Youth can learn so much from soil.
Give them some opportunities to explore soil and get dirty. As we start thinking of our spring and summer gardens, I encourage you to get youth involved in the planning process. Ask them what kind of vegetables they would like to plant or what color flowers to have in the garden. They have ideas and let their ideas be heard. Have them help plant seeds or the plants in the ground too. They are more likely to eat the vegetables that they grow too so it would be healthier for them. Encourage them to look for insects in the soil.
Here is a fun activity to actively engage youth which was adapted from Jr. Master Gardener 4-H program.
1. Show and explain to youth how to safely use garden tools such as a shovel or trowel.
2. The youth will be able to find out how much sand, silt, and clay are in the soil.
3. Take a sample of soil and put it in a large jar, about half full. Put water in the rest of the jar.
4. Now, they can shake the jar for several minutes until the big clumps are broken down.
5. Let the jar sit for a few minutes.
6. Now, they can look at the different layers in the jar of the soil. They might even be able to use a marker to draw lines where they can see the differences.
7. It will continue to change for about 24 hours. So don’t move the jar for some time.
8. After that, they will be able to see the different layers.
a. The top will be organic matter which contains nutrients and water.
b. The clay will be under that. It is the smallest and lightest particles.
c. Middle layer will be silt.
d. Bottom layer will be sand.
Now that the youth have been able to see the layers, they can have a better understanding of what makes up our soil.
Spinach is a cool season vegetable that can be directly sown into an in-ground garden, raised bed or container.
There are two main types of spinach: smooth leaf and savoy (crinkled leaf). Both grow equally well but the savoy type, because of its crinkled leaf, is more difficult to clean. Usually it will take eight to 10 days until your seeds germinate and 40 to 50 days to harvest. For early in ground planting, it can take up to 60 to 70 days to harvest. In raised beds or containers, early planting results will be quicker as the soil will be warmer under these conditions.
Plant spinach seeds an inch apart in rows 14 to 18 inches apart and cover the seeds with a 1/2 inch of soil. Keep the soil moist and after the seeds germinate thin them to stand 3 to 5 inches apart. Thinning is very important, and you must be ruthless, or you will have a congested row of plants that don’t size up.
Once the weather becomes warm, above 75 degrees, spinach will bolt (begin to bloom) and develop a bitter taste. This is the perfect time of year to plant spinach so take the kids outside and have a science lesson that is edible.
Here’s a recipe from Jennifer Eggleton, one of our SNAP-Ed program assistants that will pair well with this growing activity.
8 large eggs
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups Frittata friendly vegetables cut into ½ inch pieces: (Corn, chopped broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, baby spinach or shredded kale)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro) or 1 teaspoon dried basil or oregano
1. Before you begin, wash your hands, surfaces, utensils, and vegetables.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray the baking pan with non-stick spray.
3. Crack the eggs in the bowl, add pepper and garlic powder and use a fork or whisk to beat the eggs until they are pale yellow.
4. Add the vegetables, cheese, and herbs and mix.
5. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and put the pan in the oven.
6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the top is golden and the eggs are set and no longer jiggling.
Rebecca Supinger is the OSU Extension 4-H youth development educator. Kim Hupman is the OSU Extension horticulture program assistant.