Sunday, March 25, 2012

DailyBuzz Moms 9x9: Planting with Kids

Spring is in the air and that means it is time for our family to start planting!

My love of gardening started from watching my Mother. Her passion for growing was contagious. She was so proud of her zucchini, every bean we picked and the monstrous rhubarb. I want to ignite the same interest in my own children. So gardening is a family affair.

Living on a farm doesn't hurt, either.

Planting seeds is an exciting way to learn gardening and make a connection with the land and it's resources. I love to observe how much the seeds grow daily and guess what the mature plants will look like. What do broccoli seedlings look like? How fast will the lettuce be ready to put on the table. All of these questions are perfect to spark a child's imagination.

We planted 2 trays of seedlings. It was a mix of herbs and vegetables to be transplanted into our backyard garden in another month. I love having my little helpers see every step of the process from seed to our garden and then eventually our table.

Gardening with young children is simple and fun. To get started you will need:
  • A Dirt Positive Attitude - kids will get messy when they have both dirt and water - mud happens. Luckily they are washable and so are their clothes. Have them dress appropriately and then turn them loose!
  • Dirt - The dirt you use for planting seeds is your choice. There are two great options, either bagged planting mix or planting discs. The discs expand when you add water and they will sit in open trays easily. The discs are easy for young children to use and are fun to watch expand when wet. I usually use the loose mix though, because it will fill more trays and is more cost effective. Both are sterile and will give you better results than backyard dirt.
  • Trowels - Each of my children have their own and it helps to keep them busy. You can pick up the simple plastic versions at any garden center inexpensively. 
  • Seed Trays - Your local garden center will have a wide variety, some kits even come with the seeds and soil included. Covers are handy for the trays to keep proper humidity, but kitchen wrap or a plastic vegetable bag can do in a pinch. You can  look around your home for more creative options for growing your seedlings. Egg cartons can be reused, as can toilet paper rolls or even rolled newsprint. Just be sure your plants have proper drainage and have a tray underneath to catch excess water.
  • An Under Tray Heater or a Heat Source - Place your trays in a warm window or warmer room in the house. If your region is colder this time of year, try a seedling heater that will go under your tray. Seeds need both warmth and moisture to germinate. 
  • A Selection of Seeds - Larger seeds like Tomato or Swiss Chard are easier for small hands to pick up. Lettuce seeds, on the other hand, are so tiny they can be lost or too many can be planted at once. It is also nice to plant a variety of new plants and the kids' favorites for them to enjoy.
Be sure to read the back of your seed packets to find out if they should be planted indoors or sown outdoors (directly into the ground). Also check to see how long it takes for the plants to mature. This information will help you decide when to start your seedlings and how many to plant at one time.

Mark your seed trays so you can remember what each new seedling is. I put small plastic tags in each section of the tray marked with what we planted there. Then give your trays a good watering and wait. It won't be long till you and your young gardeners can see the new seedlings pushing through the soil.

Now to mark our young plants in the garden we created some simple plant markers using recycled materials.

Garden Markers 
to dress up our garden we decided to "mark" the occasion with a fun and simple craft project.

You Will Need:
Plastic Container Lids (saved from butter tubs, sour cream, take-out drink cups etc.)
Craft Sticks
Hot Glue Gun
Assorted Sharpie Markers

My job as Mom was to cut-out simple plant shapes onto the back of the lids. We kept simple round shapes for the more difficult items like lettuce and basil. I labeled them all with a black sharpie so the plant name is clear and visible.

My kids decorated the plastic markers and sticks with permanent sharpie markers. The markers come in a variety of colors now as well as thick and fine point tips. We want these to get noticed in our garden rows.

Of course permanent markers will stain little fingers... but, eventually will wear off. At least they were supervised.

Then I hot glued the plastic cut-outs to the craft sticks. Simple, water-proof, frugal and cute. It is just one more way for my kids to be involved in our garden.

Not only will we be able to remember where we planted our vegetables, but my children will be able to identify their favorites based on the shapes.

*Disclaimer - I created this post as part of the DailyBuzz Moms March 9x9: Spring Fever theme. I was not compensated for this post and all the fun was my own. I am entered into a contest for the best post out of the group. All opinions and dirty fingernails were my own.
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