planting-with-children

Learning about the natural world and how it works is one of the joys of being a child. I was reminded of this fact the other day with my grandson, Eric. He came over for a visit after preschool and was so excited to show me a science experiment that they had done in class.

Clutched in his little hand was a plastic baggie with a moistened paper towel and a sprouted seed. Oh, he was so proud of his little seed and he couldn’t wait to plant it in my vegetable garden.

germinated-pea-seed

Such a tiny seed…

Do you remember doing this in school? I do! And the joy of planting a single seed was just one of the ‘sparks’ that ignited my passion and career in gardening.

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We selected the best spot in the garden.

 

planting-a-seed

Eric dug a little hole and we carefully placed his seed in it.

Notice that the seed is located several inches away from a young bean plant. I did that on purpose, so if Eric’s little seedling doesn’t grow, he can ‘adopt’ the nearby bush bean.

Now, to pat down the soil.

 

watering-new-seed

Eric loves my little blue watering can

 

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Watering in his little seedling.

Oh, I do hope that his little pea seed begins to grow. Eric has already spent a lot of time out in the garden with me and whether or not he follows in his grandma’s footsteps, he will always experience joy when spending time in the garden.

Have you ever successfully grown a seedling that you grew in school?

We’ve reached the final day of our garden gift lists and today, it’s all about kids.

Gifts with a garden theme aren’t just for adults; there is no better way to foster the curious spirit of children and lead them on a path of discovery about the natural world around them than the gift of a kid-sized kit with a garden theme. As a mom and grandma, I’ve enjoyed countless hours with young children as they learn about plants and insects. Here are some gift ideas for the young people in your life.

1. Root Viewer

Foster a love for vegetable gardening by showing kids what goes on beneath the soil. They plant a carrot, onion, and radish seeds and watch the roots develop at the same time that the leafy tops grow. Click here to learn more and purchase. 

2. Butterfly Garden

Join with your kids as you view the miracle of caterpillars transform into butterflies. All you need is inside this best-selling kit, except for the sugar water. I wrote about my experience of doing this with my kids. Needless to say, they loved it! Click here to order. 

3. Grow N’ Glow Terrarium

Terrariums are fun for both adults and kids alike, allowing them to view a self-contained world. I like that this kit has all you need to make your own while learning about plants and how they grow. My 6-year-old granddaughter, Lily, asked for this for Christmas. Click here to order. 

4. Mason Bee House

Imagine the delight of your kids when they see little mason bees making their home in this little bee house. Mason bees are important pollinators and don’t sting, making this a safe and fun gift. Click here to order. 

5. Little Diggers Garden Tool Set

Young children like to work alongside adults in the garden, so how about getting them their own set of kid-sized tools? Believe it or not, we bought this when my 32 and 23-year-old daughters were little, and they used them often. All of the tools lasted a long time. In fact, we still have the little shovel! Click here to order. 

The right garden gift for a child can foster a lifelong love of gardening, and you can be the one to begin them on this journey.

This concludes my Four Days of Garden Gifts. If you missed any of them, here they are – Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

 

Disclosure: This post is paid for by the folks at Lava Soap. The opinions expressed, are my own.

Are you afraid to get your hands dirty when you garden? I’m not. In fact, I seldom wear gardening gloves when I’m working in the soil. Oh, gloves are useful when using pruners, raking, or dealing with thorny plants. However, I find elemental pleasure with working in the soil with my bare hands.

I especially like to ditch the gloves when I am working in my vegetable garden where whether I am planting seeds, smoothing out a new layer of compost, or harvesting plants – touching the plants and soil with my hands makes me happy.

Last week, I spent the morning out in the vegetable garden, cleaning out old plants and getting it ready for sowing seeds in mid-September. The experience was not unlike the feeling you get after spring cleaning. I have an almost blank canvas on which to add new vegetables this fall.

After the plants are ripped out, I add several inches of new compost to prepare the beds. I buy my compost in bags, which makes it easier to add just where I want it to go.

This year, I am changing things up a bit by adding mushroom compost, which has composted horse manure and straw among other things. I like to try new things to see how they perform and then communicate that information to you.

All told, we added a total of 6 inches of regular and mushroom composts to the garden.

Our desert tortoise, Aesop, came out to see what we were doing. Unfortunately, we discovered that he is able to climb up into the vegetable garden, which we don’t want as he will eat our leafy greens. So, we will have to replace the short wood sides with taller ones.

As if my hands weren’t dirty enough after pulling out plants, they became more so as I smoothed out the newly added mulch around the few plants that remained. Of course, any chance of getting his hands dirty, brings out my grandson, Eric, to help me out in the garden.

Back in the house, we had two pairs of messy hands. So, out came my favorite hand cleaner that I reserve for the dirtiest of messes. Lava Soap is the most effective way that I have found to get rid of the ground in garden dirt from my hands, and Eric was anxious to get started first. Within a couple of minutes, his little hands were nice and squeaky clean.

My hands were worse than Eric’s, coated with soil and plant debris and I knew from experience that regular soap wouldn’t do the job. So I grabbed my bar of Lava and got started.

That is a lot of dirt!

Almost done!

Finished!

In the past, whenever I would use regular soap, it never got them completely clean, and I would have dirt remaining in the small cracks in my hands. I also didn’t like how dried out my hands would feel after working in the garden.

Lava Soap not only gets my hands (and Eric’s) cleaner than regular soap, it doesn’t dry them out either. Most of us have heard of this famous cleaning bar and how it is useful for getting rid of grease, paint, and glue due to the pumice that within it. However, I’m here to state that it also did a fabulous job removing the garden soil from my hands while leaving them moisturized afterward.

So, ditch the garden gloves, reach your hands into the soil and experience the joy of gardening. Just be sure to have some Lava Soap ready to help you clean up afterward.

Lava Soap is available at retailers across the country, including Ace, Walmart, Dollar General and Family Dollar. To find a store near you, visit LavaSoap.com and click on the Where to Buy button.

Vacations are a time that I love to spend with my family doing things that we don’t normally have time for with the busyness of school and work that predominates throughout much of the year. This summer, we spent a couple of weeks in Michigan visiting my oldest daughter and her family. In planning our trip, we list what we want to do and number one on the list for our summer adventures was going to a farm and picking our own strawberries and cherries.

So, on a sunny Tuesday morning, we headed out along a back country road and visited Kiteley Farm ready to pick strawberries. 

I must admit that I have never picked strawberries, other than in my own garden, and couldn’t wait to experience to harvest them myself. Initially, my 15-year-old son couldn’t figure out why we were going to pick them when it was easier to buy them in the supermarket. But, I told him to just wait and see – I promised him that he would change his mind afterward.

 

We were given instructions on where the strawberry fields were located and grabbed our boxes, ready to fill them up with sweet, delicious strawberries.

The entry to the farm is flanked by blue bachelor’s button and the orange flowers of honeysuckle.

 

The strawberry field was very large and we all got started, hunting underneath the leaves for glimpses of bright red fruit.

It’s no surprise that the strawberries that you buy at the store are often large and not particularly sweet, which aids in transporting them to the store without getting bruised. However, berries at pick-your-own farms are smaller and incredibly sweet. 

My granddaughter Lily got right into picking strawberries.

The edge of the field was shaded by tall trees and we discovered that the berries were larger in this part of the field.

The key to finding the best berries is to look at the lowest berry which is usually the ripest.

After about an hour, we had 11 pounds of strawberries. Not bad for amateur strawberry pickers.

Next, it was time to pick cherries. Michigan has a large percentage of the cherry growing market and because cherries don’t grow in my neck of the woods, I always take advantage of being able to pick them whenever I visit in July.

There are several farms where you can go and pick your own cherries and all you have to pay for is the fruit you pick.

The trees were heavily laden with bright red cherries, which were easier to pick than strawberries as we didn’t have to bend over.

Lily was just as good at picking cherries as she was with strawberries.

At the end of a busy morning, we had plenty of fruit and I was excited to take them back and make sweet things with them.

For me, the best part of that morning was when my son said, “That was so fun. We need to do it again next year.” 

Don’t they look delicious? And perfect for…

…strawberry shortcake!

*You don’t have to grow fruit (or vegetables) in your own garden to be able to enjoy the experience of picking your own produce. No matter where you live, there is likely a farm nearby where you can experience the fun of picking your own!

 

Disclaimer: This garden adventure to Savannah was provided by Troy-Bilt at no cost to me, however, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

After our first full day in Savannah, we woke to a beautiful morning and got ready for a day working at the Savannah Botanical Gardens.

The folks at Troy-Bilt organized this service project, along with the organization, Planet In Action, whose purpose was to donate materials and labor for the Children’s Garden section. As part of a group of garden bloggers, who are Troy-Bilt ambassadors, I was eager to take part in this event.

The garden suffered damage from Hurricane Matthew last year, and we were asked to create additional feature areas for the children’s section. 

Existing garden features included a fun twist on a ‘bed of flowers.’

A ‘pizza garden’ filled with plants that are frequently found on top of a pizza.

A fun spot to pose for a picture with friends.

Instructions were given, and we paired off to work on one of four projects. They included creating a dedicated seating area for the kids (complete with new benches), planting an orchard, adding a berry patch, and a new path between the main gardens and the children’s section.

We had worked on the design for the new spaces ahead of time, so were able to get right to work, once we arrived.

I worked on the berry patch planting blueberries and thornless blackberries. Using an auger made it easy to dig holes – I wonder if I can ask for one for Christmas?

The orchard was planted with lemon, orange, and fig trees.

New planting beds were added around the corners of the concrete pad.

Benches were installed once planting was finished.

A pathway was created, leading to the main gardens and the children’s with daylilies and ornamental grasses.

A film crew recorded the transformation of the garden and the story behind it.

We took a quick pause to take a photo of our original Troy-Bilt group with Amy Andrychowicz of Get Busy Gardening, Helen Yoest of Gardening With Confidence, Dave Townsend, of Growing the Home Garden, and myself. This is the third time that we have gathered together working with Troy-Bilt.

Once the projects were finished, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new areas, and Troy-Bilt gifted the gardens with a check to assist with their upkeep.

The Savannah Botanical Gardens is a hidden gem that offers free admission to all and it was a pleasure to work with the folks who volunteer their time and talents to keep it running. 

We joined with new garden blogger friends to create these new areas, including Teresa O’Connor of Seasonal Wisdom, Rochelle Greayer of Pith & Vigor, Kenny Point of Veggie Gardening Tips, Eric Rochow of Garden Fork TV, Erin Schanen of The Impatient Gardener, and Kim Wilson of Sand & Sisal.

If you ever find yourself in Savannah, I encourage you to visit this special garden.

Have you ever invited a child outside to help you in the garden? They are naturally curious about the outdoors, and most kids jump at the chance to explore the landscape. That is why, whenever I get the chance, I invite my grandkids to come with me when I’m working outdoors.

However, if you are expecting them to unleash their curiosity on the plants in the garden, when there are rocks nearby, you are apt to be disappointed. Children tend to focus on the rocks scattered throughout the landscape rather than on the lovely, flowering plants nearby.

My grandson, Eric, took the water bowl from our desert tortoise, took my hand shovel and proceeded to fill it up with rocks. 

Several years ago, my granddaughter, Lily, went through the same stage – grabbing rocks and playing with them. That small pile of rocks kept her occupied for a long time while I was planting containers.

I believe that it is the texture of rocks and their weight that attract children. Of course, rocks also make noise when you fill up a metal bowl with them.  

Rocks come in all sizes, and big ones are perfect for climbing on.

The outdoor environment is filled with wonders that children are anxious to discover – including the discovery that water comes out of hoses.

*Do your kids play with rocks? What else do they like to play with outdoors?

Lately, I have been collecting toilet paper rolls.  Now I know that may sound a bit weird to some of you, but I needed them for my garden.

So how on earth can toilet paper rolls help you in the garden?

Well, they are an inexpensive, environmentally friendly tool in which to start seeds indoors.

From upper right – bush beans, marigolds, Kentucky beans, cucumbers, sugar snap peas and spinach.
 
I thought this would be a good project to do with the kids, so we gathered our seeds.
 
 
We cut each toilet paper roll in half (you can use paper towel rolls and cut them into thirds for this too.)
 
 
We used a planting mix that had slow-release fertilizer already included and also had water-holding granules. I advise wetting the soil before adding it to your toilet paper rolls.
 
 
Now that we had everything, we were ready to start. The kids used tablespoons to ‘spoon’ the planting mix into each tube.
 
 
Then we lightly pressed down the planting mix and added more.
 
 
Now it was time to plant.
 
 
Then we used a spray bottle filled with water to thoroughly water each planted seed.
 
Now we had to create a ‘mini-greenhouse’ effect by covering our toilet paper rolls with clear plastic wrap with some holes in the top.  Then we placed them on top of the refrigerator, where it was warm enough to help them germinate.

Every day, we checked the moisture of each toilet paper roll and added more water if necessary.  

 
Once the seedlings germinated, we removed the plastic wrap permanently and placed our seedlings by our bright, sunny kitchen window.
 
We are keeping the soil moist, but not soggy.
 
Soon, we will be able to plant our seedlings (with their toilet paper rolls) in the vegetable garden.  The cardboard from the toilet paper rolls will disintegrate into the soil.
 
Of course, you can always use the ready-made plastic seeding trays, but I must admit that I like this method better 🙂

**Are you new to vegetable gardening in the desert?  We are fortunate that we can grow a large variety of vegetables, as well as fruit.  I invite you to click the ‘Shop’ tab where you’ll find some great information on growing vegetables.

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I am sure that many of you have been on the edge of your seats for the next installment of my youngest daughter’s butterfly raising adventures 😉  In case you missed it, you can read the first installment here.

We have been waiting for the caterpillars to form their chrysalis so that we could take them out of their containers and transfer them to their new butterfly enclosure.  

 
The caterpillars attached themselves to the underside of the lids and formed a chrysalis.  And so, the next step was to carefully take the lids off and take the caterpillars (chrysalis) out. 

To be honest, I was a little nervous about this part.  I didn’t want to accidentally dislodge any of the chrysalis from the undersides of the container lids.

 

At this point, one of the caterpillars within the chrysalis began wiggling madly about.  Now, I usually pride myself on not being squeamish around bugs, but the wiggling kind of grossed me out a bit.

 

The next step was to pin the lids to the lower sides of the butterfly enclosure.  

*You may notice that the enclosure comes with its own beautiful silk flowers, something that I try to stay from….I like real flowers best 😉

The last step was to hang the butterfly enclosure outdoors and wait for the new butterflies to emerge in a few days.  
 
We can hardly wait….

I’m sure most of you know how much fun it can be to garden with your kids.  I remember my dad building each of us a raised planter where we could grow vegetables and flowers.  Today, my kids and I went to the store to buy flowers for their new garden.  You will NEVER guess what they are planting their flowers in…

 
Our first stop was our local nursery.  Each was allowed to pick out two six-packs of flowers.  The kids decided to each pick a different type of flower and then shared them.  My youngest daughter, Gracie, selected geraniums and blue petunias.
 
Ruthie went the fragrant route and selected stock, (beautiful and fragrant despite its ordinary name) and white alyssum.

Dianthus and snapdragons were Kai’s choice.

We finished making our selections and then got ready to go home and start planting.  The only question the kids had was – where were they going to plant their flowers?
 
How about their old kiddie pool?  You know – the ones that cost about $10 that your kids play in during the summer.  However, once summer is over, most people either throw out their pool or store it somewhere out of the way.  
 
Well, now you can use it as a planter for either flowers or shallow-rooted vegetables or herbs.
 
The process is easy, and your kids will have fun assisting you.
 
First, move the pool where you want the garden to be as it will be too heavy once you fill it with soil.  Then make multiple holes on the bottom for drainage.  Then fill with a mixture of potting mix.  Sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer and now begin planting!
 
Gracie planted her first plant, a peach-colored geranium.
 

 

My teenage daughter, Rachele, was overseeing our progress while texting on her phone.
 
We finished!  The kids are so excited to see their flowers grow.  The garden will be a riot of different colors and has no sense of design, which is as it should be for a children’s flower garden.
 
This will be our ‘before’ picture.  We planted alyssum, dianthus, geraniums, petunias, snapdragons, and stock.
 
If you would like to try this at home and want the garden to become a more permanent part of the landscape, you can add a brick border or plant shrubs and perennials around the outside of the pool.