GARDEN VIEW: Growing a pizza patch

Need a school science project? A vegetable garden offers plenty of opportunity to study plant growth, soils, and water relationships, or test different fertilizers.

Growing a garden also teaches us about slowing down and delayed gratification. Additionally, gardeners develop environmental awareness and they begin to understand the challenges faced by farmers every day to keep us fed. Our fall garden is the best, offering the largest variety of vegetables with the best weather for success.

If you are going to be gardening with a child this semester make it fun by planting a pizza garden.

Pizza gardens can involve tomatoes, eggplants, onion, peppers, squash and an assortment of herbs, like rosemary, oregano, and basil. And to be sure you have pollinators and beneficial insects, be sure to plant some marigolds, calendula or zinnias. Marigolds also work hard to repel unwanted insects.

You need a space with at least six hours of sunlight and, if you are digging up the soil, it is fun to make the beds in shape of a pie. If you do not have time or space for a pie-shaped garden, grow the vegetables in large flower pots or use a raised bed. If you are constructing new raised beds, the best size is 2 feet wide by 6 feet long by at 1 foot deep. Two feet across is about right for most children to reach across.

Here is a list of plants for a pizza garden for one or two children:

>> Three seedlings of grape tomatoes

>> Three seedlings of cherry tomatoes

>> Three seedlings of small eggplant, such as the small “Little Fingers”

>> Three seedlings of bell peppers

>> Three seedlings of chives (onions take too long here)

>> Three seedlings of garlic chives

>> One or two seedlings of zucchini squash

>> Two to three plants of oregano

>> Three basil plants

>> Six seedlings of marigolds, like “Lemon Gem”

>> Six seedlings of calendulas

>> Six seedlings of zinnia

The small grape and cherry tomatoes are the perfect size for pizza and you can find them in orange, yellow, red or black fruited varieties to have different kinds of tomato. Be sure to stake or cage these. If you are using pots, a 2 to 3 gallon pot is perfect for each tomato. Many of the cherry types of tomato plants are determinate plants. This means that they have a pre-determined amount of growth that occurs in a few weeds. They then produce fruit and die in a compact amount of time.

So, read the labels and ask questions about your plants before purchasing.

For the purpose of having pizza, the determinate types will work. Then, just after the first of the year, you can purchase new tomato plants for a spring garden.

Remember to check the garden daily for insects and be sure to learn which ones are beneficial and which ones are not. With so few plants to tend to it is easy to control the pest insects by brushing them into a bucket of soapy water to drown them.

Resources abound for gardening with children.

Your local licensed nurserymen, like Waugh’s Nursery in McAllen, have seeds and plants to get you started. It is easy to use seedlings when starting out. They also have knowledgeable staff to answer your questions.

Check out the Jr. Master Gardener Program at Texas A& M for suitable textbooks and activities at: https://jmgkids.us.

Remember, this is the best time for planting a garden.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can find her on Facebook at barbara.a.storz.