Creating play areas or constructing garden structures that kids can help build is an easy way to make gardening fun all summer long.
Building a planting platform for growing strawberries is a quick, easy, and attractive way to grow strawberries in a small space, keep the fruits clean and easy to pick.
Detailed instructions for building your own: How to build a strawberry tower – Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco Counties (ucanr.edu)
In Western North Carolina choose June-bearing varieties—Apollo, Bish, Cardinal, Chandler, Earliglow, Galleta, Sunrise and Tennessee Beauty are some recommended varieties. Set the tower up in a sunny area, add recommended amounts of a balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) to potting medium (NOT garden soil), tuck strawberry plants in the openings, water, and watch for the flowers to turn into fruit. You can also purchase strawberry towers online or at hardware or big box home improvement stores.
Runner Bean Teepee
A simple 6- or 8-legged teepee frame, wound with twine and planted with runner beans can become the perfect place for children to play in the garden. Once the vines start racing up the poles, the structure will be shady, and as beans start to ripen, they can provide an instant snack.
To build bean teepees, there are many online sources including How to Make a Teepee for Your Climbing Beans (growveg.com)
Plant pole beans in WNC from May 1 to June 1 in a sunny spot where they won’t shade other plants that need sun. Kentucky Wonder and Greasy beans are two favorite varieties for the mountains. Test garden soil for fertilizer and lime recommendations and water weekly if it doesn’t rain.
Straw Bale Gardening
A single bale of straw (not hay!) can grow flowers or vegetables with nothing more than plant seeds, a little potting soil, some fertilizer, and water. Form several bales into a fort or a passage from one portion of the garden to another. Aged bales—covered in black plastic and left in the sun for a few weeks—work best, but if you don’t mind some grain sprouts, any straw bale will do!
For small seeds, such as carrots, lettuce, or radishes, cover the entire top of the bale with potting soil before sowing. Tall crops, such as corn or tomatoes, require firmly anchoring the bales into the ground. As plants grow, the bale fort can become a great hideout, with fresh carrots, radishes, or flowers an added bonus.
More instructions can be found at Step by step of creating a straw bale garden |(uada.edu). Or by reviewing the Wood Pallet and Straw Bale gardening video on this website: Wood Pallet and Straw Bale Gardening, (beginning at the 16:49 mark in the video.)
Article written by Anne Spruance, Extension Master GardenerSM Intern.
For more information:
Straw bale gardening: https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2071/2013/12/Straw-Bale-Gardening.pdf
North Carolina Vegetable Planting calendar: https://extensiongardener.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/NC-Vegetable-Planting-Guide.pdf?fwd=no