Gardening is a multidisciplinary activity embedded with learning every step along the way, from botany to soil science to meteorology.
More and more, communities are working together to create opportunities for pooling knowledge, sharing skills, and increasing each others’ access to useful resources. A few examples in Western MA include repair cafes, time trading, swaps, skill-sharing, and lending initiatives. In creating systems and channels through which to access shared information and materials, communities are building resilient foundations upon which to grow and to learn.
Commonly known as collaborative consumption, such shared economy practices work to shift emphasis from ownership of goods and knowledge to access to them, a shift that would decrease the number of resources each individual would need to participate in a sustainable way of life.
During the spring, when families are looking towards their backyard gardens and plots, gardening tools are on everyone’s mind. Maybe your 20-year-old wheelbarrow now has a broken handle, or you’re needing a spade but have an extra shovel and unused saw. Whatever the case may be, now is an excellent time to tap into a preexisting tool lending library in your neighborhood (i.e., Northfield Tool Lending Library). If one does not exist, consider spearheading the creation of a small-scale tool sharing initiative with friends and families. By starting with folks closest to you, and expanding out with a few interested neighbors, families may quickly discover that not only do they need fewer tools on hand but that they are also seeding and growing meaningful community connections!
Get inspired by seeing what other communities have created in this TEDx Talk, and read more about How to Start a Neighborhood Tool Share.
Working with herbs and spices help children make the connection between farm and table, or in our case front yard and table. Making these connections early on is a great way to lay the road for healthy and experimental eating. To really teach the concept of garden to table, encourage your child to taste, smell and feel the herbs. Let them play with them, rip them, crush them and explore them. Make a beautiful gift or store the herbs for later use.
Using the seasons as a catalyst for learning can help connect kids to their environment and the seasonal cycles of their community. Garden-based learning is just one activity that is on many minds every spring. Stop and think what else cycles around each year and how you can use it as a point of entry to community-based education. Then take advantage of your local resources, following your interests and education through community engagement.
While almost all food scraps make great compost, certain scraps can make something even more wonderful – more food! Families can engage in hands-on experiential learning by collecting bits of these special foods and creating their own mini-gardens. Young gardeners can learn about how plants grow, and can enjoy delicious homegrown foods with ease!
Using the seasons as a catalyst for learning can help connect kids to their environment and the seasonal cycles of their community. Gardening is just one activity that is on many minds every spring. Stop and think what else cycles around each year and how you can use it as a point of entry to community-based education. Then take advantage of your local resources, following your interests and education through community engagement.
Feasthampton is an Easthampton volunteer group dedicated to encouraging community-wide projects directed toward local food and environmental resiliency. They are opening a Seed Lending Library where ongoing supply of locally adapted, organic, open-pollinated seed, and occasional seed saving and gardening workshops will be on offer.
In the Academy-winning award movie “La grande bellezza, ” a Mother Teresa-like elderly nun is asked why she only eats roots, and she answers “because roots are important.” And how they are! In Western Massachusetts, we are very lucky to be able to harvest locally grown root vegetables in abundance. But again that age-old questions of storage comes up. Good thing that Jim is at hand to offer some nuanced insights into effective storage that will lead to some happy full plates over the coming months!
Most homeowners are probably gardened out by this time of the year. But if you do a few simple chores now it will give you a leg up come spring. See Jim’s list of four to do this September to minimize your headaches next spring. You might even unearth some embedded learning in the process!
You might think it to be a new trend, but Goatscaping is in the news because it’s effective and it works! In “The Garden Plot” this month, Jim takes us to the heart of the summer smash hit that has people talking, goats munching, and weeds disappearing! He gives valuable and considerate insight into maximizing the power of the goat in your garden that will last long beyond when the buzz settles, leaving your kids with valuable lessons.
This week in “The Garden Plot: Growing & Caring Tips for the Family Garden & Landscape,” you are introduced to multiple embedded multidisciplinary learning opportunities via woodland gardens. Also known as shade gardens, Jim outlines 5 steps on how to grow a successful and cohesive garden. What truly makes this garden grow is to involve the whole family and to plan ahead!
It’s been a long cold winter, but longer still for our insects and plants as they struggled to remain robust in the face of the chilly temperatures. Read about the impact this past winter has had on your immediate landscape in our monthly post, “The Garden Plot,” and use it as a catalyst to plan, plant and learn about growing a landscape that is resilient and can thrive year after year with your kids!
Plant sales & swaps happen all over western Massachusetts this time of year. From big to small events, many raising funds for valuable community resources, plant sales are an excellent opportunity for sourcing your plants (and gardening knowledge) locally. They are terrific community events for learning tips on plants and gardening from both home-gardeners and experts in the field! Bring your family to a plant sale this weekend and unearth the embedded learning they hold for the entire family!
Got the gardening bug? You can begin to plant in your gardens, even if you’re living in the Hilltowns! This month in “The Garden Plot,” Jim shares his top five recommended seeds you can plant now in your family garden. After two decades of gardening in the Hilltowns, Jim knows which seeds are most likely to germinate fastest in the cold, wet, early spring, New England soil. Check out is his and get dirty!
The Children’s Garden Project started in 2013 with two college students, a hodgepodge collection of garden tools and a goal: to connect urban children with nature and basic agricultural concepts through a specially designed educational curriculum…
In “The Garden Plot” this month, Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Jim McSweeney, shares five plants to include in your home garden that add beauty in the colder months while attracting wildlife…
This month in “The Garden Plot,” local landscape designer and Hilltown Families contributing writer, Jim McSweeney, shares his “Big 3” – three attributes to consider when adding or removing plants from your family garden…
It might be September, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to neglect your family garden! This month in “The Garden Plot,” Jim share five suggested garden chores you can do with your family before the first freeze and the first snow fall…
Are you growing blueberries, tomatoes and/or potatoes in your home garden this summer? Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Jim McSweeney talks about the bug & blight challenges of these home crops in “The Garden Plot: Growing & Caring Tips for the Family Garden & Landscape.” He shares not only organic ways to deal with these threats, but also ways families can find the teachable moments…
Skip using a water sprinkler to water your gardens…. sprinklers were meant for lawns, and for cooling off the kids! Here are some tips on how and when to water your newly planted garden, and how your kids can help!
A Growing Garden It’s that time of the year when we bring out our gardening tools and start tending to our gardens. Gardening with children is a terrific summer activity to do together. It’s fun, very magical, and can be an amazing learning experience. It’s also nice to just be out with your kids, watching your garden grow and change over the seasons. Ever since my daughter, Thu, was a toddler, we… Read More
Environmentally sound garden practices for the family garden One of the major keys to a successful garden is the incorporation of organic matter into the soil every year. I remember taking a soil class at UMass 15 or so years back and hearing my professor say, “the answer to almost any question I ask this semester will likely be to add organic matter to the soil. If the problem is nutrition, drainage,… Read More
5 Simple Steps for Pruning Raspberries Picking ripe raspberries straight off of their canes and popping them into your mouth is a summer delight that kids can carry with them into adulthood as fond memories from their childhood! But perhaps no other small fruit commonly found in Western MA gardens mystify their owners as do raspberries. And there is no shortage of information out there on how to prune these thorny canes!… Read More
Pruning Blueberry Bushes April is a great month to get the family outdoors and getting their landscape ready for the spring. Families can rake the leaves missed in October, pick up fallen branches, cut perennials back… But the pruning of shrubs is not quite as obvious of a spring chore. While many varieties of shrubs can be pruned at this time of the year, our native blueberries will thrive with regular pruning…. Read More
5 Gardening Tips for Late Winter Spring is just around the corner and planning your garden with your kids while there’s still snow on the ground can be both fun and educational. There’s no shortage of garden prep that you can be doing right now. Here are five things you can do to plan and prepare for your gardens this summer: SEED CATALOGS: Gather your kids around and peruse thorough seed catalogs…. Read More
Families Can Help Grow Food for Hunger Relief in Greenfield this Summer Western Massachusetts is lush with farms, making locally grown and produced foods relatively easy to find. However, there are many local families who are not able to enjoy locally grown produce, for a variety of reasons. Just Roots, a Greenfield organization whose mission is to provide the community with the knowledge of farming necessary for food production, is growing a… Read More
2012 Spring Plant Sales & Swaps Plant swaps and sales take place all over Western MA in the spring time. Here we’ve started a list of swap/sales happening in the region. Add your community or organization swap HERE. Friday, May 11th, 2012 11am-5pm in Stockbridge: Berkshire Botanical Garden’s annual plant sale takes place this weekend! There will be tons and tons of plants, many locally grown, as well as antiques, a container garden… Read More
2011 Spring Plant Sales & Swaps Plant swaps and sales take place all over Western MA in the spring time. Here we’ve started a list of swap/sales happening in the region. Add your community or organization swap in the comment box below (or click here). Saturday, May 7th, 2011 9am-1pm – PLANT SALE: Northampton Save Our Schools is having a plant sale at Smith Vocational School! Along with plants, there will be… Read More
Maria & Friends: Planting Seeds One of our favorite artists, Maria Sangiolo, has gotten a bunch of her friends together to create a new album all about farms and gardens. The resulting project, Planting Seeds, is an amazing compilation of songs about the earth, gardening, and eating right. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this CD is also going to benefit the good work of the Northeast Organic Farming… Read More