It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. I asked the boys why they wanted to earn this badge and got some mixed answers: "I want to learn about gardening", "I need to earn more badges", "My mom made me come", "I had nothing else to do". Ha ha for honesty! I told the boys that I would provide information on everything they needed to earn the gardening merit badge but whispered that I had an ulterior motive - psst...I was really trying to create gardeners and on a future glorious Sunday like that day, I wanted them to think, "I want to go out and work in the garden", and not, "I want to work on another merit badge".
- There are MANY methods for all the things I would show them. I would share conventional wisdom and also what has worked for me - and everything I would share would come from my perspective of organic gardening, but my way is only one of many ways.
- No gardener would probably consider themselves "expert" because there are changes in the environment every year, there are gardening inventions every year, there are problems and new solutions every year, and gardeners are always learning and trying new things. This is part of the joy of gardening.
- The parts of a flower - pollination/fertilization - what I called "plant sex 101". They have obviously had some good science teachers and had many "what if" questions.
- The photos from my post on the tobacco hornworm. They then launched into a discussion about a parasite that injects eggs into a dog's butt and then flies out.
- Interesting vegetables such as heirlooms. I explained how an heirloom is "true to seed" and often carries a story - such as seeds that may be have been brought to the US by slaves.
- They were VERY interested in the possibility of growing purple carrots, and some seemed impressed that I am trying to grow blue potatoes and baby corn this year.
- They were interested in our short talk on weeds. I told them about the hairy bittercress or shotweed I'm dealing with right now, and explained that if you miss the right time to pull them, they'll shoot a gazillion seeds right into your garden if you touch them. They started brainstorming ways to get rid of them - put a bag over it before pulling, put a tarp underneath (smart boys, huh?), light them with a match. I told them my neighbors thought I was crazy enough without walking around with matches lighting all my weeds on fire.
- One kid asked how to produce the most vegetables possible and asked if fertilizer was the answer. Luckily, I had a bottle of what I use in my garden. I covered the label and had the boys sniff and guess what it was made of. This was so much fun - for me at least. After a few good guesses and several scrunched up faces, I revealed that it was fish emulsion and sea kelp.
- During our section on garden pests, I talked about some of the struggles in my garden (slugs, raccoons, etc.) as well as some solutions. I told them that the coyote pee and putrescent egg solids (in the deer repellent) have been working to keep the deer off of my daylilies. We then had a short discussion about whether human pee was good for plants. I ended that quickly by telling them to just pee where they were taught to pee.