Urban Gardening: 8 Fun Ideas

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A day spent outdoors in the garden offers a host of benefits for kids. Gardening activities boost physical fitness, strengthen family bonds and foster an understanding of plant and water cycles. You don't need a farm or big backyard to garden with your kid. Try these fun "urban gardening" ideas to bring the benefits of gardening to even the most modest locales. You may be planting actual seeds, but you may also plant seeds of knowledge or a new passion in your little one!

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Grow Your Garden Anywhere!

By Julie Christensen

When you think of gardening with kids, you may conjure up images of rural farms or tidy suburban vegetable gardens, but even urban families can enjoy the many benefits of gardening. Whether your garden is a modest urban garden or even a few pots on the balcony, there’s a gardening activity to fit your family’s lifestyle.

Grow “Zombie” Plants

Dead plants come back to life! This experiment from Katie Johnson, primary teacher at Eco Kids Preschool in Austin, Texas, is sure to pique your little scientist’s interest. When you’re working in the kitchen, save carrot and pineapple tops or even the white parts of scallions. Plant them in the garden and watch them grow again.

Adopt a Pet Plant

Kids want to do more than pull weeds and plant seeds. Let your child pick one special gardening project that can be all hers. Grow a giant pumpkin for Halloween or host a neighborhood watermelon growing contest. How about planting a pizza garden with tomatoes, basil and onions? Invite some friends over to make pizza with the harvest.

Sprout Veggies

Try this experiment to teach plant reproduction. Place a moist paper towel in a plastic bag. Spread a few fast-sprouting seeds on the paper towel, such as radish, lettuce or carrot seeds. Seal the bag and tape it in a sunny window. Mist it every day to keep it moist. In 5 to 7 days, most of the seeds will begin to sprout. Make a chart detailing which seeds sprout the fastest, and note the differences in leaves and growth.

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Spice It Up

Herbs are a great for kids because they tolerate more neglect and grow faster than most vegetables. Grow a kitchen herb garden with basil, thyme, oregano and cilantro. Add the herbs to salads, soups and other dishes. Grow mint in its own container for flavoring lemonade. Plant fragrant herbs, such as chamomile, lavender and lemon balm for fragrant teas.

Make a Worm Compost Bin

Worms might make you squirm, but many kids love them. Harness this interest with a worm composting project, suggests Kristin Arrigo, environmental writer and author of Seasonal Home Repair Checklist: Eco-Alternatives for Maintaining Your Home. Use a shallow plastic box with a loose-fitting lid. Drill a few drainage holes in the bottom of the box and place a tray underneath. Lay torn newspaper or cardboard in the bottom of the box and mist it well for worm bedding. Add a half-pound of red worms. Each week, add up to 3 pounds of kitchen scraps, such as vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds, egg shells and stale bread. Place more newspaper over the scraps and mist well. In six months, you’ll have rich, dark humus for your garden!

Roast Sunflower Seeds

Harvest and roast sunflower seeds when they are brown and slightly dry. Place cut sunflower heads in a brown bag and store in a cool, dry location for two weeks. Remove the seeds from the heads and place them in a cookie sheet. Roast them at 200 degrees for up to three hours. You can grow own sprouts with this fun activity.

Think Small

Cathy Rehmeyer is a master gardener who grows over a ton of food on one-tenth of an acre each summer, and she has some tips for urban gardening. “First, focus on soil health,” she says, and let your child help you dig compost into the soil. Choose compact plants, such as determinate cherry tomatoes instead of sprawling heirlooms. Grow citrus fruits, dwarf apples or cherry trees in large pots. Take advantage of vertical space—plant pole beans instead of bush beans and train them up a bamboo teepee.

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Find a Purpose

Keep your child motivated all season long by setting some goals for your garden. Grow vegetables to donate to a food bank or start a vegetable stand to raise money for a family vacation or special project. Kids and gardening naturally go together, so whatever you do, make it fun!

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