Learning in the garden
Getting out into the garden with the kids these days can be quite an educational adventure. It is a wonderful way to have fun and get some home school learning done at the same time. Consider the following projects. They are simple and quite inexpensive.
Recycle: What can we do with all of those cardboard toilet paper tubes? Make transplant containers out of them. They can be cut and filled with potting soil. Sow seeds in them. When the seedlings are one to two inches tall, plant the tube and all into the vegetable garden. There are plenty of YouTube videos showing how it is done.
Study roots and shoots: The scrap ends of celery, broccoli, asparagus, onion, carrot and many others can easily be rooted in jars of water. Kids get to see the roots form as well as the shoots. Once roots develop the entire plant can be planted in the vegetable garden. This is a hot garden topic to Google these days.
Grow beans: Try germinating scarlet runner beans in the toilet paper tubes. Once sprouts are up a couple of inches, plant out in a circle in the garden. Take three to five eight-foot garden poles and tie them together. The beans will climb the poles. Scarlet runner beans produce an abundance of food quickly. Plus, the hummingbirds like the flowers.
Study plant anatomy: A quick and easy way for kids to study plant anatomy is to take a few dried beans out of the cupboard and germinate them between layers of moist paper towels. Once the beans sprout the child can identify all the parts of the seed. This is quick and fun. Then, the sprouts can be planted into the toilet paper tubes filled with soil for planting out later on.
Grow some frogs: Practically everyone knows that frogs eat bugs, a lot of them. You can add more frogs to the garden by growing your own. Right now, roadside ditches have plenty of Pacific tree frog tadpoles swimming about in the algae. Grab a few tadpoles and a big clump of algae. Put all in a large container of chlorine-free water. As the tadpoles grow they will require more and more food. This is easily accomplished by boiling lettuce leaves for 15 minutes. Tadpoles will feed on this. When legs begin to show, take a long piece of tree branch and stick it in the container so the little frogs can climb out and into the garden.
Terry Kramer is the site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.