Cultivating Your Child’s Green Thumb

By Denny Scholl

Children are the canvas to a world full of color and opportunity — sunshine, fresh air, and the taste of nature bring this special piece of artwork to life. Letting your child play in the dirt is the perfect way to plant the seed and cultivate your child’s green thumb.

Gardening teaches kids about plants, soils, bugs, and the responsibility it takes to care for growing flowers, vegetables, and fruits. The best thing about gardening? It gets kids outdoors and away from the TV and computer. 

How to Grow Your Child’s Green Thumb

  • Garden Party

Encouraging a child’s interest in gardening begins with nature itself — and you. Take the kids on a field trip to pick pumpkins, berries, and other fruits. Visit farmers markets and local florists to talk to home gardeners and flower lovers. Take a stroll through nearby botanical gardens

  • Getting Started

Gardening tools like spades, hoes, rakes, and tillers come in child and adult sizes; choose the ones that work best for your kids. 

Test the soil in your garden to determine its range of acidity. If you like green peppers and tomatoes, they prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.5. Plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. 

Take note of nearby trees and how their branch canopies will filter sunlight or block it out altogether. Your job as the “main” gardener is to know your land as well as you know your kids.

Choosing the kinds of flowers, fruits, and vegetables to grow outdoors starts with what your kids like — and don’t like. You know what they’ll eat, but oftentimes and for no apparent reason, kids take an instant dislike to something. Maybe it’s the smell, taste, name, or color.  

Plant a few rows of those vegetables and prompt your little one to care for them. At harvest time, your finicky children may be willing to try these vegetables again.

Plants with strong scents are attractive, as well as those with a rubbery or fuzzy feel to them. Create a rainbow of colors with green beans, green-blue broccoli, yellow squash, white onions, brown potatoes, red tomatoes, purple eggplant, and orange carrots.

  • Dig In!

Digging into the dirt is one way to really get to know the soil, and your kids will enjoy getting muddy in the process. 

A word of warning, though: When there’s dirt, there are bugs — some of those are stinging insects that swarm around Charlotte area gardens. Teach them which ones to avoid and which ones help aerate the soil.

  • Indoor Greenery

Want to have a garden growing in your bathroom? How about a wall full of flowers? Or maybe a tree growing through the living room? Hydroponic gardens — in which plants grow in water — are available in various sizes. You can set one on the bathroom counter or anywhere else in the home. 

Another indoor option for your budding gardener: Garden walls contain herbs, ornamental grasses, small flowers, and vegetable plants. 

Spice up your décor with North Carolina native greenery like maidenhair ferns, Carolina lupine, and eastern blue star flowers. Teach the kids how much water to use and how to remove dead foliage and buds. 

For a remodeling project, consider adding a nature room to your home — complete with a tree growing through the floor. With a maple or magnolia tree dropping leaves in the fall, the kids will have their hands in nature all year long.

Passing on the Green Thumb Gene

The key to cultivating your child’s green thumb begins with you, and your own relationship with nature. 

If you’re the “outdoorsy type,” your instincts will take over with ease. But if you’re apprehensive about getting your own hands dirty, or fussy about the kids staying clean at all times, it’s likely to influence your children. 

A green thumb grows from the seed that plants it.

Denny Scholl is a third-generation farmer who hopes to pass his 5-acre farm down to his sons one day. He grows green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini for his family and neighbors who visit him at the local farmers market. What he doesn’t sell, he barters for baked goods.

Your Job, As the Gardener


Written by: Farmer Connor Newman

Without getting too philosophical, the job description for the gardener is pretty simple – create and maintain conditions, in which, your plants can thrive. The normal tasks might include things like watering, working the soil, planting, pulling weeds, treating pests and feeding. It is also said that the job of the gardener is to act as the staff scientist – looking, listening, feeling, tasting and generally learning from time out amongst the plants. Push your fingers into the soil to feel for moisture, to check the structure of the soil and gauge its temperature. Bring a fistful of earth to your nose and smell for the, well, earthy aroma of “geosmin”, the byproduct of Actinobacteria and the tell-tale sign of a healthy subterranean ecosystem. Our brains are wired for pattern recognition and we can use that skill to look for pests and disease, as well as healthy plants and improving conditions.

However, do we always balance thoughtful observation with the tasks that we believe have to be done?

Do we always use the best tool for the job?

All too often, we succumb to availability biases that justify expensive chemical habits, intensive resource use, and tedious tasks, ad infinitum. Much like parenting, the gardener’s job is not so much to enforce rules and micromanage but to nurture and, often, to simply provide an environment conducive to growth. For instance, is watering every single day, always the best idea? Even in the heat of summer, not only is this practice wasteful, it is usually unnecessary. Most (not all by any stretch) plants suited to North Carolina’s climate enjoy about one inch of rain each week, or the equivalent thereof. Doing some admittedly disputable math, this works out to about 62 gallons per one hundred square feet and, by measuring the output of your choice watering device and crunching some basic area numbers, you can create the ideal conditions that your plant would encounter in nature. Watering deeply and infrequently encourages deep rooting, which pulls the double duty of promoting drought tolerance and having your plant’s roots gain access to leached nutrients deeper in the soil. Frequent and especially shallow watering will encourage shallow roots that succumb to drought stress, increased surface temperatures, wind, pests and other inherent risks to generally weaker plants. This may come as a relief to those who are forgetful about watering, have little free time and/or would even like to see lower utility bills. Another point worth considering would be to look into the needs of particular plants. Sage (Salvia officinalis), for instance, is a Mediterranean species and will readily drown if watered too often. So, watering less is not only easier, environmentally sound but also typically better for the plants?

Where else can we cut corners for the betterment of our gardens? Pesticides (applied broadly, for the purposes of this article to include all of the ‘cides) are another area to consider cutting back on, for the sake of your plants, the environment, as well as your own time and budget. Most “ready to use” pesticides are broad spectrum and should really be thought of as a last resort. Firstly, your garden is not as defenseless as it may appear at first glance. Most plants can actually change their chemical makeup in order to repel pests – they produce toxic “secondary compounds”, increase the woodiness of their tissues and even call in hoards of predatory insects to fight on their behalf. When attacked, or chewed on, tomatoes release a sticky substance that can repel or poison the critters feasting on it and, failing that, the plant will release “herbivore-induced volatiles”, something like a lure for predatory insects that can come even the playing field. However, as soon as pesticides are sprayed, most of these natural defenses disappear and the plant becomes dependent on your constant diligence to fend off pests. Likewise, before spraying fungicides, it is worth noting that somewhere around 95% of the world’s vascular plants form beneficial fungal associations that increase a plant’s reach for water and nutrients, as well as protect against soil-borne pests and disease. Even weeds may be worth taking a second look at. If the plants that you don’t want (literally the definition of a weed) are doing better than the plants you are trying to grow, then perhaps there is an environmental factor, like poor drainage, low nutrients or too much bare ground between plants, that you could alter first. After all, what gardeners and farmers call weeds, ecologists call “pioneer species”. These are the plants that begin the recovery process on abandoned fields, replacing nutrients, preventing soil erosion, collecting sunlight and providing the stepping stones for biodiversity – so it may pay off to think of weeds as informative “pop-ups”, letting you know what problems you may have and even how to fix them.

So what does this boil down to?

You’re always going to have to work in any garden, but by using your senses, along with some common sense and even a little R&D, you can save yourself and your gardens from the oppression doing things simply because that’s “how it’s done”. In the words of Johnny (1953’s The Wild One), when asked what he was rebelling against – the thoughtful gardener retorts, “what have you got?” While I’m not suggesting firing up your Harley, along with 50 of your rowdiest friends, to invade quiet suburbia, I do advocate questioning the status quo and going against the grain until you find answers. Rebels, scientists, and innovators alike are always asking “why” and the gardener should too. This is how the gardener performs his, or her, job well.

Spring 2019 = Fruit and Vegetable Production at Hodges Farm

We have finally gotten a break in the torrential rain that has plagued the area for several months and that means that we are hitting the ground running! We are working on a host of new and exciting things to offer our customers in 2019. One of our major projects is fruit and vegetable production. We experimented with growing strawberries for the first time last year and have expanded the garden to include salad greens, radishes, peas, beans, cabbages, bok choy, and a variety of other produce. We are learning more every day about managing a healthy crop of veggies but hope to be able to offer patrons fresh food all throughout the summer starting April 19th and 20th, and we are thrilled to announce that our farm shop for road-side sales on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings throughout the season.

Another exciting prospect for food sales is our venture into locally and humanely raised meats and eggs. We work hard to provide the best life possible to all living things here on the farm and hope that will translate into high quality, altruistically raised meat products including beef, pork, and eggs.

Farmer Connor and Farmer Kim are trying to ensure that all the foodstuffs raised on the farm are done so in a compassionate manner but also in consideration of all USDA and FDA guidelines. They have gone to several continuing education classes in the past year, have put together a Food and Safety Guideline, and are looking to become GAP certified in the near future. Follow our Farm on Facebook, Instagram, and sign up for our newsletters to stay in touch and hear about all the exciting things we will have available for customers in the upcoming months.

Let’s Begin with a Seed – A Perfect Biologic Package

By Connor Newman

What is a seed? Most people are familiar with the idea – put a seed in the ground, add water and a plant happens. This is true, but many are not aware of just how amazing seeds are. A seed is a perfect biologic package, consisting of a protective outer coat, “shelf stable” food storage and all of the genetic material needed for a mature plant. With ideal conditions, and only then, the seed coat will allow oxygen and water inside the seed and begin to germinate. Seeds can stay viable for a very long time, waiting for that ideal environment. Seeds have been found in the Siberian tundra, radiocarbon dated to 32,000 years old, and scientists were able to germinate them. So, if you’re not getting the moisture, light, and temperature right, you may be holding your breath for quite some time, waiting on results. Continue reading