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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.
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.
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.
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!