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Springtime Fun in the Kids’ Garden

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Spring has sprung! With the days getting longer and the weather getting warmer, what better time is there to start a garden? Gardening is a great way to help young learners explore the great outdoors while creating something beautiful and unique. From whimsical moon gardens filled with colorful stones to indoor planters fit for a tiny jungle habitat, there are dozens of ways to create eye-catching, educational gardens!

Mary B. Rein’s book The Budding Gardener brings parents and teachers gardening activities perfect for indoor and outdoor learning. Complete with step-by-step instructions and lots of creativity, this little book is all you need to begin your gardening adventure! Here are a few fun ways to get started:

The Mini-Terrarium

This tiny garden fits inside a container! It’s perfect for when it’s still too chilly to start planting outside.

What You’ll Need:

  • A clear glass or plastic container with a wide opening (i.e. fishbowl, large jar)
  • A few small plants
  • Colorful aquarium rocks or small gravel
  • Newspaper or an old plastic tablecloth
  • A plastic measuring cup or other cup (for scooping the dirt)
  • Potting soil

What to Do:

  1. Spread old newspaper or an old plastic tablecloth over your work area
  2. Set out the container. Your child should fill it about ¼ full with rocks and gravel
  3. Using the cup, scoop potting soil into the container, filling it to the halfway mark
  4. Demonstrate how to remove the plants from their plastic nursery pots
  5. Let your child make holes in the dirt and plant the little plants in the container. Press the dirt firmly around the roots and add a little more dirt if needed to keep them in place
  6. Water the terrarium
  7. For clean-up, bundle the excess potting soil in the old newspaper or tablecloth and take it outside
  8. Place the indoor mini-garden near a sunny window (but not in direct sun) and water it about twice a week. Do not overwater!

 

Sensory Garden

Build a garden that can appeal to all the senses! Perfect for outdoor sensory learning.

What You’ll Need:

What to Do:

1. Prepare your garden area by finding a sunny spot and digging it up to loosen the soil

2. Plant some of the following plants in groups to represent the five senses:

  • Touch: Lamb’s Ear (silky), Silver sage (woolly), and Teasel (spiny)
  • Taste: Nasturiums, peas, Swiss chard, and mint are all safe plants for children to taste
  • Smell: Honeysuckle, lavender, roses, peppermint, thyme, chamomile, and lemon balm
  • Sight: Giant sunflowers, poppies, zinnias marigolds, purple sage, and verbena
  • Sound: Rattlesnake grass, bamboo, and love-in-a-mist

3. Use stones or other natural materials to create a path that will guide visitors on a walk through the sensory garden. If you have space, add a bench or chair for people to rest on

4. Using card stock, create an identifying sign for each sensory area with crayons or markers. Cover the paper on both sides with clear contact paper and post the signs on the garden stakes

5. Encourage your child to guide visitors through the garden and demonstrate how to explore it

 

Making Compost

Even plants need to eat! Learn how to make this environmentally-friendly plant food by turning trash into treasure!

What You’ll Need:

  • Black plastic
  • Enough dry and wet herbicide-free materials to start a compost pile
  • A pitchfork
  • Stones
  • Water

What to Do:

  1. Select an appropriate sunny spot for you compost pile, close to your garden. If you want to hide it from view, buy or build a screen
  2. Start with a layer of dry materials such as dry leaves. Let your child play in them first to break up large pieces. On top of this, place a layer of fresh horse or cow manure, and then a layer of dirt. Keep alternating layers of dry (sawdust, grass clippings, straw, etc.) and wet (manure, produce scraps, stems of weeds, etc.) ingredients until the pile is about 4 feet high. It will shrink down as it settles
  3. Collect and add materials. Food scraps are great for composting! (No meat or diary scraps though)
  4. Water the pile
  5. Cover the pile with black plastic, weighted down by a few heavy stones
  6. When steam begins to rise from the pile, use a pitchfork turn the pile upside down and mix it well. Point out the heat and white patches that show that the pile is working to become soil
  7. Water the pile again if it seems dry, and replace the covering. Turn it once a week until it has become earthy-smelling, nutrient-dense compost


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