Starting a Garden

Homeschool Garden

Amidst all the Corona Virus concerns and chaos, stores with empty shelves, there are those who calmly weather the storm because they practice self-reliance. The Bible talks so much about the wisdom of preparation and providing for our children.

The Proverbs 31 woman prepares and provides for her household:

14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,

In Christian Studies I, in our cottage school, we read that God provided manna until the Isrealites were in the promised land and ate the first fruits of their harvest that year. Then the manna stopped. God intends us to subdue the earth and take dominion over it. We are to cultivate it and be prosperous. But so many American children are so detached from the garden. They’ve never seen a garden nor grown anything, and they never eat vegetables so they hate them.

A garden is a joy! It is such a wonder to see this tiny seed grown into a huge plant. To put in in the earth and watch this marvel unfold before your eyes. And then to know that it was you who did it. You chose the seed, and you decided where it should grow. All the labor produced a bountiful harvest that you and your family get to enjoy. It is truly a treat.

Helpful Tips

Most Arizonans have bought into the lie that “our soil is junk.” They think they need to haul in all kinds of expensive soil and turn gardening into a much harder thing than it needs to be. As an experiment with our current garden, I decided to merely plant seeds into wet Arizona dirt. All I did was lay down drip line, start watering, and wherever our rock hard ground turned soft from water it was there I planted seed. Corn seed in fact. Well it worked. And it worked great. The first harvest the plants did struggle a little. But it was they who labored (not me) and it was they who sacrificed. Their roots broke through the soil and added organic matter. Their leaves fell to the ground and added mulch.

The next time I planted the ground was really primed and the plants did exceptionally well. Now the the ground is really superb. I have never tilled the garden or anything like that. All we ever did was add mulch (in the form of wood chips). We learned this from the movie “Back to Eden” (I highly recommend).

Speed Up the Process

You can speed up the process of making great soil by tilling in composted manure. At a rate of 1:1 with the soil. You can get the bags for $1 at Home Depot. Just mix it with your native soil in equal amounts. Arizona soil is actually really rich in nutrients, it is just lacking organic matter. Add some composted steer manure and you are SET! Things will grow amazing. Mulch heavily to keep the water in.

When to Plant What

Use this U of A planting calendar. It works really great and tells you what seeds to plant when, when is the best time, or when to do transplants. Very, very helpful!

Where I Buy Seeds

My favorite place to buy seeds are heirloom quality. Heirloom seeds are true seeds (not hybrids) and you can plant them and save the seeds and regrow them.

I like:

  • Peaceful Valley Organics (not all their seeds are heirloom but lots are)
  • Seed Savers Exchange
  • My FAVORITE: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Their catalogs are beautiful, they are Christian, and the variety is outstanding, price is great
  • Second favorite: Native Seeds These are seeds native to AZ, adapted to AZ, grown in Tucson, AZ. Phoenix Library gives small amounts of these seeds away for free to its members- check it out at your local library!
Homeschool Garden
My oldest son planted seeds that you can see are just starting to sprout. Below his feet and all around are carrot seedlings! They grow back on their own like weeds and they grow EVERYWHERE! It’s a good problem I guess! I like the better than “real” weeds!


Water. The soil needs to be moist. All the time. You should be able to take the soil and make a ball out of it but when you touch the ball it will crack and break apart. If it is a sludgy ball the soil is too wet. Or if the ball won’t hold together–too dry. Now watering that much is not ideal in AZ. And once the heat sets in you have a real problem. The key is mulch! You must protect the soil from the sun. Cover the soil with a good 3-5″ of mulch. When you are planting seeds the mulch is very small (it is too hard for the new seedling to have to grow through all that mulch. It must be thin initially). Maybe just an inch or less. But once you have a strong plant start mulching more and more. As the weather gets warmer your mulch will be hot and dry, but underneath it is wet and wonderful at the roots of your plant!

Huge bonus–the mulch is decaying where it touches the water. This is breaking down the organic matter and fertilizing your soil! Mulch helps you water MUCH less and it keeps your soil healthy! It is a must!

Watch the Back to Eden film I linked to above for the BEST kind of mulch!

Water must be regular too. Spraying with a hose is not nearly as effective as watering deep with a drip. With a drip system you train the seeds roots to go down down down where the water is. Spraying with a hose the water pools on the surface and the roots much grow to the dangerous surface to find water. Why is it dangerous? Because the surface is the first place to dry out. If the roots dry out your plant is dead. Keep the roots away from our baking sun! Install a drip system. With a timer! Unless you have a perfect memory get a timer too!

The first time I did it I just went down to Home Depot and the guy set me right up with all the stuff we needed. Which was minimal and really not that expensive. They can help you out. Don’t forget the automatic timer!

Now we use an automatic timer that hooks up to an app on our phone. But in the beginning it was just a battery powered one. Unfortunately they weren’t shaded well and the sun would fry them annually. It was an annual investment to replace them. But maybe we could have tried shading them better.

homeschoolers garden scottsdale az
My oldest son some years back, holding a type of broccoli from our garden called “Romanesco”

Curriculum or DVD’s mentioned above:

Christian Studies I – uses the Golden’s Children Bible (actual excerpts from the NKJV Bible with very well done appropriate pictures). Comes with a teacher’s guide and a student guide, optional flashcards. Children learn memory verses and more.

Back to Eden Film – free to stream on Amazon Prime. Amazing Christian man shares how God gave him abundant wisdom on how to garden using very little watering and natural mulch. It is an incredible must see video.

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