Gardening for kids
-- by Judy Williams
Children are continually bombarded with advertising for fast food and unhealthy treats. One of the most important lessons you can teach them is how to tend and grow their own food from the garden.
There are plenty of quick and easy projects that the children can get involved in. The projects will teach them about nutrition, nature, recycling and organic gardening. That's a good outcome!
The no dig garden is a particularly good project for children because the garden can be built and planted in just a couple of hours. You do not have to prepare the garden for weeks in advance, as with other growing methods. There are detailed instructions for building a no dig garden on my website (www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com). If a full on garden seems too ambitious at the start, try something simpler.
Growing bean shoots is the quickest way to grow edible things. In just a few days, the kids will be able to pop fresh bean shoots in a salad or sandwich or just eat them as they come. This will also work with alfalfa, cress and snow pea seeds. Put the seeds into a clean, wide mouth jar and place a mesh material over the mouth. It must be a material that water and air can pass through, but not the seeds. A bit of discarded pantyhose secured with a rubber band will do. Soak the seeds overnight in water. Next morning, drain the excess water and place the jar on its side in a bright room, near a window. A couple of times a day, re-wet the seeds, drain and return to the bright space. The seeds will sprout and grow very quickly and within a few days will be ready to eat.
To propagate your own garden seedlings build this portable greenhouse! Wash a 2Lt plastic bottle (soft drink or soda water type) and using a knife or sharp scissors, cut it in half along one side. Force it open and fill one side with good quality potting mix. Plant your seeds and water gently. A very light mixture of water and liquid fertilizer will kick start the seeds. Close the bottle back up and seal with tape. Place the bottle in a sunny position. Your seedlings should be well on their way and ready for repotting in 2-4 weeks.
Do you know very young children? Introduce them to Hairy Harry! Take one of those pairless socks every household has and sow on some eyes and other facial features. Put some lawn seed in the sock end and fill with garden soil, potting mix or compost. Fill the sock until the face is filled out and tie a knot in the sock, making sure the mix inside is packed tightly. Water the sock regularly, or prop it on top of a container with water. The loose end of the sock will act as a wick to draw up the moisture. Place in a sunny position. In a couple of days, Harry will have a full head of green hair! In a couple of weeks, he will be ready for a hair cut or styling makeover!
Children love eating things fresh from a garden. For convenience, you might want to plant close to the kitchen where the children can harvest items under your watchful eye. So consider doing quick growing plants in containers. Cress, radishes and lettuce will be ready the quickest in 6-8 weeks. Next in line are dwarf beans, cucumber, cabbage, tomatoes and onion which will be ready in 8-12 weeks. Most others, including the popular carrots and potatoes will need 16-20 weeks to mature. You could be harvesting from this little garden for months!
Encourage your children to nurture their little garden, which ever project you choose. It's a great way to teach them practical skills and fill them forever with the wonder of nature.
Judy Williams (http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com) aspires to become a fulltime earth mother goddess. This site acts as a primer for all vegetable gardening aspects covering topics like how to build a garden, nurture seedlings, container gardening and composting.