What can you do with kids to maintain their interest in gardening during the monsoon months of spring? Try planting some indoor and outdoor small gardens in containers. Then spend some cozy time inside reading a few good gardening books for families and children.
Grow an Indoor Containerized Garden
Materials: plastic or terra-cotta planting containers, seeds (try chives, wheatgrass, lettuce or parsley), nontoxic paint suitable for painting on terra-cotta or plastic, potting soil.
Choose several small — to medium-sized containers left over from summer and fall gardening or purchase terra-cotta or plastic containers from a local store. Use nontoxic, washable paint to decorate the containers. Let imaginations run wild. There are no rules for painting designs. Kids can get as creative as they want. Adults might want to decorate a few containers too. Join in the fun.
Once the containers are decorated and the paint has dried, fill them up with potting soil to about one-inch from the top. Next step is planting away. Follow seed packet directions for seed depth. Usually the seeds are sprinkled on top of the soil and a thin layer of soil is added to cover the seeds a bit. Pat down and water well.
Place the containers in a sunny window or on a shelf or table where the containers are exposed to light for about eight hours a day. All that’s left to do is water regularly (several times a week at first) and watch the greenery sprout. Chives, wheatgrass, lettuce and parsley can be harvested regularly and placed in stir fry dishes, soups or salads.
Grow an Outdoor Dish or Container Garden
During the early spring season, a decorative dish garden is fun to create and helps kids pass the days of indoor doldrums. If a dish (or shallow, small container) is too limiting, move up to a bigger container. It’s all up to you and your children to decide. Make sure the container you select has drainage in the bottom so the plants don’t become water-logged.
Materials: container to plant in; potting soil; colored glass, pebbles or shells for decoration; small plants from a local nursery or garden center.
When kids are getting antsy and the rains have subsided, head out to a local nursery or garden center to find just the right plants to select and grow in a decorative containerized garden. Look for pansies, primroses, “Stepables” or other ground covers, sedums and small conifers. You might decide on a certain dollar amount to spend and see how creative the children can be shopping for their own perfect plants. If funds are limited, create the dish or container garden together as a family, so each child chooses just one plant and all are grouped into a shared container.
Once the plants are selected, it’s time to plant. You can place the plants, still in the nursery containers, in the pots to practice and see what arrangement looks the best. Place potting soil in the container, leaving a bit of room at the top and on the edges. Next, remove the selected plants from their nursery containers and settle them into the potting soil, filling in any gaps. Water in well and scatter or sprinkle the bare spaces with colored glass, pebbles or shells found at local craft stores or from nearby beaches.
You can try this idea with either indoor or outdoor plantings. The key is to select plants that like the same amount of water and light. Remember too that indoor plants like inside temperatures and outdoor plants will love the chilly, damp early-spring weather. Don’t forget that indoor plants need regular watering. They will want a drink about once a week. The outdoor plants that aren’t exposed to rain will need to be checked and probably need water once a week too, especially if they’re under roof overhangs.
Books About Gardening
Visit your local library. The librarian will help you find a host of books about gardening to read with your children. ISBNs are listed in case you want to purchase these books later. Here are a few favorites:
For activities and ideas:
- “Gardening Wizardry for Kids,” L. Patricia Kite, ISBN 0812013174
- “Linnea’s Almanac,” Christina Bjork and Lena Anderson, ISBN 9129591767
- “Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots,” Sharon Lovejoy, ISBN 0761110569
- “Sunflower Houses (A book for children and their grownups),” Sharon Lovejoy, ISBN 0761123865
To read aloud with children:
- “Diary of a Worm,” Doreen Cronin, ISBN 006000150X
- “Oh Say Can You Seed (all about flowering plants),” Bonnie Worth, ISBN 0375810951
- “Princess Chamomile’s Garden,” Hiawyn Oram, ISBN 0525463879
- “The Gardener,” Sarah Stewart, ISBN 031236749X
- “This is Your Garden,” Maggie Smith, ISBN 0517709929