Examples

Some concepts might be harder for children to illustrate on their own. Give examples for these.

• Fiber = Healthy Weight – This makes you feel full so that when you eat it, you don't need as much!

• Vitamin B1 = Good Memory – There are a lot of reasons why you need a good memory! If you play a sport, you need to be able to remember the rules. If you play an instrument, you need to remember the notes.

4. SHOW Examples

Children are physical, they love to dance, run, and play. If you are the same way, they're more likely to pay attention to what you're saying and actually remember the content. You'll see children will be mimicking your actions as you go!

• When talking about how lentils give you a lots of energy (iron), you can ask the kids to run in place with you as fast as you can!

• When talking about how jicama gives you strong teeth (calcium), you can chomp your teeth down and smile wide.

We even designed our Informational Vegetable Posters to be fun. When the facts of food are presented in a way that makes sense to kids, the more likely these lessons will stick!

Veggiecation is a children's culinary nutrition education program that promotes and educates communities on the health benefits of vegetables and how to prepare them in simple, unique, affordable, and most importantly, delicious ways! Veggiecation empowers children to try new foods by introducing them to simple nutrition concepts and culinary skills. Learn more about Veggiecation's programs and resources at

Apply for the 2015 Mantis Tiller Award! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Julia P.
Director of Youth Education

Healthy communities begin with access to nutritious food options and opportunities for physical activity. Community and youth gardens play a key role in supporting healthy lifestyle choices by providing people of all ages to get active by growing food locally -- what a way to kill two birds with one stone! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 12.7 million children and adolescents and 78.6 million U.S. adults are obese (CDC, 2012). Increased access to healthier food options, including whole fruits and vegetables, can help make a dent in these numbers (especially when people have the opportunity to grow food themselves!)

For 19 years Schiller Grounds Care has been a proud supporter of gardening programs across the United States. Through sponsorship of the Mantis Tiller Award, Schiller Grounds Care has donated over 300 tillers to school, youth, and community garden projects in 19 years. In 2014 Mantis Tiller Award winners facilitated gardening opportunities for over 9,000 youth and 2,200 adults!

Here are some notable 2014 Award Winners who have made a difference in their communities:

• The newly constructed 4-H Youth Community Garden in Sturgis, South Dakota installed 20 raised beds in 2014. The garden is free to all those in the community who seek to grow their own food. This beginning garden project supports education for all local youth with mentorship opportunities from 4-H members.

• A partnership between Lake Region Healthcare, Otter Tail County Public Health, and PartnerSHIP 4 Health created the Root Community Garden in Fergus Fall, Minnesota. On just 1.6 acres of donated land, the community worked together to produce over 1,544 pounds of food which was shared with 900 families. Additional recipients of the harvest include food shelves and senior resident facilities. Families receiving support from WIC are able to pick produce themselves, giving children the opportunity to learn about the process of growing food.

• The Clay County Community Garden is a partnership between Hayesville High School, the Clay County School System, and Extension Master Gardeners in Haysville, North Carolina. Fifteen garden plots are provided for community residents who would not otherwise be able to have their own garden. Several plots are grown by the Master Gardeners, who also assist youth and school age children to educate them on the joys of vegetable gardening. Much of the harvest produced by youth and community gardens has been generously donated to the food shelf. Food is also taken to the local Health Department WIC Office and the Department of Social Services where volunteers setup to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to any of the public in need.

We are currently accepting applications for the 2015 Award through March 6, 2015. Recipients of the 2015 Mantis Tiller Award will receive a Tiller/Cultivator with border/edger and kickstand, and their choice of gas-powered 2-cycle engine or electric motor as well as a helpful resource guide, and a generous donation of seeds.

Good luck and happy gardening!

Welcome to the Tomatosphere™! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Larry K.
IT Administrator

Have you ever wondered what it was like to grow plants on Mars? Want to get your kids interested in STEM topics? Never fear, Tomatosphere™ is here!

Tomatosphere™ is a thirteen-year-old science curriculum project designed to get kids interested in space and biology. Run by a consortium of partners -- including the Canadian Space Agency and seed companies, Stokes and HeinzSeed -- the project "uses the excitement of space exploration to teach the skills and processes of scientific experimentation and inquiry." Sound good so far? Read on!

The project is designed for elementary through high-school (K-12) students. Educators can register now to participate in the 2015 session where they will be sent 2 sets of tomato seeds. Why tomatoes? Not only are they delicious and nutritious, but versatile and easy-to-grow.

But will even the easiest plants to grow germinate in the mysterious depths of space? That's the question that students explore as they participate in Tomatosphere's blind study. While both sets look like normal plum tomato seeds, one of those sets has actually been brought back from the International Space Station after residing there for a period of 22 months!

Students then compare the growth and germination rates of both sets of seeds, without knowing which has flown in space. Hands-on learning reigns supreme in the Tomatosphere™ project and students are exposed to the scientific method and the concepts of randomized testing, experimental observation, data gathering, and reporting.

Students will:

• Prepare growing containers for the seeds

• Plant the seeds and measure the time to germination

• Gather data; the number of "space" seeds that germinated, and the number of control seeds that have germinated.

Educators will then submit the gathered data on Tomatosphere's website to find out which seeds secretly got their start in space!

Another neat part of the Tomatosphere™ project is that students are actually contributing to a professional, scientific study. The results from your Tomatosphere™ science experiments will help Canadian scientists understand some of the issues related to long-term space travel. According to their website, "Food availability and life support are major limiting factors in extended space travel (Mars) and exploration. Currently scientists need to know how an extended period of time in space affects the germination and growth of plants."

Time to turn your students into Citizen Scientists! Register today at Participation is free of charge for educators and their classes and the bulk of the seeds are distributed during February and March for germination in time for planting outside in the spring. A full complement of teacher and student guides in French and English are available and an educational video provides background information on the project, with interviews of astronauts and scientists participating in the experiment on the International Space Station, and kids who are working with the project.

Stuck Indoors? Cook With Your Kids! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


This week's blog post from our friends at Veggiecation will help you beat those winter blues!

Most outdoor gardens shut down for the winter when temperatures drop and snow starts to fall, but that doesn't mean food education needs to come to a complete stop. When the ground is frozen, children can still get hands-on with fresh produce through fun cooking activities!

It's no secret that cooking with kids can seem daunting to some parents. It can be messy, it requires supervision, and perhaps maybe, you just don't know what to cook that will end up delicious, nutritious AND easy for kids to partake in. To ease some of the natural stress that often comes with cooking itself, we've provided 5 tips for parents new to cooking with kids.

1. Start simple.

If it's your first time in the kitchen with your child, don't bother with the stove. The simple act of transforming ingredients into a dish is cooking, too! A smoothie or a blended dip results in a quick reward – and builds important life skills.

How can kids help?

• Have the child help you measure out ingredients using measuring cups and spoons.

• Let them hold the measuring cup/spoon while you pour the ingredient into it (2nd grade and below)

OR have them pour the ingredient into the measuring cup/spoon that you are holding (3rd grade and above)

OR let the child do both the holding and the pouring (5th grade and above)

2. There's no use in crying over spilt milk!

Cooking is messy, so it's important that you know what you're getting yourself into. Don't fret — a little spillage is bound to happen (it happens to us all the time!).

3. Make cooking an active sport.

Okay – while it shouldn't actually be a sport, you CAN make sure to engage a child's body throughout the process.

How can kids get moving?

• We love to twist and shake our salt and pepper and kids love it, too!

• Whacking garlic with your palm has two benefits: it gets the paper off the garlic and is a fun way for a child to show their strength.

• With a little help and supervision, mixing ingredients in a bowl can test a child's arm muscles! For fun, see if they can switch hands and mix. Create mixing patterns together: clockwise for three seconds, counterclockwise for four, etc.

4. Realize their excitement.

As adults, we might not see how interesting the before and after image of a bowl or blender might look, but kids will probably think it's pretty neat.

How can you create a teachable moment?

• If you're making a smoothie with greens and a fruit, ask them what color they think the smoothie will be.

• If you're making your own salad dressing, let them see the bowl before you mix it up (we bet the oil and vinegar won't look that pretty!) and then show them after it's been whisked.

• If you do end up using a stove top, let them observe how the veggies reduce in size or change in color.

5. Let the child pick the recipe.

Empower your child by allowing them to pick something that they want to make. This may seem like a small detail, but it really makes the activity their own.

How can you facilitate the process?

• If the child is younger than 4th grade, choose three similar recipes and allow them to choose the one that sounds best.

• If the child is older than 5th grade, allow them to pick from a recipe book (with your guidance).

• If the child can read, no matter what age, give them the opportunity to read the ingredients.

Veggiecation is a children's culinary nutrition education program that promotes and educates communities on the health benefits of vegetables and how to prepare them in simple, unique, affordable, and most importantly, delicious ways! Veggiecation empowers children to try new foods by introducing them to simple nutrition concepts and culinary skills. Learn more about Veggiecation's programs and resources at

Are You Ready For Spring? The 4 Things To Know Before You Sow RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Susan B.
Director of Development

What's the best way to beat those winter blues? Dig into summer garden plans, of course! The coldest months of the year are a great time to get your family organized for the growing season ahead. Here's how to do it:

Figure out what you want to grow.

When I actually care about the end product in my garden, I end up taking better care of it. Now that I know just how delicious a homegrown tomato is comparatively to one that has been shipped thousands of miles to a supermarket, I add it to my garden wish-list every year. Whatever you end up planting, make sure it's something you and your family like to eat. Why bother growing kale if nobody can stand the taste? Instead, opt for an interesting new variety of one of your family's favorite veggies for a new twist on an old favorite -- like a Black Cherry Tomato or a Lemon Cucumber. That way, it becomes a fun introduction to a new vegetable that the kids are bound to gobble up!

Get your plan together.

Now that you know what you want to grow, it's time to get organized. Figure out how much space you can devote to your garden and sketch it out. Will there be dedicated, tilled ground involved or raised beds? Are you working within a fenced area or growing vertically ON a fence? Consider the terrain you have to work with. Is it on a hill or flat ground? Does it get at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day? Whatever shape your garden takes, it's important to be prepared and get familiar with your garden space so you can not only visualize, but actually cultivate, future growth with your family.

Invest some time and money.

With plant varieties in mind and a garden plan in hand, it's time to connect the two. Before you pencil in a row of tomatoes next to your pumpkin mound on your garden sketch, consider the needs of these two vastly different plants and turn it into a teachable moment. Have children find out how much space each will need to reach maturity. Together, research their best companions and fill in spaces on your garden sketch accordingly. Remember, it's okay if you don't have enough space to grow everything on your wish-list!

Once your plan is good to go, set a budget that incorporates seeds, starter plants, bagged compost/soil amendments, replacement tools, and any additional accessories that you'll need. Will your garden include DIY raised beds and containers? Make sure to add those materials to your budget so there are no surprises later!

Organize for spring.

I know it sounds cliché, but spring really is right around the corner. Why wait until the weeds have sprouted to find out that your hoe is rusted and dull? Gather your tools for a winter check-up and take stock of your tomato cages and trellises. For a family activity, seed starting and planting calendars are easy to make and a fun project that keeps kids excited and engaged in the whole garden process.

For more resources about planning a family garden, check out our Parents Primer on

Welcoming Winter Birds RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Jenn T.
Chief Operating Officer

One of my favorite things to do in my backyard – aside from gardening – is inviting birds in. Especially during long, cold Vermont winters, the sound of singing birds reminds me that spring will come again!

Bird watching is a fun indoor activity that the whole family can enjoy. During warmer months, I set up and fill coated steel stations and hang cedar feeders. But in winter I love to buy pre-made treats for my feathered winter visitors – or create my own! Often comprised of sunflower seeds, suet, and millet, a pre-made ornament will attract a variety of birds. In our area of Vermont, sunflower seeds are popular among chickadees and finches, to name a few. Millet brings about sparrows. Suet tends to attract nuthatches and woodpeckers; these insect-eating species are great to have hanging around in the summer as a natural defense against garden pests!

My son and I also make our own treats for the birds in our backyard. Simple fruit cups are the easiest to make and will attract orioles and grosbeaks in our area. Suet is fun to mold with cookie cutters and decorate with raisins or a sprinkle of sunflower seeds. For me, it's refreshing to look out into a wintery landscape and see a pop of color from handmade, hanging ornaments and the bright and cheery birds they bring. The benefit of both pre-made and handmade treats in winter especially, is that you don't need to worry about clean-up. And when the weather is near freezing – that's a big relief!

And speaking of clean-up, if you do use regular feeders, be sure to check them regularly. Remove wet, moldy seed and clean them thoroughly in white vinegar. Always place feeders either less than 3 feet from a glass window OR at least 30 feet away. This will help our feathered friends from colliding with windows – ouch!

Not only do I appreciate the beauty of birds in my backyard, their hardiness just simply amazes me. I enjoy the challenge of identifying birds that manage through the elements of a northern winter and am constantly engaging my family in a game of "What's that Bird?"

Encourage your kids to keep a journal of identified birds. How many come to your yard? Are there birds with particular markings that you recognize coming back again and again? How do they interact with each other? For help in bird identification you can visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They even offer bird songs if you want to increase your bird identification skills!

Another fun way to engage with your backyard wild life is to become a citizen scientist and participate in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an annual four-day event in February that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are. Led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, GBBC welcomes the participation of even the youngest bird watchers. Find out more at GBBC.

No matter what level you choose to engage your backyard birds, simply giving them a place to stop and grab a bite to eat is a wonderful gesture to keep them going through the cold winter months.

Plants in Space! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Larry K.
IT Administrator

One way to get kids interested in STEM (and gardening of course) is to study plants in space. This can happen on a number of levels with experiments and research projects available for elementary through high-school students.

NASA and other space organizations are interested in growing plants during space missions for many of the same reasons that we grow plants on earth:

• Food Gardening

• Oxygen generation

• Carbon dioxide scrubbing

• Air purification

In addition to very pragmatic life-support reasons, growing plants in space provides opportunities for the same psychological and aesthetic support for astronauts that we earthlings enjoy. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth and a three-time International Space Station (ISS) astronaut said that after his family, he missed plants and "green things" more than anything while he was in space.

How is space different from earth?

Plants appear to adapt to some of the conditions of space, but certainly not all. Consider the space environment:

1. It's cold, and hot. Unshielded plants are subjected to extreme temperatures, far below freezing and far above boiling.

2. There is higher radiation exposure. Plants (and humans) are exposed to higher levels of radiation when in space.

3. No gravity. Plants can grow in a weightless environment. Some long-term growing experiments have shown that plants even grow "normally" ; roots grow away from stems and leaves even without gravity.

Growing plants without soil

Most space projects assume that plants will be grown without soil. There are several methods that have been developed to grow plants without soil in a controlled growing environment. It turns out that plants can thrive without soil, but they do need light, moisture, and nutrients. Three ways to grow plants without soil are:

Aquaponics – growing plants in water in conjunction with live fish. The fish fertilize the plants, and the plants provide oxygen and food for the fish.

Hydroponics – growing plants in water, with a nutrient solution.

Aeroponics – growing plants on a mesh substrate, with roots bathed in a water-vapor mist.

These soilless environments have to be carefully managed and measured. Typically they have sensors to detect temperature and light, and they may involve control systems which manage irrigation and filtering of nutrients and waste.

Ideas to get involved:

Growing plants in space requires data gathering and monitoring; two activities that are central to scientific experimentation.

• Set up your own weather instruments to make observations and record data, or record data from a nearby weather station.

• Set up an indoor growing environment for sprouting seeds.

A next step is to sprout seeds that have already flown in space, to grow plants in a soilless environment using Aeroponics, Hydroponics, Aquaponics, or fly your own experiment in space or near space.

Next time: We'll look at the TomatoSphere project, a low-cost, quick, and fun way for elementary kids to take part in a rigorous scientific experiment.

Time to enter the Carton 2 Garden Contest! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Susan B.
Director of Development

Wow – we've been busy! We've sent Carton 2 Garden Entry Kits to hundreds of schools across the country and the contest is officially in full swing. Now, we're excited to hear about your projects! Are you hosting a town-wide carton drive? Are businesses in your community donating supplies? Is your Green Team working hard to rally support in your school? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using #Carton2Garden and follow the contest on Pinterest for tips, resources, and updates.

If this is your first time hearing about Carton 2 Garden, now's the time to jump on board! Open to grades K-12 in all schools (public, private, or charter in the United States), it's a fun way to teach students about environmental stewardship, recycling, and repurposing materials, and how those concepts can have an impact on the lives of people, other creatures, and our environment. And yes, there are prizes! Twenty total awards will be offered. Four schools will receive national prize award packages of $2,500 each and sixteen schools from eight regions across the United States will receive $1,000 award packages.

Here are the basics:

1. How much does it cost?

There are no registration fees for the Carton 2 Garden contest. It's free! This will cost your school nothing except the materials.

2. When is the project due?

You must submit your entry on or before April 22, 2015 – Earth Day!

3. Do I have to have a garden to participate?

No, your school does not need a garden to participate in this contest. Schools that have a fully functioning garden do not have an advantage over schools that are just starting their garden.

4. How many milk or juice cartons do we have to use?

Teams entering the contests must use a minimum of 100 cartons. Any cartons will be accepted, including cartons from the school cafeteria or from the grocery store.

5. Can we use other materials?

Supporting materials may be used, but should only comprise a small percentage of the final creation. Supporting materials made of natural, renewable resources (wood, newspaper, cardboard, etc.) are strongly encouraged.

6. How do we make our entry stand out to the judges?

The following criteria will be used when judging all carton creations:

Best use of cartons in garden. Submitted with photos and an entry form. Judged by compliance, quality, sustainability, and creativity.

Additional criteria for national prizes:

In addition to the regional requirements, national candidates must also include a video or slideshow link that tells the story of the project in its entirety from planning and the carton drive to the finished product.

Remember: If students are featured in photos/videos, parental permission is required. Here's a link to our parental release forms to include with your entry.

Request your FREE Entry Kit today and visit for inspiration, our judging rubric, contest guidelines, and more!

New year, BIG goals! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Andrea W.
Graphic Designer

I've never been one to truly commit to New Year's Resolutions. For instance, my goal to work out daily in 2014 only lasted for about a month. But this year is different. In the matter of twelve months, I graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology, started my first "real world" job at, and moved into my very own place to begin my life as a full-blown adult! Since 2014 was such a fantastic and life changing year for me, I feel compelled to continue improving and actually follow through with my resolutions for once!

Here are my Top 3 Resolutions for 2015:

• Eat healthier

• Drink more water

• Get outdoors!

A popular resolution for many, the goal to eat healthier is a must. My college years consisted of late-night fast food runs and eating out after my waitressing shifts. Even now, I often find myself falling back into these old habits during an especially busy week. No more! Every Sunday, I plan to prepare a weekly menu and purchase fresh fruits and vegetables that will keep my meals organized and healthy. Trying new recipes will be a fun challenge and knowing that the end result is actually good for me will be an added plus!

I'll be drinking healthier, too. I find myself craving caffeine and carbonated beverages and not always choosing water. Then, every day around four o'clock my body starts to drag. While I've never particularly enjoyed the taste of water (is there a taste?), I have found that infusing water with fruits gives it the kick I've been craving. Raspberries and limes are my current favorites, and I'm excited to experiment with others. Oranges, maybe?

Lastly, while I love being outdoors and enjoying the natural world, the difficulty has always come with finding time to do so. A few years ago, I bought my first horse, a rescue named Emma — she is my everything. Since beginning my newfound adult-life, I've found little time to spend on the trail with Emma, which can be very freeing for the both of us. My goal is to get back up in the saddle and enjoy the outdoors along the many beautiful Vermont trail rides that will make my heart (and hers) full and happy!

Looking forward to another great year -- here's to a happy, healthy 2015!

Create an indoor Moss Garden! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


This week, we're inspired by Betty Mulrey, principal and teacher at Mason Elementary School in Mason, NH, who sent us the above picture of her latest classroom project: a moss garden! How cute is that?

Our educators agree: A moss garden is a good diversion from the daily routine, especially for children around the busy holiday season when stress shows itself in so many different ways. Giving them something to take care of like plants or a moss garden gives them the opportunity to take a break.

So add a punch of green to your indoor space with a plant that's easy to care for and super fun to touch. A natural addition to terrariums and open-air containers, moss is a low-maintenance survivalist. All you need a shady area that stays moist. And since moss doesn't have roots and takes what it needs from the air, it'll pretty up any container without interfering with its fellow rooted inhabitants.

Want to make your own moss garden? Use our educator-created lesson from and bring the green indoors!

Season's Greetings! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Looking for fun holiday activities for the whole family? Here are 3 fresh-air favorites:

Make a Giant Holiday Wreath — Get outside and gather up some cuttings from the yard for this inexpensive, easy project that is bound to add some holiday flair to your winter décor!

Feed the birds some Holiday Tweets — Dress up the season with these beautiful edible ornaments that your feathered friends will love!

Weave Winterberries into Holiday Decorations — Take a winter stroll and search for bright Winterberry holly branches to infuse into indoor arrangements, centerpieces, and even wreaths!

So go ahead! Fill your week with outdoor adventures and most of all — have a happy, healthy holiday from all of us at Gardening With Kids!

Quick and Easy Homemade Garden Gifts RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


There are endless memes, posts, and even websites dedicated to the #pinterestfail. These DIY-projects-gone-wrong inspired by picture-perfect pins are often hilarious — and like many, I can definitely relate. Some projects just look easier than they actually are. But never fear! While searching for thoughtful gifts for my extended family that wouldn't leave me penniless, I turned to Pinterest for DIY ideas and found just the thing: The Indoor Bulb Growing Kit. This is one Pinterest project that won't end in disaster. Within minutes, you'll have built a pretty, little gift that promises a colorful bloom — always a welcome sight during the cold winter months.

What you need:

• 8-oz canning jars (make sure they have separate lids and bands)

• Flowers bulbs (hyacinth or paperwhites are good choices)

• Decorative stones

How to make it:

Fill each jar with decorative stones until almost full — just up to the lip. Place a single bulb to rest on top of the stones. Screw only the band onto the jar, saving its lid for your next canning adventure.

Now get creative and add a final flourish. Customize each gift with a festive ribbon/twine, a Norfolk Pine or rosemary sprig, and a decorative tag that says "Just add water!" Beautiful AND easy to make — Nailed it!

Find this pin and more DIY gift ideas when you follow us on Pinterest!

Creative Holiday Recycling RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Incorporate environmental stewardship into your gift-giving this year. Our Youth Education Program Director, Julia Parker-Dickerson shows you how with her own creative technique:

"The holidays are a wonderful time of year to let friends, family, and co-workers know that you appreciate them, but what about the Earth? Year after year I struggle with the waste associated with the holiday season. From wrapping paper to discarded trees, what is an environmentalist to do? I set out to put together a present for my immediate family members that was not only focused on the health of those that I love, but also considerate of the planet's well-being.

First things first: the container for the present needed to be something reusable. I opted to use potato planters. They are sturdy, easy to fill, and a way to encourage my family to grow their own food. Plus, since no one in my family has ever grown a potato before, it represents an exciting challenge!

Next: instead of filling the bag with tissue paper I put together a collection of junk mail, old school papers, and construction paper pieces and started to shred. In about twenty minutes, I shredded months of mail -- turning bills into colorful filler for presents.

Filling the potato planter with thoughtful, earth-friendly gifts was an easy task. Garden gloves and high quality, non-GMO herb seeds were a must. I then added an Eco Spout as a unique watering alternative. The spout screws onto any used plastic soda bottle (16 oz up to 2 liters), upcycling it into a lightweight and earth-friendly watering device! And because I live in Vermont, I just HAD to include some local maple syrup from a nearby farm. In fact, all of the delicious jam, jellies, and preserved harvest foods that I put in my gift bag were made locally. Buying from a nearby farm or farmer's market not only helps your neighbors, but reduces your carbon footprint!

So give it a try! It definitely feels good to give a gift that considers the health and wellness of the recipient — and can be recycled!"

Love Julia's gift idea? Find more Holiday Gift Ideas on our Bonus Bundles page!

Give, Garden, Grow RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Did you know? 100% of sales from the Gardening With Kids shop goes back into the garden grants and free resources that are available through

Every child deserves the opportunity to learn about healthy foods and experience all of the benefits of gardening. Because of our generous sponsors and donors like you, we have awarded over 10,000 grants to help fund school and youth garden programs across the country.

And we're just getting started! There are over 128,000 schools in the United States and together we can put a garden in every one.

The timing for this important work is more critical than ever before.

• According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled over the past 30 years.

• Nearly 1 in 3 children in America is overweight or obese.

• 40% of children in minority communities are at an unhealthy weight.

When you give to, you're making a direct impact. As little as $25 introduces an average sized class to the benefits of gardening:

• Increasing their overall consumption of fruits and vegetables

• Boosting their physical activity

• Learning about the food they eat and where it comes from

When you give, you help young minds grow — one child, one school, one community at a time.

Thank you for your lasting support and Happy Gardening!

Giving Thanks RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Hey Gardening With Kids Staff! What are you thankful for this year?

"I am thankful that I was able to grow my favorite vegetable this year: Brussels Sprouts! Just in time to roast for Thanksgiving!" Jenn Tedeschi, COO

"I'm so pleased with the white and red Impatiens that we planted outside our kitchen window. They bloomed up until our first frost." Larry Keyes, Database Administrator

"As a new mother, I'm most thankful for my son, of course -- and that he arrived in time to witness the harvest of our last pumpkin! We had our first official pumpkin carving as a family last weekend." Nichole Rothaupt, Director of Commerce

"I am thankful for my two Great Pyrenees, Molly and Mcguire, who keep all the pesky critters away from my gardens and berry bushes - all year long!" Amanda Slater, E-Commerce Specialist

"This gardening season was especially fruitful and for that I am grateful. My community garden is STILL producing kale that will contribute to my family's thanksgiving feast!" Julia Parker-Dickerson, Youth Education Director

"I'm thankful for a homegrown side dish from a friend. Julia's abundant kale harvest will make an appearance at my Thanksgiving table, too!" Jessica Hill, Creative Director

"My best friend's farm has a garden that I love to visit. I'm grateful to have a place that I can lose myself in laughter whenever one of us fall over from pulling weeds!" Andrea Warren, Graphic Designer

"Thanks to our office grow light, my thyme plant has been revived. Now I can look forward to adding a little extra flavor to my winter meals." Susan Bondaryk, Director of Development


The Gardening With Kids staff has a lot to be thankful for this year. Our gardens were successful, our harvests bountiful, and our backyards were colorful with blooms. But that's only the beginning. Because of our generous sponsors and donors, we're able to develop standards-based curriculum, source the best school garden products, and witness first-hand the transformation and empowerment that takes place when a child puts their hands in the soil for the first time, or tastes a tomato they have grown themselves from seed. Thank you for another great year of programming and support. Together, we're growing the next generation of gardeners!

Grow an indoor garden! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


My community garden plot has officially closed for the season. What to do? Rather than wallow in post-harvest despair and dream about next spring, I've decided to grow indoors and garden year-round!

To effectively garden indoors, a lot of light is needed. My little apartment does not boast many bright, sunny windowsills, so instead I created artificial sunshine with a grow light. These easy-to-use units come in a variety of sizes to fit any space; my grow light is about 2-ft across — perfect for my newly constructed "growing station" in my basement.

Since this is my first indoor garden adventure, I decided to stick to edibles that were easy to grow: lettuce and herbs. As a fun side project, I also threw a seed ball comprised of basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme into a pot to watch the sprouting process — no digging necessary. Seed balls are easy to make and make a great classroom experiment. After only 4 days, the ball's clay exterior cracked open to make way for growing herbs. So much fun to see! And because my grow light has an adjustable frame, if my plants grow more than 12 inches they'll still be easy to maintain and nurture. Now I have little pots sprouting mesclun mix, mustard greens, and dwarf basil. I'm looking forward to my first homegrown winter salad, maybe just in time for the December holidays!

Want to have an indoor growing adventure of your own? Check out this week's Specials page for markdowns on select grow lights, seed collections, and more!

Follow us on Pinterest! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Just because the temperature drops doesn't mean the growing stops! Check out Gardening With Kids' 30+ Pinterest boards for garden adventures you can have in the colder months of the year.

Our Growing Ideas board has tips on how to force bulbs for a pop of winter color and links to our newest products from our 2014 Holiday Catalog. Want to grow fresh lettuce indoors? Maybe build a terrarium? Follow our Indoor Gardening board! From garden art to science experiments, we pin projects to keep kids busy and learning throughout fall and winter — and even post updates on our rolling grants, contests, and shop specials.

Follow us today!

Get a head start on holiday shopping! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Gifts for every budget! Check out our Holiday Digital Catalog, featuring NEW products and stocking stuffers galore. Flip to page 15 and you'll even find Our Favorites — those products we tested in our own homes and now can't live without!

Start shopping today and enjoy early savings through November 30 when you use coupon code GWKGIFT4U at checkout*. You'll save 20% on any purchase of $50 or more on your order through the new holiday catalog AND you can feel great knowing that 100% of sales support's youth garden grants and free resources.

Give the gift of gardening and make this a happy, healthy holiday with GWK!

* Not valid with other offers.

Win a Garden for Your School! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Evergreen Packaging, with support from our team at, are proud to announce the first national Carton 2 Garden contest! Schools from across the United States can compete to win prize packages, valued up to $2,500, by repurposing their empty milk and juice cartons in their school gardens. That's right — we're on the lookout for the most unique and sustainable uses for recycled milk and juice cartons that connect back to the garden.

Sixteen regional winners will receive award packages valued up to $1,000 and major bragging rights at their school.

But there's more!

Along with regional winners, four separate national winners will also be chosen. These winning teams will receive garden packages valued up to $2,500. To be eligible for the national prize, in addition to the standard entry form and required photographs, submissions must include a video link or slide show that shows us why their entry is ultra-sustainable and super creative!

Time to get started! Read up on the contest rules and request a FREE entry kit that includes seeds, plant markers, and full color posters to hang up at your school. Stay updated on everything Carton 2 Garden when you use #carton2garden on Twitter, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for project tips and inspiration!

Tips to help you along the way:

Trouble uploading photos? Never made a video before? No problem — we're here to help.

Photos: We can't wait to see your project! In 10 photos or less, show us what makes your Carton 2 Garden entry innovative and eco-friendly. Photos can chronicle the progression of a project or capture intricate details that make your entry extra special. Once you've chosen your best photos, make sure they are in one of the following formats:

.pdf, .doc, .docx, .jpg, .png

Please remember that your file size may not exceed 10MB. Are your files more than 10MB? Provide a link to an online shared folder using a service like Dropbox, Hightail, or Google Documents. Don't forget to hold on to your photos until the contest ends because if you win, we may want another copy.

Video: Since submitting a video or slideshow link automatically makes your entry eligible for the national prize, why not give it a try? Gather your team and show us the spirit behind your Carton 2 Garden project!

Step 1: Did you host a town-wide carton drive and collect 1,000 cartons? Is your entry benefiting your school garden in a really cool way? Does your project have moving parts? Show us! Grab your team and create a video or slideshow that showcases your Carton 2 Garden project and all the hard work that went into it.

Step 2: If you'd like to make a slideshow representation, give PowerPoint a try. There are a bunch of features that come with this program that will bring your project to life! If you're making a video, switch that digital camera to video mode or download a free app for your Smartphone and create media that's 5 minutes or less. Once finished, upload your slideshow/video to your school's website/Facebook page or free services like YouTube or Dropbox and send us the link.

Important Note to Remember: Parental release forms are REQUIRED for photos/videos that feature children. Your entry form will have a designated spot to upload your forms, so make sure they're signed and submitted before clicking that final "Enter" button! Failure to provide release forms for photos featuring students will eliminate those photos from your entry.

Have more technical questions? Visit the FAQ page for the Carton 2 Garden contest. Good luck!

Fall Clean Up Clearance Sale RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Last harvest picked? Check.

Fruit and veggies stored and preserved? Check.

Spring bulbs planted? Check.

Before you pack away those tools for the season, make sure you check out our Fall Clean Up Sale. Enjoy an extra 10% off on newly added clearance items and help us clean up and clear out our warehouse to make room for NEW products! Just use coupon code CLEANUP10 at checkout now through October 31 and SAVE until the first frost of the season!

A Proud Pumpkin Harvest RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


My summer garden yielded a fair amount of vegetables, but there was one star of the show: my pumpkins. Before this year, I had yet to successfully grow a pumpkin. From squash bugs and vine borers to a lack of female flowers, there always seemed to be some obstacle in my way. This year, I was determined to grow my first — and even dedicated the center of my garden to the health and happiness of my pumpkin patch.

My hard work paid off when my plants produced not one — but two fruits! My first pumpkin was a monster of a squash — great for carving. The second was much smaller and perfect for incorporating into my favorite fall dessert: pumpkin pie.

Because I was so proud of my harvest, I just had to share with the rest of the GWK team. But instead of a traditional pumpkin pie, I opted to make crust-less pumpkin piecakes. Individually sized, everyone in the office was able to try their own. And with only 6 ingredients (and no wheat, eggs, or white sugar) they're a healthier take on Grandma's version. Happy Fall!

Homegrown Pumpkin Piecakes


• 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

• 2 very ripe bananas

• 1/2 cup coconut sugar

• 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

• 1/4 tsp of nutmeg

• 1/4 tsp sea salt


Preheat oven to 350.

In a food processor, combine all the cupcake ingredients and blend until smooth.

Spoon the mixture into lined muffin pans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Let these cool completely before removing from the muffin liners. Since they are soft like pumpkin pie, stick them in the fridge after baking and they'll firm up nicely.

Once cooled, top each piecake with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy!

It's October — time for a Spooky Sale! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


After you've read our fall pumpkin craft ideas and repinned our Halloween decorations, head over to our Weekly Specials page to stock up on spooky supplies!

No tricks! We've compiled the products we think are the most bizarre, unusual, and sometimes creepy (bugs, anyone?) for a special sale in honor of our favorite October holiday.

Time to get in the Halloween spirit and treat yourself this week to savings so good, they're scary!

Free resources for your school garden! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Every month,'s Kids Garden News provides educators and families with fresh ideas to infuse plant-based education and nature-inspired activities into the home and classroom. A convenient and timely e-newsletter, Kids Garden News (KGN) began over 15 years ago as an accompaniment for's Youth Garden Grant award winners — the oldest running grant program offered through the National Gardening Association. Grant winners loved the extra resources that KGN provided, often sharing the e-newsletter with fellow educators and school garden coordinators.

Now with over 150,000 subscribers, KGN has expanded to include free resources for family and school gardening, seasonal tips, announcements, grant opportunities, and helpful web links for conferences and workshops around the country.

What's up for October? Here's a sneak peek:

• How to throw a Harvest Festival
• Pumpkin Crafts and Recipes
• Tools for Enjoying a Healthy Harvest

Sign up today to receive the October 3rd issue of Kids Garden News. Together, we can keep the garden growing year-round!

Make your own compost! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Compost is a homemade fertilizer that provides valuable nutrients to your growing medium. Since my first experiment with composting, I've learned that much of the food that I eat will eventually break down in my bin of choice. The result is a finished product that significantly improves garden soil and grows healthy plants.

Once I started, composting quickly became a part of my kitchen routine. With the kitchen trash can to my left and my compost pail to my right, meal time clean-up has been a breeze. Weekly trips out to my Compost Tumbler and the garbage barrel have been in tandem.

Most kitchen waste can be composted; in fact, some may be surprised just how much of what we throw away could be recycled into potential fertilizer for next summer's garden. Not sure where to begin? Here's a simple guide to foods that can and cannot be composted:


Fruit & veggie waste (including rinds and cores)

Stale bread, crackers, and anything made out of flour

Rice, barley, and any cooked/uncooked grains

Tea bags and coffee grounds

Old spices and crushed egg shells


Any meat waste (bones, gristle, skin, etc.)

Fish waste

Dairy products (butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.)

Oils and grease

Inorganic materials like plastic and glass

Fall is a wonderful time to start composting. Along with kitchen scraps, fallen leaves can be added to tumblers and bins. This brown carbon-rich organic matter will balance your green nitrogen-laden organic kitchen waste and help your compost break down quickly.

Ready to start? Visit our Composting board on Pinterest for helpful tips, read up on more composting techniques, and browse our Weekly Specials to save on supplies today!

Extend Your Harvest RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


For the staff of GWK, the growing season in Vermont is a shorter one; our region is famous for its fall foliage, and winter tends to swoop in soon after and freeze over the landscape. These conditions have forced Vermonters — and most New Englanders, in general — to get creative in our ways of extending the growing season for as long as possible!

Predict: Know your fall frost date and plan accordingly. Keep an eye on the change in temperature with an outdoor thermometer and make sure your fall crops are cold tolerant varieties. For a fall planting formula and tips for a successful cool season harvest, check out our Fall Planting Guide.

Protect: Cover your crops with contraptions built to trap the sun's heat, which will encourage plant growth and protect them from cooler temperatures, frost, and harmful insects. Row covers and hoop houses are easy to construct and will protect well against insects and cool temperatures, but will not guard against frost. Cloches are a simple sheltering strategy that also provides ventilation, while cold frames act as mini-greenhouses.

Prolong: Just because the ground outside may be frozen doesn't mean you must stop growing! Indoor grow lights are a wonderful way to nurture nutritious greens, herbs, and flowers. The best part? Supermarket produce prices start to skyrocket as the temperatures drop, but your harvest will continue well into the wintery months! Use our guide to jumpstart your indoor growing this year.

Enjoy gardening year-round with products from our GWK shop. And this week, our specials are centered around extending the harvest — time to stock up for season ahead!

NEW Fundraising Kits from GWK RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Yes, you CAN start a garden program at your school! Even if budgets are tight, there are still ways to obtain the funds and materials you will need to make it happen. And we're here to help!

While we always offer rolling grants and useful advice for soliciting donations, we've also put together a Garden Fundraising Kit that will assist you in reaching your goals.

Our fundraising kits give schools and organizations the opportunity to earn a 50% profit and offer free shipping using products that are hand-selected by the National Gardening Association team to promote healthy living. And when you work with us, you're giving back with every purchase — a good cause supporting a good cause!

Ready to start? Download the complete kit and start earning!

Preserve Your Harvest RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


When the growing season starts to wind down, it's time to brainstorm ways to preserve the harvest. Last year's zucchini bounty provided me with six jars of relish and two loaves of bread for my freezer. My herbs were hung, dried, and jarred for winter culinary creations and my green beans were blanched and frozen for future side dishes.

This year, I wanted to try something new. I grew plenty of fresh herbs and instead of hanging them to dry, I'm freezing them. One batch will be for winter soups and sauces. Super easy to prepare and convenient for cooking, herb ice cubes can be popped into winter soups for instant fresh flavor.

My other batch is devoted to pesto. Nutritious, delicious, and versatile, pesto makes any meal a little tastier. By freezing small batches in ice cube trays, not only does preparation become easier, but nutrition intake becomes exact. Two cubes are a perfect serving size for two people!

Herb Ice Cubes

• Chop up individual herbs (I used thyme, mint, oregano, and rosemary) and sprinkle each into an ice cube tray so that each cube mold is about 1/3 of the way full. I kept my herbs separate, but if there is an herb combination you love, why not mix a few together?

• Fill the ice cube tray with water and freeze until cubes are solid. Pop cubes out of the tray and store in your freezer in labeled freezer bags for later use.

Pesto Cubes

• Using a food processor, combine 1/4 cup pine nuts, 3 cloves garlic, 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Process until a coarse paste is formed.

• Fill ice cube trays about 3/4 full with pesto. Leave a little room for a drizzle of olive oil over each cube. Then, place plastic wrap over the trays and set in the freezer until solid.

• Once pesto cubes are frozen, pop them out of the trays and pack them in a labeled freezer bag in your freezer for future use.

And since I just purchased a food dehydrator, I've also decided to try my hand at kale chips and sun-dried tomatoes. Want to try? Read our step-by-step guide on food dehydration and create some delicious back-to-school snacks this year!

Labor Day Weekend RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Ahh, late summer. The nights have just a touch of coolness, giving relief to plants (and humans!) after an often hot and humid afternoon. This change in temperature is a clear indication that fall is fast approaching. While there's still plenty to do in the garden as far as harvesting goes, don't miss out on all of the outdoor garden activities the end of summer brings! Here are a few favorites:

Seed saving — Did your child have a favorite flower in the garden? Was there an extra tasty veggie they just couldn't get enough of? Encourage a seed saving activity for planting next year. Saved seeds from successful open-pollinated plants guarantees that those same qualities will be repeated next year. Not only fun, this activity is educational – a basic botany lesson in disguise! Have children gather, inspect, dry, and store their seeds, knowing they'll enjoy the fruits of their labor next growing season.

Sowing seeds — Yes, you CAN sow seeds in late August, just as you can in the dead of winter. However, sowing seeds for a fall harvest does take a little research into your particular zone. Choose plant varieties that will successfully grow in your region, and stick to fast-growing or hardier crops: lettuces, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, and parsnips.

Discovering Trees — For our fall digital catalog photo shoot, we hung our Outdoor Hanging Cocoon from the staff's favorite Vermont Sugar Maple in front of our office. A strong, mature tree, our maple can produce a sticky sap that, once boiled and processed, becomes a deliciously sweet syrup for drizzling on French Toast – yum! Have children explore native trees and journal their findings. Collect leaves and compare their different shapes, sizes, and colors. Have them trace their favorite to color in later. Go one step further and challenge children to find out a few interesting facts about their favorite trees to share with classmates and family.

And because there's a long weekend approaching, that means there's more time to spend outside! Shop now and use coupon code MONDAY14 for 10% off your order now through Labor Day. Want more outdoor fun? Follow us on Pinterest for garden art projects, outdoor activities, and harvest games!

Fall 2014 Digital Catalog RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


It's here! Our latest digital catalog features plenty of NEW products, a sneak peek at seasonal offerings for holiday shopping, and an inside scoop on the TODAY Show garden. Are you looking for a way to fundraise for your school this year? Yes, that's in there, too — and it's all just a click away!

Flip through on your tablet or mobile device and pin your favorites to share with your friends later. Check out the 2014 Fall Digital Catalog today!

Back to School RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


With summer winding down, many educators have begun to prep their gardens for the school year. But where to begin? There are summer garden volunteers to thank, curricula to prepare, and fruit & veggies that still need harvesting!

Make back-to-school planning a breeze with our Top 3 Resources for Educators:

Kids Garden News: For over a decade Kids Garden News has provided educators, parents, and garden enthusiasts with lessons to engage youth in the garden. This e-newsletter is delivered at the beginning of every month chocked-full of helpful tips and fun activities. Sign up today!

Garden Grants: Since 1982 and National Gardening Association have supported over 10,000 school and youth garden programs around the globe. Awards have been distributed in 15 different counties around the world impacting 2.2 million young gardeners — and new grants are opening up all the time! Does your school need some support to start a garden program, or would you like to enhance your existing program? Check out our open grants and apply!

Garden books and curricula: All of the products sold in our Gardening With Kids shop are NGA-certified, meaning they have been hand-selected by our horticulturalists and educators for quality, durability, and value. We are proud of the books and curricula that we publish, like our best-seller Math in the Garden, and our yearlong curriculum, The Growing Classroom — now in its 2nd edition. Looking for garden-based curricula for back-to-school? We've got you covered from Pre-K through grade 12! Check out all of our titles, sure to inspire a love of plant-based education in every student.

And to make the back-to-school transition even easier, we've discounted some of our most popular educator-tested products on our Weekly Specials page. Shop now to make this school year a success!

Happy National Zucchini Day! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


August 8 is a noted holiday among gardeners: National Zucchini Day. This versatile veggie is a top performer in the garden, often resulting in over-abundance by midsummer. It's no surprise then, that this holiday is also endearingly called, "Leave a Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch" Day; there's plenty to go around!

Have extra zukes in the fridge? Try one of our staff-tested recipes that incorporate this ubiquitous squash and celebrate National Zucchini Day with the whole family!

Grilled Zucchini

  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into spears
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Place zucchini spears into a large freezer bag
  2. Zest lemon and squeeze juice over spears
  3. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper into the freezer bag
  4. Close bag and shake until ingredients are well mixed. Let sit for 15 minutes
  5. Open bag and grill seasoned zucchini spears for 10 minutes
Zucchini Pasta

  • Whole-wheat spaghetti or angel hair
  • 1 large zucchini
  • Olive oil, pesto, or butter
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Put pasta water on to boil
  2. Slice zucchini into half-inch thick slices and then cut each slice into quarters.
  3. Place zucchini into steamer.
  4. When pasta water is boiling, put in the pasta and start steaming the zucchini until both are al dente.
  5. Drain pasta, put in bowl, and toss with your choice of olive oil, pesto or butter.
  6. Add zucchini, toss again.
  7. Top with fresh parmesan cheese and enjoy!
Chocolate Zucchini Cake

  • 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup veggie oil
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Peel skin from 2 medium zucchini and grate flesh. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, cream butter, oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  5. Add dry ingredients to mixing bowl and slowly blend.
  6. Fold in grated zucchini.
  7. Pour mixture into a greased 9 x 9 glass baking dish.
  8. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  9. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Let cool before slicing!


Zucchini Lasagna

Courtesy of

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up any large pieces with the back of a spoon, until brown throughout, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until it thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir in the oregano and salt. Let cool.
  5. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into thin strips (about 1/8 inch thick). Put 5 or 6 zucchini slices, overlapping slightly, in the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch baking dish.
  6. Top zucchini with 1 cup of the sauce. Dot with 1/4 cup of the ricotta. Repeat the layers twice, alternating the direction of the zucchini. Top with the remaining zucchini and brush the top with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon oil. Dot with the remaining 1/4 cup ricotta and season with the black pepper. Top with the Parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling and the top is brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Dog Days of Summer RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Is your garden prepared for August? For many gardeners across the nation, the dog days of summer are upon us. While water is vital to all life, it is a finite resource, and we should make sure that we use it thoughtfully. Beat the heat and ward off wilting with the Three W's for wise watering:

When: Plants need water to help them through long, hot days — so give them a fresh start early in the morning. The temperatures haven't peaked yet, so more water is getting to the plant and not evaporating due to high heat and humidity. Another perk? Any water that comes in contact with a plant's foliage has plenty of time to dry throughout the day — reducing the risk of fungus and disease.

Where: Make sure that water is getting to a plant's roots and not its leaves and fruit. Water the soil near the stem and keep in mind the needs of the plant itself. Does it have shallow roots, like lettuce? A smaller amount of water will suffice and will be absorbed quickly. Does it have deep roots, like tomatoes? Consider a device that delivers water straight to a plants' root zone, like an Aqua Spike.

Wherein: Keep pressure in mind when watering. A powerful jet blast from a gun-type nozzle will wash away the soil around a plant, exposing its roots and making it vulnerable to pests and disease. A gentler, steady flow from a Watering Can or soaker hose hooked up to your rain barrel will do the trick, allowing plants to absorb more — and ultimately conserving the amount of water used!

Want more helpful watering techniques? Check out's guide to Wise Watering and pick up some watering supplies from our Weekly Specials page. Use coupon code DOGDAYS14 for $5 off your purchase of $20 or more now through August 15!

TODAY Show Garden RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


We're thrilled that Carson Daly and the TODAY show share our beliefs for a healthier future. They're on board with our Garden in Every School® initiative – helping us build a school garden in Brooklyn, New York.

Brooklyn Arts & Science Elementary School (PS 705) and Exceed Charter School is home to over 400 students, grades Pre K-5. With the installation of the garden, the school has seen a dramatic increase in parent participation. The garden installation has also brought local group BedStuy Campaign Against Hunger to help in the distribution of extra harvest to families attending the schools and to those in the surrounding community who are in need.

Contributions to the garden installation included Sun Gro soil, Bonnie Plants seedlings and transplants, High Mowing Organic Seed packets, Ames garden tools, White + Burke design services, Rain Bird consultation and irrigation system, and over 800 square feet of flooring from ECORE.

Take a close look at this video of our Brooklyn school garden being built. How many GWK products can you count?

While we donated some our most popular products (like our Link-a-Bord Raised Planters), Staff Picks (Mini Woolly pockets), and educator favorites (Metal Plant Markers) – the garden project also gave us an excuse to find some brand new products that we can't wait to share with everyone! Here are a few:

• Handcrafted by Vermont woodworkers exclusively for GWK, our Cedar Planters are a beautiful and long-lasting choice for a backyard or school garden. They even come in a Tree Planter size – how cool is that?

• Even though we filled up their new Garden Potting Shed with tools and supplies, there was still enough room for the students at PS 705 and The Exceed Charter School to take turns playing inside! So unique and durable, this shed even comes ready-to-assemble.

• My favorite new product? The Cedar Trellis. Finally, a decorative option that is sturdy enough to create a privacy wall made of climbing plants – perfect!

What's your favorite TODAY Show Garden product? Check out everything we donated, find even more new products, and create your own version of this Brooklyn school garden. Shop now!

GWK Staff Favorites RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


All of our products are NGA certified — meaning that they have been hand-selected by our horticulturists and educators for quality, durability, and value. But did you know that our products are also tested by GWK staff? Once tested, many of us end up purchasing our favorites to share with our families and use in our gardens. Here is a sampling of our Staff Picks:


Julie,Youth Education Program Director: The 4 x 6 Cedar Raised Bed has made a huge difference in my ability to access food directly from my backyard, especially in an urban area. While I have a large garden plot that I like to bike to in the next town, having a raised bed outside my back door gives me access to fresh lettuce, beets, tomatoes, herbs and a host of other delicious foods that complement homemade meals. I love to share the harvest with neighbors and often a few furry backyard friends.


Jenn, Controller: I love the Cedar Pyramid Trellis because it makes a beautiful statement in the garden, and it's perfect for vertical gardening. It is easy to assemble with only a screwdriver and tall enough to handle any climbing vine.

Larry, Database Administrator: Veggie Garden Heroes are probably the cutest item in the catalog and fun to draw before sending them along to a newborn niece. Why not foster a love of vegetables from the very beginning?

Nichole, Director of Commerce & Outreach: The Mobile Composter's ability to roll from our animals' pasture to the garden has made cleanup and life on our hobby farm much easier. Our pony also loves using it as her personal scratching post, and it's still holding up well!

Susan, Outreach Associate: Since my apartment is only 500 sq ft, there isn't enough floor space or windowsill room for all of the indoor plants I'd like to have. But with my Mini Woolly pockets, I now have living walls!

Salad Days RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


The early summer season signals the harvest of salad greens to the table. So far, I've enjoyed multiple servings of fresh kale, mustard greens, mesclun, and arugula – all while watching my other veggies start to grow. Lettuces are versatile, easy-to-grow edibles that are densely nutritious. Often packed with Vitamins A, C, and K, they're a simple way to make any family meal healthier.

But because many varieties of lettuce are so fast-growing, many gardeners end up with an early abundance of the stuff. Just what to do with it all?

Personally, I never get sick of fresh salads – especially when they're chock-full of crunchy veggies and creative toppings. Different colors, tastes, and textures are also a sure-fire way to gets kids to pick up their forks!

What are you waiting for? It's time to load up on leafy greens for dinner tonight! Here are some ideas for toppings that are sure to tickle your taste buds. Try one or a few and take that basic garden salad to the next level.

Note: Add protein to a salad for a well-rounded meal. Grilled chicken, tofu, or tuna are all great choices!


Diced Granny Smith apple

Mandarin oranges

Pomegranate seeds

Strawberry slices

Bonus topping: dried cranberries


Salted, sautéed green beans

Caramelized onions

Roasted red peppers

Sun-dried tomatoes

Bonus topping: goat cheese crumbles


Multi-colored bell peppers

Purple carrots

Red or golden beets

Heirloom tomatoes

Bonus topping: sliced almonds or chopped walnuts

Remember to keep sowing small amounts of lettuce varieties in succession every few weeks so you'll always have a batch ready for harvesting. Don't have enough space in your garden for lettuce? Check out our How-To Project and grow your own salad greens in window boxes at home!

We're Celebrating Summer with a Blowout Sale! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Besides pruning and weeding our gardens, the staff of GWK has another big job in July; we must clear out space in our warehouse to make room for brand-new gardening products. Naturally, we wanted to make that job fun for everybody by throwing a Summer Clearance Blowout!

Our Clearance page is packed with products that are deeply discounted so you can save even more this summer. But hurry — these items are limited in quantity, so they're only available while supplies last!

The 3 rules of vertical gardening RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Short on growing space? Grow up! Vertical gardening is a great way to utilize small areas and still reap the benefits of a fresh harvest. In fact, you can grow more in less space by training vining plants to move upward. And once you know the basic rules of vertical gardening, your plants will be sky-high in no time!

Rule #1: Know your vining plants. Cucumbers, grapes, melons, squash, beans — even pumpkins can be trained to grow vertically. These plants have trailing vines that need to extend outward somewhere. Take advantage of their climbing abilities and add some visual interest to your garden at the same time. What else? The higher they climb, the less you have to bend as you tend to them — something your back will thank you for later.

Rule #2: Make sure you have support. Grapevine is thinner than a squash's thicker, sprawling shoot, so ensure that the trellising system you prepare is going to support each plant's climbing personality. Give vines plenty of places to grab onto and wind around, knowing that it will be a sturdy anchor for future fruit. And speaking of fruit, a section of hosiery or mesh fabric makes an excellent sling for supporting those melons, pumpkins, and squash that result from your vertical venture!

Rule #3: Don't forget about growing down. Use gravity to your advantage and allow your vines to hang from a strategically placed planter. A garden arbor, balcony railing, or fence post can all serve as a foundation for a vertical garden that is trained to grow downward. Just remember to support any fruit, just as you would if your plants were growing up.

Guess what? Non-vining plants can be grown vertically, too! Get creative with containers, like our Woolly and Mini-Woolly pockets, on a post or fence. Add some flowering plants or herbs and voilà — your very own living wall!

For more ideas, check out our Vertical Gardening board on Pinterest.

Celebrate National Pollinator Week RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Butterflies, birds, bees, flies – even bats – are all pollinators. We depend on pollinators to help create the next generation of food crops that we eat. According to the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, about 75% of all flowering plants rely on pollinators for fertilization. But sadly, many plants have become isolated due to increased human development and land fragmentation. These lonely plants cannot attract pollinators frequently enough to survive. Even worse, dangerous pesticides intended for garden pests often kill beneficial pollinators.

What to do?

1. Plant your own Pollinator Garden. Attract bees and butterflies to your backyard by planting blooms that are nectar– and pollen-rich. Make sure they are native to your region, as they will be best suited to meet the needs of native insects. Include a range of shapes, colors, and sizes that will appeal to a wide range of pollinators. Use our chart for reference.

2. Buy locally sourced, organic honey. Support your local beekeepers, who are avidly trying to save the bees! Climate change, disease, and aforementioned chemicals have threatened many bee species into dwindling numbers. Beekeepers create safe homes for bees to reproduce — and end up with a sweet product for humans to enjoy!

3. Avoid using harmful pesticides. Instead, use an alternative method of garden pest control or make your own natural sprays using common (and safe) household products and apply them only after sundown, when most pollinators have stopped feeding for the day. Read up on some of our favorite organic pest control methods.

This year, National Pollinator Week will take place June 16-22. Learn more about how to celebrate and find events in your area with help from the Pollinator Partnership. And don't forget to check out this week's specials for savings on select pollinator garden supplies!

Five fresh ideas for Father's Day RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


I learned a long time ago that rather than just give my Dad a gift on Father's Day, we could also make memories and have fun on that day reserved just for him. Over the years, we've batted the tennis ball around the court, hiked woodsy trails, and made sandcastles on the beach. This year, Dad has decided that we're spending the Big Day building a raised bed in the backyard. We'll be planting peppers, tomatoes, pole beans, radishes, carrots, and cucumbers — Dad's very own Snackable Veggie Garden!

Want to celebrate Dad in an extra special way this year? Here are five nature-inspired activities for Father's Day:

1. Build a raised bed and plant a garden. Nothing brings you closer to Dad than a DIY project. Break out the work gloves and grab some lumber -- we have easy-to-follow instructions for constructing a simple raised bed for the backyard. Once the bed is built, make sure to plant some of your father's favorite foods. Finish off the project with a garden sign that commemorates the day.

2. Visit your local Arboretum or Botanical Garden. This is a lovely time of year to tour your community's nearest arboretum or botanical garden. With gorgeous garden layouts, freshly bloomed flowers, and architectural interest, a stroll through these venues is a delight for the senses. Don't forget to bring a camera for photo ops with Dad that you can frame later.

3. Plan a trip to the Farmers' Market. Most communities host their outdoor farmers' markets on the weekends. Depending on your town's schedule, take a trip with Dad and have him pick out fresh options for his Father's Day meal. Then, continue the fun in the kitchen as you prepare dinner together.

4. Attend an outdoor workshop. Contact your community's Recreation and Parks Department for local offerings that will spark your father's interest. If a workshop is age-appropriate, sign up the whole family!

5. Grab flashlights for a moonlit nature hunt. The full moon this month is on June 13, which means there'll be plenty of moonlight on Father's Day evening. You and Dad can discover how your neighborhood landscape changes under the moon and stars of the night sky. Look and listen for nighttime animals and tell each other adventure stories on your stroll!

Let GWK celebrate with you! Have Dad pick out a gift from our shop – then use promo code FATHERSDAY14 to save 10% on his order now through June 16.

GWK wishes dads everywhere a very Happy Father's Day! teams up with TODAY Show to shine a light on childhood hunger RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

As part of TODAY's Shine a Light series, a campaign to support worthy causes throughout the year, TODAY anchor, Carson Daly has chosen to shine a light on childhood hunger and healthy eating in America. He's teamed up with to help get a Garden in Every School® across the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three kids in America is overweight or obese. Additionally, the USDA reports that one in four American kids live in food insecure homes, which means that some children are going to bed hungry. School gardens provide an opportunity for children to explore new foods, while giving easier access to fresh produce. On top on these benefits, gardening allows for hands-on learning, which better enables academic success while building skills that will last a lifetime.

To kick off this initiative, Daly started with a garden for three schools that share a campus in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York: P.S. 705, P.S. 22, and the Exceed Charter School.

"The children come in the morning eating food that has them on a sugar high," said Carlen Padmore, principal of P.S. 22. "By the time they start class – their first class, period one – they're bouncing off the walls. By period three, they look like they're ready to go to sleep. "

Daly's goal is to get the students to ditch fast food for fresh food.

"I know it's a tough sell," he told TODAY viewers on Friday. "I've got all summer to let this garden thing grow on them."

The Brooklyn students are up for Daly's challenge and are excited to start growing their own food. Join and TODAY by supporting Daly's Crowdrise fundraiser and help put a Garden in Every School®. Create a team and raise $25 or more through June 15 for a chance to win a Garden Starter Package valued at over $500. Find out more and donate today!

Celebrate Memorial Day with Savings! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Did you know? During both world wars and with the encouragement of the US government, more than 20 million Americans took part in planting Victory Gardens, an act of growing, harvesting, preserving and sharing their yields of fruits and vegetables. These gardens became a critical source for providing food, especially in this time of rationing and food shortages.

This year, we're commemorating Memorial Day by planting our own Victory Gardens — and we want you to join us! Use our special Memorial Day coupon code VICTORY14 at checkout now through June 6 to save 25% on any order $100 or more in our shop and stock up on supplies to get your family growing!

Plant a Victory Garden for Memorial Day RSS

Growing Ideas Blog



My early Memorial Day memories include proudly waving an American flag while parading through my hometown streets with my Girl Scout Troop. Every year, the parade led to our town cemetery, where we made sure every veteran's grave had a flag next to their grave. An annual event, the parade was a chance for my troop — and my town — to consider and appreciate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Even if your hometown doesn't have a parade to attend, you can still honor those who have served while celebrating the American spirit of perseverance. This Memorial Day, take part in an initiative that helped American soldiers and citizens beginning in World War I: Victory Gardens.

Start your own Victory Garden with our Bag of Beans Grow Kit and plant it in a soldier's honor. You can even share your yield with your local veteran's organization or food shelf. Embody the spirit of why Victory Gardens were first established, and get your family growing!

Bag of Beans Grow Kit

Please note: Our Eco-Friendly Plant Container is made of 100% organic jute burlap and is extremely porous. While it is best suited for outdoor use, it can be used indoors with proper overflow measures intact.


1 Eco-Friendly Plant Container

3 coir bricks

2 plant markers

1 packet of organic Bush Beans


Step 1: Bring your Eco-Friendly Plant Container to a well-draining ground area outside or place it in a sink/bucket.

Step 2: Place coir bricks in container and carefully add water until bricks are submerged. Bricks will break apart easily once moistened and kids will love squishing the soil between their fingers!

Step 3: Once bricks are broken apart, let water soak in and any excess water to drain.

Step 4: Let water drain from bag. In about 1/2 hour, plant Bush Beans according to the instructions on the back of the packet. Have kids handle the beans and push them into the soil. Then, name your Victory Garden with our plant markers!

Once your Bush Beans start to grow, you can plant the naturally biodegradable Eco-Friendly Plant Container right in your garden, or leave them in the container for one-season's use.

Happy Memorial Day from GWK!

A community of gardeners RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


For me, the month of May is busy with garden prep. There is still so much to do before I sow seeds and transplant my sprouts! My fiancé, Joe, always builds a fence around our 25' x 25' community garden space to protect our plants from animals and high winds. I rake in compost and prepare our garden beds. Then we both install a raised bed in the center of our plot and lay down straw for our garden path. By the end of May, seeds will be in the ground and I'll be on my way to a delicious summer harvest.

And I have my community to thank for all of it! My town's Recreation and Parks Department organizes two community gardens with over 100 plots that residents can rent each summer. Town workers till the soil, stake off plots, and install a watering system. The Garden Coordinators are gardeners themselves, who volunteer their time to help fellow plot holders with their sites and ensure that everything runs smoothly.

While my community's gardens now run like a well-oiled machine year after year, there was a time when they were not in existence. It was once just an idea that required some motivation and a group of dedicated citizens to make it happen. And it took continued support to keep it going. But like a sweet summer harvest, the end result has been totally worth it. I am now a member of another community — my garden community — and together we work the soil, share zucchinis, and swap homegrown recipes.

Want to get your school or community growing? Check out our 5 Tips for Starting a School Garden and then delve deeper with our book, Steps to a Bountiful Kids' Garden — an information-packed how-to guide that contains all you need to know to launch and sustain a successful gardening program.

NEW Gardening With Kids Home & Family Digital Catalog RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Build a backyard or kitchen garden and teach important life skills along the way! Now, gardening education goes beyond the classroom with NEW products hand-picked for home & family. With everything you need for your growing space in one place, our first-ever Home & Family digital edition is packed with key products for a successful summer harvest.

Check out Gardening With Kids Home & Family today and share it with your friends!

Garden prep for a successful summer harvest RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


When I think about my summer garden, my mind always jumps to the harvest: warm, late afternoons plucking pole beans from their vines and discovering ripe zucchinis hiding beneath huge, heart-shaped leaves.

My community garden officially opens this weekend, and although it's nice to think about the end result, the reality is that right now, my plot is just a 25' x 25' square of tilled soil. There are no curling vines, colorful flowers, or leafy greens…yet.

And while preparing the garden seems daunting at first, I've found that with the right equipment — and a little enthusiasm — it's always easier than I thought.

My inspiration for garden prep this year? The American River College Early Childhood Center in Sacramento, California. As the grand prize winner of the Spring 2014 Jamba Juice "It's All About the Fruit and Veggies" Garden Grant, this West Coast early childhood center received a $1,500 award package. With a plan to plant by Earth Day, the school has been busy organizing and preparing their garden with tool sets and raised beds from our shop.

National Gardening Association's CEO, Mike Metallo, attended the final celebration on Earth Day and showed us pictures of the day's events — and the American River College Early Childhood Center's garden. Together, with help from the team at Jamba Juice, educators and children worked the soil, sowed seeds, and planted vegetables.

Just seeing the photos and hearing Mike's stories makes me want to roll up my sleeves, grab my spade, and get to work. Check out our shop for all the Tools & Equipment you need this growing season, and be sure to read up on our Techniques for Easier Gardening to make your garden prep effortless!

Ode to Little Gardeners RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Every April, our shop is busy with custom orders for Earth Day events across the nation. The recent release of the National Gardening Association's special report, Garden To Table, has shown a surge in gardening among households with children over the last 5 years. Not only is this good news for children — as gardening has been shown to increase knowledge retention in math, science, and reading, as well as promote healthful diet and exercise practices — but it's also great news for the Earth! Environmentally conscious youth care about preserving our planet's resources and work hard to recycle, reuse and repurpose items around them. They grow up with a connection to their natural world, and as a result, a responsibility to protect it.

But we've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of Pre-K products that have been included in our recent orders; it seems our gardeners are getting younger! More educators are putting pairs of Preschool Gloves on their students and tending Square Foot Gardens during recess. More caregivers are helping kids turn empty milk jugs into watering cans with our Sprinkle Spouts. And more parents are working side by side with their children in their backyard, each with their own set of tools. All of these hands-on activities help develop a child's appreciation of their planet as a place that provides necessary resources and healthy food.

This Earth Day, we salute all environmental stewards — with a special thank-you to our littlest ones. And just for fun, here are 5 Easy Earth Day Activities to help you celebrate!

How do you compost? RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Until last year, I bought pre-bagged mushroom compost at my local garden center. It cost me a pretty penny, and in truth, I didn't think there was any alternative. There was no way that my current living situation could accommodate a composting system — right? Wrong!

Since we've expanded our Composting section in our shop, I've learned that there is truly a composter for every space. With the right container, even my 500 sq ft apartment outside the city can contain enough compost for my community garden plot.

As easy as 1-2-3, here is my No-Fuss Method for all of those beginners out there like me:

   1. I toss my organic kitchen scraps into the Odor-Free Compost Pail that I keep under my sink.

   2. When it's full, I take a trip outside to my Junior Rotating Composter that is kept right next to my trash bin.
   Next to the GeoBin, the Junior is the smallest we have and still holds 7 cubic feet of compost.

   3. The wheeled base makes it easy to rotate, so I can just add my scraps and aerate them right away.
   Voilà — fresh compost in two weeks!

For those out there with a little more space, there are tumblers and vented bins for every taste. Nichole, our Commerce Director, swears by her Worm Factory, which she keeps under her sink — just like my Compost Pail. Her red wiggler worms work at a fast pace, with each worm consuming its weight in kitchen scraps daily. Vermicomposting is a natural fit for school gardens for its science connection, but worms make great family pets, too!

Are you new to composting? Check out the National Gardening Association's article, Compost 101 for beginner's tips — and then get your kids hooked on composting with our Kids Compost Activity Guide!

How to dye eggs — naturally! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Sure — fruit, veggies, and herbs are healthy and delicious. But they have other uses as well! Plants have been used for centuries as natural dyes, adding color and design to fabric, cosmetics, and accessories. Cultures throughout history have used plant pigments for reasons associated with status, class, and religion. Natural dyes are also a beautiful way to play with food! With minimal materials, some stovetop simmering, and creativity — you can teach your kids how everyday foods and spices can produce pastel dyes perfect for spring.

Egg-citing Colors

Step 1: Hard-boil large, white eggs in a pot of water.

Step 2: Make one or more natural dye baths, then cool each bath in the refrigerator.

Step 3: Soak eggs in the desired dye bath. Stir the eggs a few times to distribute equal color. Typical time: 10-30 minutes.

Step 4: Use a slotted spoon to remove eggs from dye bath and set on a wire rack to dry.


Boil one head of shredded purple cabbage in 4 cups of water.
Stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove cabbage and save for a later recipe. Reserve liquid for a dye bath and cool in the fridge.


Cut 3 beets into chunks and add to 3 cups boiling water. Stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Remove beets and save for a later recipe. Reserve liquid for a dye
bath and cool in the fridge.


Just place eggs that have been dyed yellow into the blue dye!


Add 6 tablespoons turmeric and 1 tablespoon white vinegar to 4 cups boiling water. Take off heat and stir until spice is dissolved. Let cool in the fridge.


Boil 3 cups water and add the skins of 6 yellow onions. Stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and simmer for 5-10 minutes and strain liquid. Let cool in the fridge.

Turn your egg-dying experience into a history lesson with our article on Extracting Nature’s Colors. Want more? Check out our Plant Based Dye Kit available in our online shop!

April Fools' Day Fun RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


The turn from winter to spring marks a holiday that I always like to observe: April Fools' Day. The first of April is a day of light-heartedness and fun. Teach your kids that April Fools' Day is a time for delightful surprises with a harmless prank inspired by nature and nutrition. I give you The Chocolate Chickpea Flower Pot Trick.
Serve this chocolate dessert in clean, 2 ½" clay flower pots as an after-dinner treat. Kids will squeal in surprise as you hungrily dig in and eat the "soil." April Fools! The "soil" is really yummy, moist brownies topped with crushed Oreos!

And this delicious dessert is disguised in more ways than just one. The crumbled brownies are actually made from protein-packed chickpeas, and contain no wheat, butter, or eggs. So after kids are finished gobbling them down, you can announce "April Fools!" again, because they just ate a heaping portion of healthy beans!

Chocolate Chickpea Flower Pots

(makes 6 large brownies)

Note: You can find packs of 2 1/2" clay flower pots at your local craft store! Remember to buy food-safe pots, or line your pots with paper cupcake liners before serving.


1 15-oz can
chickpeas, drained

1 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup all natural almond butter or peanut butter

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp vanilla

2-3 Oreo Cookies,
for garnish (optional)

Sprigs of mint, for garnish

1/2 cup coconut


• Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 x 9 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

• In a food processor, puree the first 7 ingredients until smooth. Add the vanilla and blend again.

• Pour batter into baking pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

• Let the brownies completely cool. Cut into 6 large pieces and transfer to a wire rack.

• Wash and dry the baking pan. Transfer the brownies back into the pan and pour the coconut milk in equal amounts over each. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for about an hour.

To serve:

• Take baking pan out of the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap.

• With a spatula, transfer one large brownie into each clean, empty, clay flower pot.

• With a spoon/fork, crush and crumble the brownie, which now should have a slight pudding consistency from the coconut milk.

• Insert a sprig of mint into each pot of "soil" to look like a growing "sprout."

• Separate the Oreo cookies and crush up the chocolate cookie wafers. Sprinkle a thin layer of crushed cookies in each flower pot and around your "sprout" to mimic a top layer of soil.

• Dig in!

Looking for more ways to encourage healthy eating habits? Download this lesson plan on Serving Nutrition at Home and be sure to stock up on supplies in the Health and Nutrition section of our shop!

Join us for #FoodDayChat on 3/24/14 at 2pm ET RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


We're thrilled to partner with Food Day for their monthly #FoodDayChat.

What is #FoodDayChat, you ask?

Food Day is a year-round movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food — culminating on October 24, a day of action & advocacy. #FoodDayChat is a Twitter conversation hosted by Food Day on the 24th of every month, inviting people around the world to discuss topics that relate to the Food Day movement. Each month is a different topic and March's theme is all about gardening!

Food Day has asked the National Gardening Association for their input on a variety of questions about gardening. And today, March 24, at 2pm ET, we'll be sharing our answers to all of them — but more importantly, we want to hear from YOU!

Tell us why YOU think gardening is important. How does it help people lead healthier lives and build stronger communities? What challenges have you faced with your garden? Is there a link between gardening and nutrition? Share your thoughts on all of these questions and more and you could win a Kid's Organic Bundle from the Gardening With Kids online shop!

Follow @FoodDay2014, @NatlGardening, and #FoodDayChat today at 2pm ET. See you then!

Square Foot Gardening Contest! Enter for your chance to win RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


We're excited to offer Mel Bartholomew's brand NEW book, Square Foot Gardening with Kids in our online Kids Shop! To celebrate, we're giving away a whole set of his Square Foot Gardening books (4 total), including Square Foot Gardening with Kids.

Want to win? Just answer this question:

According to Mel, beets are great to plant in a square foot garden because they teach kids the difference between roots and tubers. So what do you think: is a beet a root or a tuber?

Send your answer to by March 31st. A winner will be randomly selected on April 4th.

New Early Season Gardening Products RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


To all those seasoned gardeners out there, it's time that I come clean:

My name is Susan and I don't know what a cloche is.

I'll admit that when I first laid eyes on this long, bell-shaped, clear, plastic cover sitting in my office — I just assumed it was some sort of cold frame. And then I picked it up. There was no way that a cold frame could be so light. Was it a row cover? Maybe — but not just any row cover. It was too sturdy and tough. It even had a powder-coated steel frame. Usually row covers don't have adjustable air vents, either.

I grabbed the mystery product by its handle on top and carried it down to our Commerce Department.

"What is this?" I asked Nichole, our Commerce Director. She told me it was our new Early Season Garden Cloche.

A what?

Pronounced klohsh, this lightweight cover is meant to protect young plants from frost and other harsh weather conditions. It also keeps away pests and animals. Our cloche's clear, UV-resistant plastic warms the soil to promote quick growth and is tough enough to last season after season. There's no doubt that our Early Season Garden Cloche is a must-have for spring lessons in the school garden — but it can also easily take learning beyond the classroom and teach children about healthy plant development at home in the backyard.

Are you excited for spring? Save 10% on your own Early Season Garden Cloche when you enter CLOCHE14 at checkout now through March 28 — and discover all of our NEW products today. It's time to get growing!

March is National Nutrition Month RSS


It's interesting that National Nutrition Month falls after February — the month famous for Valentine's Day treats. I've certainly had my fill of chocolates and am definitely ready to start eating healthier.

Nutrition doesn't have to mean constantly counting calories or keeping within strict dietary guidelines. Healthy eating can be as simple as pairing nutritious foods together and making a habit of it. For kids, this can be more challenging to achieve, as underdeveloped taste buds often make for picky eaters. However, when healthy snacks can be prepared in an appealing way, suddenly good nutrition is not only possible — but fun!

To celebrate National Nutrition Month, here are two fresh and healthy snack ideas:

Sweet Snail

This is a great weekend lunch for preschoolers, or a satisfying after-school snack for elementary and middle schoolers that's bound to hold them over until dinner.

• Make a PB&J sandwich and cut out a circle for the snail's shell. You can add a fun, spiral design to the top of the bread with a few extra drizzles of jam. Lay the mini sandwich round on a plate.

• Next, peel a banana (save the discarded peel for your compost pail) and lay it on the plate so it curves up, like a smile. Position it under the snail's shell.

• Lastly, break a thin pretzel stick in half and stick them into the end of the banana for the snail's antennae. Add some eyes and a smile with a few more drops of jam.

Tangy Turtle

A definite crowd-pleaser, this tasty terrapin provides a fruity boost of energy!

• Take one Granny Smith apple and cut near the core, so you're left with a bowl-shaped piece.

• Next, cut off the rounded part of the bowl, so you end up with a thick, flat circle of fruit. This is the turtle's shell.

• Grab a handful of green grapes (approximately 9). Using a knife, slice 1 grape lengthwise and then again in half. Position these grape pieces around the turtle's shell, round side out. These are the turtle's feet.

• Make flat, circular grape pieces by cutting off the rounded ends of 7 more grapes. Position these grape circles on top of your apple shell. Now the turtle's shell is spotted!

• Add a whole grape for the turtle's head and make a pointed grape turtle tail.

Want more fun ideas to boost your child's nutrition? Follow our Kids' Health & Nutrition board on Pinterest!

Books In Bloom is HERE! RSS


Last week, we had a couple of visitors to the office. Who were they? None other than Valerie Bang-Jensen and Mark Lubkowitz, the pair behind the highly anticipated NEW K-5 curriculum, Books in Bloom — from the National Gardening Association.

As our fans know, Books in Bloom has been available for pre-order for 2 months at a special price, and with an added bonus for the first 200 orders. Last week, Valerie and Mark came equipped with green felt-tipped pens — ready to sign those first 200 copies.

Books in Bloom invites children to learn about science and nature while experiencing a great story. Each chapter focuses on a popular children's book and features quick and easy lesson ideas, hands-on activities, and full lesson plans that relate the text to multiple disciplines. In addition, reference icons clearly identify appropriate grade levels, and lists of related titles are included for alternative reading levels and connections to Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.

"Because elementary school teachers teach all subjects, they really need to be aware of looking at literature with different lenses, not just the literary elements," explained Valerie. "We wanted to make sure there were books of different genres. There's fiction, nonfiction, there's poetic language in some of them – it's a broad range. There's something for everyone."

Don't miss this opportunity to receive your own signed copy of Books in Bloom. With only 100 signed copies still left, they're going fast! Order today:

Announcing our 2014 Digital Catalog RSS


I'm excited to share our Gardening With Kids catalog. With a sweep of my finger, I can flip through pages on my tablet over my morning coffee. Not only that, but with over 500 direct links embedded within the 68-page book, I can easily shop for fresh gardening goodies for spring.

And for all of those school and community gardeners out there — listen up! This year's catalog features students from Cambridge Elementary School in Jeffersonville, Vermont. Next year's catalog could feature YOU.

The National Gardening Association has created the Be in Our 2015 Catalog Contest, inspired by those teachers and parents who use our products as educational tools every day.

That's right — it's time to dig into that worm compost bin and snap a picture with your red wigglers. Or send us a photo of your classroom harvesting this summer's tomato crop. The five best submissions will win honorary packages for their garden and the winning submission will be featured in our 2015 product catalog! And no matter what, all submissions will receive a free gift from

Enter the Be in our Catalog Contest today!

Homemade Valentines RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


Valentine's Day is your chance to express heartfelt sentiments in a creative way. This year, instead of browsing those red-and-pink themed aisles of your local convenience store, try your hand at a homemade valentine — inspired by garden-fresh blooms.

Sweet Scents

A card with a built-in perfume! If your flower garden is hibernating for the winter and you don't have an indoor arrangement to pull from, stop by your local florist or supermarket for donations of old flowers.

While roses are the most popular choice on Valentine's Day, other fantastically fragrant flower options include lavender, lilac, peony, hydrangea, and jasmine.


• Cardstock/scrapbook paper

• Cheesecloth

• Scissors

• Glue stick

• Flower petals


1. Fold the cardstock/scrapbook paper in half and cut to preferred card size.

2. Using a pair of scissors, cut a heart design out of the cheesecloth.

3. Glue the "V" of the cheesecloth heart to the front of your card, leaving the top of the heart unattached. Let glue harden for about 2-3 minutes.

4 . Fill the cheesecloth heart with flower petals and arrange them to your liking.

5. Pull the cheesecloth taut and glue the heart tightly closed. This is important; in a day or two, the petals will dry and shrink up a bit and you want your heart to keep its shape!

Now that your sweet-smelling design is set, add any additional designs or flourishes. And don't forget to include a personalized message on the inside of your card.

Have a long list of valentines to give? Customize each card! Mix rose petals and dried citrus peel for a fresh scent, or combine jasmine petals and red winterberries for a textured look.

For more homemade, garden-inspired gift articles, check out these ideas on our website. And follow us on Pinterest for plenty of Valentine's Day decorations.

Time to Plan Your Garden RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

There's nothing better than curling up with a good book on a cold, winter's night. In my case, I've been curling up with two books: Everyday Garden Solutions in one hand (a great resource for companion planting) and my Garden Journal in the other. If you've been gardening for more than one season, you are well aware that winter is an excellent time to plan for summer. If this year is your first crack at growing — grab a pen and start sketching!

I am lucky to have secured a community garden plot for the past 2 years, with a square plot measuring 25' x 25' to work with. Even though I've moved the location of my garden crops a bit between those first two years, I've still battled with pests, pulled too many weeds, and ended up with tired soil by early August. Now, for my third growing season, I've decided to mix things up and completely rotate my crops to keep the overwintering pests guessing and my soil's nutrients in balance.

But there's more to garden planning than crop rotation. A gardener must also consider the bigger picture — the overall design of the space — to be able to maximize the area and plan efficiently.

Here's a simple design idea that I use year after year:

I always begin with an 8' x 8' raised bed in the center of the plot, and have used it to grow a variety of vegetables in the past. This year, I'm going to devote the whole bed to growing my very first pumpkin and surround it with colorful marigolds and nasturtiums, which will help deter pests.

I then encircle (or en-square in this case) my raised bed with a walkway covered with straw to keep the weeds at bay. What I'm left with is one, giant outer square — corners included — to utilize for the rest of my crops. The geometric shape of the walkway allows me to have full access to every plant, without having to wind in between rows, and the consistent square-within-a-square design makes my garden look organized, even when weeds are at their worst.

If you're planning your summer garden, make sure to check out February's deal in our Year of Savings. Save 10% on all seed starting supplies (including Growlab® light gardens) AND receive bonus organic sunflower seeds. Just use code HEARTGWK2 at checkout.

Want more ideas? Follow us on Pinterest for seed starting ideas, design tips, and more!

Spring Catalog Sneak Peek RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

It's hard to believe that GWK is already planning its second catalog of the year! Our spring book has been designed with the educator in mind, and our team has gone out of their way to hand-pick and test out products that will work well for a wider age range: grades PreK-8.

One of the most unique aspects of the new catalog is our handy Icon Key.

Our in-house educators have carefully selected items that are best-suited for a Pre-K level, while our horticulturists have chosen products that are great for school gardens — and equally valuable for home use. Because after all, many educators are Moms and Dads themselves who strive to incorporate health and nutrition in their daily family routine.

What else? We've recently added 20 new products to our shop that we're excited for you to experience, with even more on the way as the growing season approaches! From an innovative Elevated Raised Bed that is completely self-watering to an all-purpose Food Grade Rain Barrel to a Superior Greenhouse — all of our NEW products will have you thinking of spring!

Is there something you'd like to see added to our catalogs? What products would help make your home and school garden grow? Email us with your suggestions and feedback — we'd love to hear your ideas!

For the Birds RSS

Growing Ideas Blog


I noticed a tiny chickadee all fluffed up under a corner eave of my front porch the other night, which made me wonder about his winter whereabouts.

Sure, my shivering feathered friend had food, but did he have a home? Worried, I set to work on constructing simple little refuges around my yard for him — or any other bird braving bitter cold winds and icy conditions.

Nesting Pocket:

I designed this cozy insulated pouch with my chickadee friend in mind. Nesting pockets are very easy to make and can usually be constructed from materials you have on hand.

What you need:

Wire mesh

Stuffing material
(moss, dryer lint, even
animal hair!)

Pair of pliers

How to make:

• Using a piece of wire mesh about 12x32 inches, I laid it down flat and piled my stuffing material onto one half until the layer was about one inch thick. I folded the rest of the wire over to make a stuffing sandwich and secured the wire on all sides.

• Then, I rolled it up and shaped one end to close, which took a little extra securing. For this, I recommend using a piece of wire to "sew" through the mesh.

• The last step involved shaping the other end — the opening to my bird's nesting pocket. Then, I placed the pouch in the tree next to my front porch and voilà — there was a snug little home for my chickadee!

If you're feeling extra crafty, you can also try making a Nesting Box for winter birds. The National Gardening Association has a helpful article on how to build a Nesting Box that will guide you through the process.

And if DIY isn't your thing, you're in luck! The Gardening With Kids shop is having a sale on all bird supplies this week. Visit our weekly specials page and choose a birdhouse for every member of the flock!

5 Easy Steps to Winter Sowing RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

For those of you who have been keeping up with the recent Polar Vortex, it may seem that outdoor winter gardening is impossible in Vermont right now. A daily temperature in the teens with a wind chill falling into the negatives does not exactly bode well for germination. However, I've been hearing a lot about a method of seed starting called Winter Sowing, invented by Trudi Davidoff, and wondered how well it'd work in the frosty region where I live.

What is Winter Sowing?

An outdoor method of winter germination.

What do you need to Winter Sow?

• An empty milk jug

• Well-draining soil mixture (I used Espoma Organic Peat Moss Potting Soil)

• Duct tape

• A pair of scissors for punching holes in the jug

• Seeds of your choice

How to Winter Sow — in 5 easy steps:

1. Make a miniature greenhouse out of an empty milk jug.

Actually, you can use any container you want, just as long as light can penetrate through its walls. Once you've chosen a container, use a knife to cut around the middle. Don't cut all the way around. Leave about an inch uncut to serve as a hinge. Next, use a pair of scissors to punch multiple holes in the bottom of the jug to facilitate proper draining. These holes will also help your little seeds breathe. No need to keep the cap on the jug, either; your seeds will benefit from the extra ventilation.

2. Fill with soil and water

Find a well-draining soil mixture and fill the bottom half of your jug with it. Make sure the soil is about 1-2 inches below your cut-line. Moisten the soil and let it drain.

3. Plant your seeds.

It's time to sow! Follow the instructions on your seed packet and sow your seeds according to their proper depth requirements. I've heard that the hardier the variety, the better the result. Because of this, I tried broccoli raab seeds in my jug. Replace the "lid" you cut into your mini-container greenhouse and secure it with some duct tape. If you're going to make more than one of these, I suggest labeling your containers. By the time they begin to grow in early spring, you may forget what you planted!

4. Set your jug outside.

Find a location that will be relatively safe from curious animals and strong winds — you don't want your jug to accidentally tip over. Set your jug on a patio table, on the deck, next to a fence — anywhere that is secure.

5. Sit back and wait!

Sometimes I worry about my little jug on my front deck among all that snow — and I wonder how the seeds will survive under such extreme conditions. I learned that my seeds will freeze and thaw at various times over the course of the season, which will loosen the seed coatings and prepare them for germination. Once it nears spring, and even when temperatures still fall below freezing, I've been told that little sprouts will emerge in my jug. When this happens, it will be important to check the soil moisture and water the little seedlings before closing the tops again.

Try winter sowing your own seeds to beat those winter blues with the promise of spring! Let your kids decorate their own jugs and make it a cold-weather activity for the whole family.

For more winter activities and regional tips, sign up for our emails!

2014: The Year of the Tomato RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Every year, I make resolutions that focus on improving my physical and mental health – and an extra one specifically for my garden. I've tried to expand my knowledge of gardening through each growing season and learn from every success and failure. But after warring with weeds, trying to save the bees, and lots of help from our Growing Ideas Pinterest board — there remains one fact that persists year after year: I can't grow tomatoes.

I have tried growing tomatoes from seed and I've tried starter tomato plants. I've had horticulturists diagnose and offer treatments for my tomatoes' illnesses after taking one look at the shriveled, dotted, or yellowed leaves that are always an end result. Nothing seems to work. If only I had GWK's new Superior Greenhouse, then my tomatoes may have had a warm, strong start to their life. Or if I had actually acted on my previous great idea and installed a basement light garden, their roots would be healthy enough for transplanting. Maybe it's the support system in place. Perhaps my little tomatoes need a Cedar Pyramid Trellis to brace their stems and offer protection from high winds. Or maybe it's the soil. Whatever the cause — in two years, my plants have yielded one half-green Beefsteak tomato the size of a golf ball and a handful of cherry tomatoes. Meanwhile, my neighboring community gardeners' juicy red and yellow tomatoes have always hung in multitudes, just waiting to be plucked, sliced, and enjoyed in a delicious Caprese Salad.

Thus, for the 2014 growing season, I've decided to research and successfully grow multiple tomatoes. My target varieties? Cherry, Roma — and my biggest challenge — Brandywine.

And while I don't yet have the outdoor area yet for a Superior Greenhouse — sigh — I do have the perfect spot for a Three Season Cold Frame, a smaller alternative that still offers heat insulation for my tiny tomatoes, but takes up less space. It's just one of the many NEW products that GWK has to offer this year.

The best part? This January, I'll save 10% on any NEW product AND receive a free gift with each purchase by using code NEW4GWK2 at checkout through Jan. 31. This month's free gift is an Eco-Friendly Plant Container, which promotes healthy root growth. It's even biodegradable, so it can be planted directly into the ground. Sounds like the perfect container for my Brandywine Challenge!

And because January is just the beginning of the GWK Year of Savings, I know there will be more new products and special deals to look forward to all year long. Haven't heard about GWK's Year of Savings yet? Sign up for our emails! With new specials every two weeks and an exclusive shop promotion each month, it's the perfect way to start the new year!

Fresh Food for Schools RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

When I attended school in Massachusetts — first at a parochial and then at a public school — I never knew where my cafeteria's food originated from. For the majority of the school weeks, my mother packed nutritious lunches for my siblings and me. But some days, she handed us $2 each and told us to buy lunch.

My peers and I waited in line passively for our food. I noticed large boxes pulled from the freezer. The calzone I just purchased was clearly not made fresh that day. Instead, it came out of a box that came from…? And where was the lettuce for the salad bar actually grown? Nonetheless, we ate our food hungrily. What strikes me now as an adult was that I never actually questioned it.

Today, the whole concept of the school lunch has been given some serious attention. Some cafeteria workers chop, dice, sauté, and bake for students. Schools are even hiring professional chefs as School Food Directors, and many schools are cooking fresh food daily using local ingredients. Food may come from neighboring farms or businesses, and even from the school's own garden. That's right — as our fans know, schools are utilizing green space to grow vegetables, and others are installing raised beds over unused concrete to cultivate fruit. Teachers are taking their learning outside to teach math, science, art, and literature in the garden. Students are creating gardening clubs and using physical education periods to harvest food — which is then used in their own school lunches.

But not every school is doing this. For many schools, this is a far-reaching dream. Budget constraints and limited support hinder garden-based learning from becoming a staple.

That's why the National Gardening Association created A Garden in Every School® initiative. We believe that young people who participate in school garden programs improve their knowledge of good nutrition, broaden their tastes in terms of food choices, and increase their consumption of vegetables and fruits.

We want our initiative implemented in every school — and we've started in Jersey City, NJ. Our Jersey City partner is City Green and together, we plan to create 40 successful, sustainable garden programs in all 40 area schools over the course of five years.

There are many ways to become engaged and to make A Garden in Every School® a reality for Jersey City. Lend your support by volunteering, spreading the word to community members and potential donors, endorsing our work, and of course, by giving generously to this important cause.

Did I mention the perks? Not only will donating get your New Year off to a great start — you'll earn gardening gifts with each contribution! Find out more and donate today

Getting Creative for the Holidays RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Julie, our Youth Education Program Director, approached me last month with a holiday gift idea that she just couldn't wait to try. Her idea was simple: take two of our new Pistachio Tubtrugs® and fill them with personalized gifts — one for her sister and one for her mother.

I loved her idea and immediately adopted it for my own — even including it as one of my Top 3 No-Fail Gift-Buying Techniques.

Two days ago, Julie sent me pictures of her completed Tubtrug® gifts. Gorgeous!

Inspired, I went around the office. What other unique gifts were my co-workers giving this year? Nichole, our Commerce Director, was giving holiday plants in customized pots. Sabrina, our Customer Service extraordinaire, was giving eco-planters filled with fresh herbs. Jon, our Graphic Designer, even used our Pizza Garden Seed Collection in a pizza-themed gift for his dad! Clearly, creativity abounds with products that promote wellness & nutrition.

Wishing you the happiest and healthiest of holidays — from everyone here at GWK!

Holiday Fun with the Family RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

We all know that these final days before the holidays are a great time to finish shopping, but they're also a fabulous time to get creative with fresh, natural decorations and homemade gifts. And with school vacation right around the corner, there's no doubt that younger ones will want to get involved in all the fun.

Here are some favorite family projects sure to get everyone in the holiday spirit:

Holiday Tweets: Give your feathered visitors the energy they need to survive the cold weather — and liven up your landscape at the same time with DIY Wild Bird Decorations. Berried garlands and seeded ornaments can last well after the holidays, when the winter months are snowiest. Handmade outdoor ornaments are also great gifts for kids to make and give.

Say "Thank You": Teach kids the importance of showing appreciation for all of those wonderful holiday gifts they receive from family and friends by making Pressed Flower Thank-you cards. Gather flowers and leaves and make beautiful nature-inspired cards to send out in the New Year!

Have a Ball with Seeds: Have a family member that loves herbs? Another that's crazy about flowers? Seed bombs are super easy to make and can be customized to each person's interests. The best part? They're low maintenance, so they make great gifts for brown thumbs, too. Just toss and water!

Start Talking Scents: Not only do dried flowers smell amazing, but they look good, too! Try your hand at some Dried Flower Creations this year. Ask florists or supermarkets for donations of old flowers and hang or oven-dry the petals. Fill sachets with a potpourri mixture and tie with a festive ribbon. Experiment with seasonal aromas; try combining cloves, cinnamon sticks, roses and lemon peels for a spicy-sweet scent!

For more great ideas, follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!

Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

There are two approaches to holiday shopping: buying gifts in a well-planned, timely manner — and waiting until the last minute. While I like to think of myself as a person who has all her ducks in a row, I just haven't had time to commit to holiday shopping yet. Because of this, I've been living in fear and dreading that stressful, last-minute, binge-shopping spree. Just the thought of driving from store to store any time after December 16 makes me nervous. Oh, the crowds!

To reduce my own growing stress — and to help any of my other ill-timed friends achieve gifting success — I've been brainstorming a plan of attack for my holiday shopping this week.

Here are my Top 3 No-Fail Gift-Buying Techniques sure to keep the holiday season merry and bright:

  1. Buy a gift basket and break it up
  2. It sounds too easy, but when there are a lot of people to buy for, this method comes in handy. Have two little cousins who just adore arts & crafts? A Garden Art Gift Bag can easily be made into two fabulous gifts for artsy little ones. Want to give a few teacher gifts this year? Break up the Ultimate Educator Tub! You get the idea.

  3. Make your own gift basket
  4. Another simple concept that's one of my favorites. With a good friend in mind, I picked up one of GWK's newest products, the Shallow Pistachio Tubtrug and filled it with a loofah, bath salts, essential oils, and all sorts of goodies for a truly soothing foot bath. Try picking just one favorite activity and designing a gift basket around it. And when the "basket" is part of the gift - it's more fun!

  5. When in doubt, a gift card will do
  6. Have an enthusiastic gardener in your life and don't know what to give them? Don't dwell on it! Instead, choose a Gift Certificate and include a homemade card with a personalized message inside. Who wouldn't love that?

This week, it's time to finish that shopping! Discover even more gift ideas in GWK's Holiday Catalog and make last-minute spending a thing of the past. Use coupon code SHOPRIGHT now through Dec. 15 to save $10 on all orders $50 or more.

TODAY ONLY: Cyber Monday Special Offer RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

My holiday gift list just keeps getting longer. And with so many people to buy for this year, I like to take advantage of early-bird online shop specials. That way, I can avoid parking lot wars and long checkout lines.

What's my favorite holiday deals? The ones that include a little something extra, of course.

Check out GWK's special offer above and act fast; this deal is for TODAY ONLY!

Giving Thanks RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

This year, I've decided to start a new Thanksgiving family tradition with a nature-inspired project: a homemade Giving Thanks Tree.

Family members will be prompted to think of something they are thankful for at any point during our Thanksgiving dinner. Each person will have a hand-cut leaf and pencil on their placemats - ready to be used whenever inspiration strikes. My Giving Thanks Tree will be displayed on the buffet table beside the dining room table - its branches bare and waiting. After dinner, family members will hang their leaves on the tree and swap sentiments.

Personally, I know that I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. Just what would I do without my health, my family, my hound dog Mason - and my Junior Rotating Composter? Good thing I have a head start - so I can make up my mind when it comes to my own Giving Thanks Tree reflection.

Here's a simple guide to make your own Giving Thanks tree:

    Supply List:

  • Mini-planter or decorative container
  • Soil to fill the planter and support the Giving Thanks Tree
  • Moss & acorns to cover the soil around the Giving Thanks Tree
  • Tree branch (Make sure it's not too heavy, but still has some little branches attached!)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Construction paper
  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Twine
  • Markers (or crayons, pens, or pencils for writing sentiments)

    Step 1: Hot glue your tree branch to the bottom of the container/planter your Giving Thanks Tree will sit in.

    Step 2: Once the glue is dry, fill the rest of the planter with soil to support the branch. Decorate the soil around the tree with moss and acorns until the soil is covered.

    Step 3: Cut out a favorite leaf pattern from construction paper (Mine is the Vermont Sugar Maple!) Make sure there is space for family members to write at least one sentiment.

    Step 4: Punch holes in the top portion of each cut leaf and add twine loops for hanging. Put a leaf at each family member's place at the table with a marker, crayon, pen or pencil to write with.

A Giving Thanks Tree is a creative way to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones. Check out our Family Activities page for more fun and easy ideas and be sure to follow us on Pinterest for tons of nature-inspired ways to enjoy the holidays!

Want even more to be thankful for? Check out our exclusive holiday offer from our online shop!

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving from all of us here at GWK!

Innovate RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

in•no•va•tion n. 1.a new idea, device, or method Merriam-Webster Dictionary,

I am a huge fan of innovation; but really, who isn't? Without the zipper, we'd be forced to fumble around with buttons. Remember having to cart rolls of film all the way to the store to be developed? Now digital photos are a download away. Even the concept of the road has been improved upon; these days, I can drive on a highway from Vermont to Massachusetts in less than 4 hours and be just in time for my parent's Thanksgiving dinner.

But what about innovations for the garden? GWK has us covered. They've harvested some new products - and they're in fresh for the holiday season.

Who needs a heavy watering can anymore when the EcoSpout can turn any used plastic soda bottle into a lightweight version? Why bother aerating compost the old-fashioned way when a simple push on the Junior Rotating Composter sends it spinning?

Waxy crayons are out and organic Veggie Crayons are most definitely in. And my favorite? A 90-gallon rain barrel made to resemble a tree trunk - complete with a planter for growing fresh blooms on top. Beautiful AND functional -- brilliant!

Innovate your holiday shopping with GWK's new products. Find more ideas here

Top 10 Holiday Garden Gifts RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Garden gifts make the holidays a little brighter! Whether homemade or from a shop, these gifts offer a reminder of sunny days and fresh, blooming bounty. To help spread a little joy this season, we are sharing our TOP 10 favorite garden gift ideas. Some invite family playtime while others are simply great gifts that any gardener would love.

1. Garden Gift Baskets & Bags (Ages 3+, $24.95-$49.95)
We have gift baskets for practically every budding gardener! Artsy gardeners love our new Garden Art Gift Bag, little birders go wild for our Bird Lover's Gift Bag, and our Kid's Gardening Gift Tub is a great choice for any young gardening enthusiast. All of our baskets arrive gift packaged and ready for the holidays!

2. Homemade Botanical Paper (Ages 3+)
Give that extra special holiday card by creating seed-infused, botanical paper. A fun activity to do with your children, homemade paper can be used for a variety of purposes whether it is artwork for a loved one, notecards for recipes, or bookmarks—the possibilities are endless!

3. Nature Rubbing Plates (Ages 3+, $9.95 each or buy the complete set for $35.95)
These best-selling and easy-to-use Nature Rubbing Plates are sure to spark creativity in young people. Pair them with Veggie Crayons to create a variety of designs or paint plates and place clean paper over the top to make imprints! However you use them, they are always a hit.

4. Designer Seed Bombs (Ages 6+)
Want to make amazing seed bombs? Take seed bombs to the next level by incorporating savvy plant mixes. Try to make an Italian Herb seed bomb with basil, oregano, and Italian flat-leaf parsley seed or try a French herb seed bomb with tarragon, lavender, and chervil seed. Pressed for time to make your own? Check out our Tasty Herb Bombs ready to drop for your favorite gardener.

5. Grow a Holiday Amaryllis (Ages 6+)
The huge tropical blooms of Amaryllis always add much-needed color to sunny windows and tabletops. There are so many kinds to choose from, in colors ranging from red to apricot, pink and white, and they are so easy to grow. Be sure to save the bulbs for next year's holiday celebration!

6. 6-Piece Kids Tool Set (Ages 6 to 14, $55.95)
Quality built for big jobs, our 6-piece tool set allows young gardeners the chance to rake, hoe, scoop and dig! Brightly colored and featuring hardwood handles, they last for years and can be passed down from one sibling to the next. Sold individually and in a set.

7. Festive Berry Wreaths (Ages 6+)
Winterberries are some of nature's most festive decorations. Learn how to turn their red berried branches into the finest homemade wreaths. It's a fun family project, and they make great gifts!

8. Nature Fandexes (Ages 6+, $10.95 each or by the complete set for $31.99)
Beautiful and perfectly sized for stocking stuffers, our bird, butterfly, tree fandexes help nature explorers learn about common North American species. Each has around 50 plates that include color photos and information such as habitat, diet, and common identifiers.

9. Holiday Tweets for Birds (Ages 3+)
Great for holiday decorating or the bird feeding enthusiast in your life, these seed ornaments bring feathered friends to the backyard. Different ornaments will satisfy different bird species, depending on the seed mix chosen or whether suet is added. Love the idea but don't have time? Check out our Sunflower Birdseed Wreath all ready to go (and weighing in at a hefty 3lbs)!

10. Root Viewer (Ages 5+, $9.95)
Budding botanists will love watching root vegetables grow from the tops up and the roots down with the Root Viewer. Carrots, radishes and onions are grown from sprouts to full harvest right before their eyes! Includes seeds and growing instructions.

These are but a few of many great holiday offerings brought to you by the National Gardening Association. We also encourage you all to take advantage of our Holiday Catalog (psst...look for a special offer inside!). You won't have to look hard to find something perfect for your gardening, nature-loving kids and family.

Love our blog? For more great ideas, follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!

Giving Back RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Whenever November rolls around, my mind drifts into the near future and focuses on presents. Even though there is a solid month and a half before the holidays, my gift-giving schedule usually requires some prior research.

Now that I've planted roots in Vermont, I have to think creatively when it comes to giving gifts to my family. It's not easy being away from the people you love, especially when they're dotted all around the country. My brother lives in California, my sister and nephew in Texas, and my parents in Massachusetts.

How to solve this intra-national issue?

Easy, I've decided to do my holiday shopping through GWK. Not only will my gifts foster each family member's personal interests, but they'll support the National Gardening Association's mission:

To empower every generation to lead healthier live,, build stronger communities and encourage environmental stewardship through educational gardening programs. You can learn more about our work and watch a great video clip.

So my gifts are making a difference all around.

I can give my 2-year-old nephew his own Audubon Songbirds Nest Set and my brother a space-saving Odor-Free Compost Pail - perfect for his kitchen. Dad would definitely use the Garden Tool Organizer, my sister would love the Salsa Maker and I get to support NGA's non-profit education and grant programs. It's a win-win!

And thank goodness for the Holiday Catalog. It'll give me some creative ideas for the gardener who has it all - Mom.

Check out our Holiday Catalog for fun gift ideas for every member of your family, and as an added bonus, use the coupon code FAMILY10 for $10 off your order of $50 or more!

Bright Ideas RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

I'm excited to write my first blog for Gardening with Kids! My name is Susan and unlike Nichole, I grew up in the city of Boston where urban and rooftop gardens thrive. A Girl Scout for 12 years, I travelled around New England and fostered a love for anything outdoors: hiking, climbing, skiing and whitewater rafting. Now, at the National Gardening Association in Vermont I'm able to combine a passion for nature and a push for educational growth through the world of gardening. I invite you to reach out to me with any questions, stories, and pictures: email me or call (800) 538-7476 ext 111.

I'm sure that by now, everyone has entered our Great Start Giveaway. If not, don't fret! Just place your GWK order through October 30 and you'll be automatically entered to win a GrowLab® SlimLine Two-Tier Light Garden , complete with Basic Seed Starting Kit and horticultural handbook, GrowLab®: A Complete Guide to Gardening in the Classroom.

And speaking of GrowLab®, it's time to shed some light on an ongoing problem that is constantly sprouting up…

Living in a 500 sq ft apartment gives me limited space for my growing collection of shoes - let alone my passion for growing plants. Joe, my significant other, and I had to make an important choice when it came to furnishings: only the essentials.

For Joe, essentials revolve around comfort: a massive high-definition television set and a comfortable 6 ft long couch.

For me, essentials revolve around any kind of space-saving storage pieces that can be used for at least two purposes: function and aesthetics.

So, where do the plants fit in?

Philodendrons hang from the ceiling and cuttings line the windowsills. A jade plant has found a comfortable spot on my kitchen counter, and my herbs are (believe it or not) suspended in the basement in front of the only available window.

Because of this living arrangement, I always run into trouble when I try to start seeds in the spring. There's just not enough room for everything I'd like to eventually transplant into my 25 ft x 25 ft community garden plot - and there's limited light to boot.

The solution: a basement grow light system.

There's a wealth of information about light gardens online and tip and tricks about which fluorescent lights to choose. The National Gardening Association even published a helpful article about the subject.

Because of all the options out there and my admitted inexperience with light gardens, I've had my eye on the GrowLab® SlimLine Two-Tier Light Garden for a while now. Not only does this light garden come with everything I need, but it will definitely become an essential item in my home. I can utilize wasted space (function) and start seeds (function) , while livening up my basement area enormously with plants (aesthetics).

An added bonus? Once I've transplanted all my seeds, I can use the shelving unit as extra storage for my hand tools, gloves, mini-pots and - of course - extra seeds!

Place your order today and learn more about light gardens with a GrowLab SlimLine Two-Tier Light Garden of your own; it's a soon-to-be essential for the home, classroom, and - yes, even basements! For all the latest products we offer - as well as fabulous holiday gift ideas - check out our Holiday Catalog

Repurposing Extravaganza RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

One of my favorite ways to garden is by using containers. Unfortunately, I was not able to experience the garden yield from my containers last year as my St. Bernard, Cerbie, treated the plants growing in them as his personal salad bar. Tipping over peppers and munching on oregano—he has no self-control when it comes to vegetables and herbs. While I can't help but laugh about it now, I still feel the need to be proactive to ensure that everyone in my home has the opportunity to enjoy fresh-from-the-garden foods this year. To this end, I did what anyone else does, I searched for suggestions online.

As with any good search, I became slightly sidetracked and after shopping, stumbled upon an inspiring article from titled, Gardening with Creative Containers. I liked its message: why not use a birdcage as a planter? Fabulous. After daydreaming about all things I could repurpose in my home to use as planters and how I could add some more visual interest to my deck area, I decided to take action.

The first repurposed planter was easily identified. We had an ancient pot with a bumpy bottom. I didn't use it to cook, but liked the worn, tough look of the container so I kept it in the garage.... Anyway, enlisting the help of Mike, my husband, we drilled holes in the bottom, filled it with good soil and planted a tomato plant in it. Voilà.

Then my husband, also inspired by the idea of repurposing, decided to turn his liquid nitrogen container (don't ask me why he had one) into a container. Since it is rather large, we planted a Purpleleaf Sand Cherry. The container was really heavy, but looked nice.

Our final repurposing project was the easiest and I think the most eye-catching: we used a colander as a hanging planter! All we needed to do besides planting some strawberries into it was to tie some twine around the handles. Once placed, not only did these containers add a little pizzazz to our deck, they also gave us the chance to reuse items and unleash our creativity! If you would like to find out more about container gardening, I encourage you to check out this month's Regional Gardening Reports. Happy container gardening!

What Do You Trug in Your Tubtrug? RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Tubtrugs have a variety of uses as noted on the label. For me, their versatility makes them an essential item to own. If you have one, I' m sure you know what I' m talking about. For instance, I do not believe that the ten Tubtrugs scattered around my home and yard are excessive, especially since recently acquiring four sheep and a pony. I use two of my large tubs to keep the hay off the ground so it doesn' t become funky. The other use it' s perfect for is as the pony' s water dish because it is light and once filled, it' s flexible enough that I can hold both handles in one hand. Plus, Tubtrugs are so easy to wash out. My Tubtrugs have also acted as a laundry basket, dog toy bucket, weed transporter, and much more; however, no use as critical as the function it performed this past weekend.

While hanging out in the far pasture and chatting it up with the new neighbors, my husband, Mike, and I noticed a turtle inside our fenced area. The turtle' s panda-like face made it appear almost cute. Catching many reptiles as a youngster with my dad, I developed a solid understanding and appreciation of turtles. Instantly, I knew that this was not just any turtle though, it was a snapper! For those who do not know much about this particular type of turtle, the jaws of a snapper are very strong, and once they grab onto an object it is nearly impossible to get them to let go. They also have flexible necks and this, combined with their jaw makes them a particularly fierce reptile.

Of course our inquisitive pony, Charlotte, wanted to be the snapper' s friend. It was all we could do to grab her halter and move her to another pasture without getting too close to the snapper. We didn' t want to touch it; yet, we needed to move the snapper out of our fence. I felt slightly more confident catching this turtle than the sheep. Yet, the turtle was too large to fit in a five gallon pail. Large Tubtrug to the rescue!

We placed the Tubtrug on the ground tipped on its side. Then using a shovel, we carefully and slowly guided the snapper towards the Tubtrug. After tipping the bucket right side up, we slid the shovel' s handle through the handles of the bucket. Mike and I walked, one on each side of the Tubtrug holding the ends of the shovel, to a nearby pond outside our property and let the snapper go. The turtle happily slid into the water.

Thank goodness for the Tubtrug! Oh and did I mention that they are made of food grade plastic? To celebrate the many functions of this great product, I' m happy to give you 30% off Tubtrugs through the month of June using coupon code: SNAPPER30

Kids Day! RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Gardening with Kids experienced a first this past weekend; we attended Kids Day, Vermont's largest children's event. The friendly folks at Find & Go Seek invited us to host a table under their tent at Waterfront Park in Burlington. Each organization featured in this tent provided activities that would be fun for kids who attended. Luckily, we were placed next to the hot-spot—the face painting station.

The cuties queued in line waiting to be decorated eagerly peered over to our area where other kids used rubbing plates to explore botany. The Gardening with Kids' table attracted adorable little ones who featured unicorns, butterflies, and tigers on their faces, busily creating types of insects, flowers, and leaves never seen before. Now some may say rubbing plates may limit creativity: however, the wide spectrum of colors and variations seemed to speak to their imagination with no two creations being alike. In fact, one child in particular strove for uniqueness as she carefully shaded using nearly everyone of the plates; she switched out crayons for colored pencils and flowers for leaf plates, all the while regulating the pressure she applied to her medium.

Along with this activity, we were lucky enough to be able to give out free seeds to attendees. Questions such as, "What are seeds? Is there a difference between annuals and perennials? Can I plant them now?" coupled with the children's excitement for helping something so small to grow was inspiring. I should note that the surreal environment of 5,000 excited children also included bouncy castles, free meals for those under the age of 18, and even an extremely patient llama.

We were able to make a lot of connections and got the word out about all the great resources that are available for gardening with kids such as our catalog of educational tools with all purchases supporting our nonprofit educational programs and grants. It was really fun interacting with all of the kids. We also had the chance to talk with organizations that are interested in our mission and offer them materials. In fact, if you have an upcoming event and believe our catalogs and informational bookmarks would be beneficial to your audience, please contact me via email and I' d be happy to have some sent out to you. We believe that when you garden, you grow! Help us to encourage positive change one child, one school, and one community at a time.

Cinco De Mayo Celebration RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

I love Cinco de Mayo because it's a celebration of culture and heritage. Plus, as with most holidays, devouring delicious food is a must. Fortunately, Mike and I have a close friend who is turning, as she terms it, a quarter of a century old, leading me to explore food options for a hipster vegan crowd. (My investigation wasn't necessarily an innate desire, more of a goal to bring THE dish that a diverse group enjoys.) I appreciate a dark, green, earthy drink from the juicer as much as anyone, but this occasion calls for something special as our friend, Leigh, moves away to greener pastures and increased opportunities while pursuing a degree in public health. She's a great person and I believe she has the potential to change the world.

When brainstorming to come up with the perfect dish, I remembered Julie, National Gardening Association's Education Director, giving me a Grow a Salsa Garden recipe and nutrition guide a few weeks back. Fashioning a generous serving of pico de gallo, literally translated as "rooster's beak" became my to-make party dish. While Vermont's northern latitude and my lack of preparation didn't allow me to actually grow a garden, I was able to pick up great ingredients to make the dish; all of the details can be found at the link listed in the final paragraph.

My animals always love it when I cook because it becomes a taste-testing experience. My St. Bernard rescue, Cerbie, loves vegetables, with an aptitude of taste and smell similar to a sommelier—just kidding. Still, he is my cooking buddy and thoroughly approves of the tomatoes, onions, cilantro, parsley, jalapenos, and lime—all of which mix together so well.

Side note: having extra bunches of cilantro and an inability to waste fresh herbs led me to use alternative methods for preservation. I froze them in grandma's tin muffin tins. (That way I can just individually pop them into other concoctions—soups, pesto, salsa, etc.) The pico de gallo has to chill too, undisturbed in the fridge for 4-6 hours.

The happy day arrived for Leigh's celebration. We brought our pico de gallo with a little twist: rather than just having chips to dip, we also had cucumber slices. The dish was delish and everyone enjoyed hanging out. Next time, you need a relatively quick and healthy meal for an upcoming get-together or a Cinco de Mayo celebration, try pico de gallo. For a free informational guide including a recipe and nutritional facts, check out the Grow a Salsa Garden Workbook

The Great Sheep Escape RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

After five years of homework for school, plus a fulltime career, my husband graduates this spring with a MS in biomechanics. At a young age, I understood the importance of celebrating special occasions, so long before his actual graduation in May, I asked Mikey, “Do you want anything in particular for your big day?”

Unexpectedly, he matter-of-factly stated, “Lambs. I want lambs.”

All of the previous odd conversations at dinner parties over the past few months about sheep suddenly made sense. Admittedly, I tried to convince him otherwise. “What about a truck? A new computer?” It all came down to sheep.

My desire to live a greener lifestyle couldn‘t argue with the benefit of giving a home to cute, efficient grass mowers. We live out in the country and did our research, deciding on Navajo-Churro sheep. A local person unexpectedly acquired lambs recently (a story in itself). We brought them home last weekend. “How,” you ask? In the back of our Honda CRV of course!

Toro and Hera. Mike insisted on naming one after a lawn mowing company. We prepared for these adorable, snuggable livestock: barn, hay, mineral block, water, pasture, and a secure fence—the works. When placing them down in our yard, they appeared investigative yet comfortable inside the fence. So much so, that after the first half hour, we allowed them to explore our land unmonitored. Ten minutes after Mike and I retreated inside, we peeked outside from the kitchen window and noticed that they were nowhere to be found. Maybe they were under the deck? We looked in our yard to no avail.

Panic-stricken, we geared up quickly, searching our agriculturally zoned area. The worst-case-scenario crossed my mind: “What if we don‘t find the baby lambs?” We spread out. Mike went deeper and deeper into the manure fields behind our home. Knowing time was of the essence, I saw a farmer and ran 150 yards to his tractor.

My Midwestern polite came out while I was waving for him to stop, “Sorry to bother you. Did you by chance see two lambs running across your fields?”

“Ha-oh is that what that was? Yeah, I saw them a few minutes ago,” he said, pointing far off to the right.

“I see,” I replied and pointing said, “that is probably my husband way over there. Do you mind if I run across your fields to try and catch ‘em?”

“Of course not—good luck!” Replied the farmer among fields of manure.

I ran to Mike across the waves of cornstalks and piles of cow poop. Out of breath, I approached him within 20 yards of both sheep. Trying to predict the lambs‘ behavior, I yelled out, “Let‘s capture one and the other will come to us.” I have no experience in catching lambs.

Granted, even though I haven‘t really busted out my speed in years, I suggested, “Let‘s go for Hera.” At that point he was positioned between the two with Hera in the middle of us. We both ran for her. She darted absurdly fast. Mike missed her; trying to predict Hera‘s moves, I went for her. Veering left and focusing on footing, I dived into the manure. Scared, she paused and I covered her with my body. Mike looked shocked, but not enough to stop running for the next lamb.

He followed Toro, hoping the run-off stream two fields over would put a halt to Toro‘s escapade. It didn‘t. Boots filled with water, Mike pursued him. With Hera in my arms, I debated whether to wait or go back. I called out to him, “MI-KE!” No answer. Thinking that there was nothing else I could do carrying a 30lb plus lamb in my rapidly weakening arms, I began the long, long walk back.

After fifty yards of focusing on each footstep, I saw Mike far off in the distance. Not able to tell whether he had Toro, I yelled, “Do you have him?” Mike could not hear me. I waited.

Covered in water, manure, and exhausted, half-heartedly smiling, I saw Mike. Squinting, I sighed with relief when I noticed that he carried Toro in his arms. We slowly walked towards one another and after many steps, met. And after so many more steps and three rest breaks, made it back to our home. Even though our arms were painfully sore, we got up the gumption to survey our fencing and tiredly pounded more stakes anywhere the possibility allowed for escape.

Thus, our first day as sheep owners came to a close. Later that evening, we watched Toro and Hera blissfully munching away on the grass. I think we all hoped that the worst was over.

Seed Party RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Have you ever grown cosmic purple carrots? As spring weather approaches so does my excitement for planting my next garden. Last weekend began my seed starting escapade with a group of friends of all ages. In other words, party time! Sharing the fun also spreads out the cost as each seed pack usually includes more than I need. An added bonus: organizing a seed starting party gives people the chance to experiment with varieties they wouldn‘t normally pick out for themselves.

Seed packets of broccoli, chiles, and lettuce were happily introduced to watercress, chamomile, and even, purple carrots. For ease of use and to help with dividing up each person‘s plantings, I brought along our Basic Seed-Starting Kit which included a bunch of different sized pots, plant markers, seeds, and soil. Having a variety of pots was really helpful when it came to what each gardener envisioned for their specific planting goals whether that included containers or raised beds.

After planting the seeds according to each packet‘s instructions and labeling them, we sprayed every one with the magical worm compost tea (see blog post 2/22/13) and put the seed trays into large, clear, plastic, storage containers, which act like mini-greenhouses. The result? You‘ll have to wait for a future post, but I challenge you to try something new this year with seed starting whether that be planting an unusual seed variety, creating mini-greenhouses, or having a seed party! To help my seed-loving friends, use code SPRING13 and save 10% at our shop through 4/15/13.

My Favorite Underrated Vegetable: Bok Choy RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Since March is National Nutrition Month , it seems fitting to reflect on healthy eating. My latest craze? Out to dinner with friends at a local restaurant a few months ago, I received bok choy as a side to my southern fried chicken and immediately fell in love. In an effort to replicate the experience, I hunted it down at the local grocery store.

Excitedly lifting out of the bag, my hubby glanced at it and expressed a casual, only slightly curious response: “Bok choy? Mom put it in stir fry and told me it was a variety of celery.”

How did I cook this delicious vegetable, you ask? Easy peasy recipe! Rinse stalks, cut them into one inch pieces, add two tablespoons of minced garlic and two tablespoons of olive oil into a pan; fry to crispness-liking (usually five-eight minutes). Delectable when paired with fish!

The awesomeness of bok choy continues— packed with vitamin A and C, loaded with fiber, low in calories, and great served in a lot of different ways, especially in soups and on salads. What's your favorite underrated vegetable? Mine is listed on our Periodic Table of Vegetables. Go see if yours is listed also. To celebrate bok choy and other fabulous vegetables during National Nutrition Month, save 20% through the month of March using code: Veggie13

Start Composting RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

After purchasing a black worm factory, Mike (my significant other) and I wanted a compost pail to go in our kitchen. We found that it was essential to nuke fruits and veggies prior to putting them into the bin as it decreased the chances of a fruit fly invasion and increased the amount of deliciousness (or so we thought) for our hundreds of slimy pets.

We ventured to the nearest box store in search of the perfect compost pail. I wanted something that would contain smells and hold a decent amount of scraps without being an eyesore. By the time we reached the second store, we found it: a white, porcelain jar with a cover that twisted on top featuring a see-through plastic hole. It was beautiful, and I was happy! A month went by and its brilliance remained. At the two-month mark, I noticed that the twisted portion of it seemed to not really seal the container, leading to fruit flies and goop gathering around the top making it exceedingly more difficult to close. And washing the jar destroyed the glue on the cover. Beauty does not last. The stunning white became dingy and the jar developed an unwelcome sour smell, discouraging any potential brave disposal volunteers. Granted, the jar was probably never meant for what we were using it for, anyway.

Still, we needed something to allow us to share foods with our hungry little ones. Thank goodness I started my new position at the National Gardening Association as it taught me about the proper products for composting. Seriously, the odor free compost pail ended up being a great investment and my kitchen thanked me. I nuked the food before putting it into the compost pail and even though we smashed it in, much like we do the garbage, so as to avoid changing it until right before Friday pick up, the pail did not smell and featured the greenness that we were embracing. So as a treat for all of my readers, enjoy $5 off this great product for the next two weeks! Code: NOTSTINKY12

Growing Ideas Blog RSS

Growing Ideas Blog

Thank you for visiting our first blog! My name is Nichole and I plan to bring you interesting news and features from the wonderful world of kids’ gardening. Growing up in the Midwest with outdoorsy parents led me to love cheese and nature (not necessarily in that order). With a background in both education and nonprofit development, my goal is to provide you with resources and ideas that speak to young minds, educators, community organizations, and the general gardening public.

From working with my students, I have come to believe that focusing on connections among disciplines and relating academics to life experiences is essential to create interest, instill knowledge, and celebrate each student’s individuality. Giving individuals opportunities for hands-on learning through gardening with great products such as Math in the Garden and our Root Vue Farm not only encourages them to make connections, but also fosters healthy eating, environmental stewardship, and relationship building. As we work together in this endeavor, I invite you to reach out to me with questions, stories, and pictures: email me or call (800) 538-7476 ext 101

GWK Archive

March 23, 2015
Plants In Space: Going Higher

March 16, 2015
Great Green Éire

March 9, 2015
What zone am I in?

March 2, 2015
Fun with Nutrition: 4 Tips to Get Kids Eating Healthier

February 23, 2015
Apply for the 2015 Mantis Tiller Award!

February 16, 2015
Welcome to the Tomatosphere™!

February 9, 2015
Stuck Indoors? Cook With Your Kids!

February 3, 2015
Are You Ready For Spring? The 4 Things To Know Before You Sow

January 26, 2015
Welcoming Winter Birds

January 19, 2015
Plants in Space!

January 12, 2015
Time to enter the Carton 2 Garden Contest!

January 5, 2015
New year, BIG goals!

December 29, 2014
Create an indoor Moss Garden!

December 22, 2014
Season's Greetings!

December 15, 2014
Quick and Easy Homemade Garden Gifts

December 8, 2014
Creative Holiday Recycling

December 1, 2014
Give, Garden, Grow

November 24, 2014
Giving Thanks

November 17, 2014
Grow an indoor garden!

November 10, 2014
Follow us on Pinterest!

November 3, 2014
Get a head start on holiday shopping!

October 27, 2014
Win a Garden for Your School!

October 20, 2014
Fall Clean Up Clearance Sale

October 13, 2014
A Proud Pumpkin Harvest

October 6, 2014
It's October — time for a Spooky Sale!

September 29, 2014
Free resources for your school garden!

September 22, 2014
Make your own compost!

September 15, 2014
Extend Your Harvest

September 8, 2014
NEW Fundraising Kits from GWK

September 2, 2014
Preserve Your Harvest

August 25, 2014
Labor Day Weekend

August 18, 2014
Fall 2014 Digital Catalog

August 11, 2014
Back to School

August 4, 2014
Happy National Zucchini Day!

July 28, 2014
Dog Days of Summer

July 21, 2014
TODAY Show Garden

July 14, 2014
GWK Staff Favorites

July 7, 2014
Salad Days

June 30, 2014
We're Celebrating Summer with a Blowout Sale!

June 23, 2014
The 3 rules of vertical gardening

June 16, 2014
Celebrate National Pollinator Week

June 9, 2014
Five fresh ideas for Father's Day

June 2, 2014 teams up with TODAY Show to shine a light on childhood hunger

May 26, 2014
Celebrate Memorial Day with Savings!

May 19, 2014
Plant a Victory Garden for Memorial Day

May 12, 2014
A community of gardeners

May 5, 2014
NEW Gardening With Kids Home & Family Digital Catalog

April 28, 2014
Garden prep for a successful summer harvest

April 21, 2014
Ode to Little Gardeners

April 14, 2014
How do you compost?

April 7, 2014
How to dye eggs — naturally!

March 31, 2014
April Fools' Day Fun

March 24, 2014
Join us for #FoodDayChat on 3/24/14 at 2pm ET

March 17, 2014
Square Foot Gardening Contest! Enter for your chance to win

March 10, 2014
New Early Season Gardening Products

March 3, 2014
March is National Nutrition Month

February 24, 2014
Books In Bloom is HERE!

February 17, 2014
Announcing our 2014 Digital Catalog

February 10, 2014
Homemade Valentines

February 3, 2014
Time to Plan Your Garden

January 27, 2013
Spring Catalog Sneak Peek

January 20, 2014
For the Birds

January 13, 2014
5 Easy Steps to Winter Sowing

January 6, 2014
2014: The Year of the Tomato

December 30, 2013
Fresh Food for Schools

December 23, 2013
Getting Creative for the Holidays

December 16, 2013
Holiday Fun with the Family

December 9, 2013
Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

December 2, 2013
TODAY ONLY: Cyber Monday Special Offer

November 25, 2013
Giving Thanks

November 18, 2013

November 11, 2013
Top 10 Holiday Garden Gifts

November 4, 2013
Giving Back

October 28, 2013
Bright Ideas

June 21, 2013
Repurposing Extravaganza

June 7, 2013
What Do You Trug in Your Tubtrug?

May 17, 2013
Kids Day!

May 3, 2013
Cinco De Mayo Celebration

April 19, 2013
The Great Sheep Escape

April 5, 2013
Seed Party

March 8, 2013
My Favorite Underrated Vegetable: Bok Choy

March 1, 2013
Start Composting

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