Tag: gardening with kids (Page 2 of 4)

Please Join Us for Children’s Garden Week

Are you pining for spring? Leafing through garden catalogs? Then join us this for children’s garden week this Monday, February 24, 2014 – Friday. February 28, 2014!

children's-garden-week

Inspired by some new children’s books and and urge to plant some seeds, here’s what we have lined up (links will be added as they go live):

Monday – An investigation of weeds with the children’s book, Weeds Find a Way

Tuesday – A garden-related seed challenge

Wednesday – Garden insect identification:  immature insects and life cycles

Thursday – A primer on compost with the children’s book, Rotten Pumpkin:  A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices

Friday – A call to action to grow naturally-occurring plants for wildlife with the children’s book, Plant a Pocket of Prairie.

Are you planning to grow a garden this year? Do you have

  •  links to blog posts about gardening with children,
  • examples of your favorite gardening books,
  • or gardening questions?

If you choose to, share a comment on one of these posts. We would love to hear what you have to offer, too.

pea

Gardening with Children Resources:

(we’ll add yours here):

Anna has a post about The Ecology of Compost.

Educator’s Put a Spin On It have a list of their gardening activities with kids (bottom of post), plus are going to have 31 days of gardening activities in March, culminating with Plant a Seed Day March 31, 2014.

Gardening Resources at Smartgardener.com (suggested by A Life Inspired by Nature)

Weeds or Not to Weed (A Life Inspired by Nature)

Planning a children’s garden (Growing with Science)

Celebrating wildflowers and STEM in the garden (Growing with Science)

Winter botany (Growing with Science)

Earlier post about weed science (Growing with Science)

Germination tests and more about germination (Growing with Science)

List of children’s books about seeds (Science Books for Kids)

3 Books for Science in the Garden (Wrapped in Foil)

Pinterest-gardening-right

Visit our Gardening/Science Activities for Kids Pinterest board.

Weekend Science Fun: What We Can Learn From Weeds

Wherever and whenever you plant a garden, you have to expect some “plants out of place” or weeds to follow. Before you rip them out, remember weeds aren’t always just nuisances. Spend some time getting to know weeds and you might find they have something to offer.

Weed Activities with Children

1.    Plant identification

One of the first things young children need to learn when they grow a garden is how to identify the various vegetables, flowers and weeds. I’m sure we all have heard family stories about the time the beets got weeded out and the dandelions were left behind. Identifying tiny seedlings is no mean feat, and so learning to observe and identify plant characteristics is key.

Start pointing out things like leaf color, shape, the presence of hairs on the stems, etc. Did you know the name for dandelion comes from “teeth of the lion” and refers to the jagged teeth on the leaf margin? A simple fact like that might help a child remember what a dandelion looks like. Let some of the weeds go to flower so you can see what the entire plant cycle looks like. (Try not to let it spread seeds though).

dandelion

Save some samples of plants from the garden by pressing them. A leaf press is a useful piece of equipment for studying plants, and also for pressing flowers for crafts. An old telephone book can be a handy substitute if you don’t have a press. Or if you are handy, you can make one like this:

 

Identify the plants you find by looking in plant books or online for identification guides. Don’t be afraid to ask for expert help. Many counties have Master Gardener programs. The Master Gardeners are volunteers who help answer gardening questions for the public.

2.    How do weeds measure up to vegetables and flowers?

Compare growth rates of various plants, including weeds by measuring the height of the plants at weekly intervals with a yardstick or tape measure. Take pictures. How many inches does the weed grow versus the garden plant? Which one emerges from the ground first? Which one is ready to flower first? Do you think the weeds might shade the vegetables or compete with them for food and water? Why or why not?

3. Are weeds useful at all?

A weed is basically a plant out of place. If it was growing somewhere besides your garden, it might have some uses. How might a weed be useful?

I think most people have heard of eating dandelion greens. In fact, I saw some dandelion greens at the store the other day for $4.99 a pound. What about garlic mustard? The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has this article Garlic Mustard—A Palatable Pest about how to identify the weed and suggestions for preparing it.

My maternal grandmother studied botany. She often ate plants others considered to be weeds, because she knew how to accurately identify plants and knew which ones were edible at which stages. Just remember, certain weeds are poisonous, so learn from an expert before trying to eat anything new.

Notice whether any wildlife in the area feeds on the plants your think of as weeds. My dad was going to mow a patch of common milkweeds last summer but I showed him how insects feed on the leaves. I heard reports that later in the summer he was proudly showing the neighbors all the beautiful butterflies visiting “his” milkweed patch.

As long as they aren’t introduced/invasive species, many so-called weeds are really wildflowers in disguise.

sowthistle

Weekend Science Fun: Germination test

Last week we looked at planning a children’s garden. Now are you ready to do some gardening-related science activities? The germination test project this week is both useful and educational.

Ever have a pile of leftover seed packets tucked away in a cupboard somewhere? You know, the ones with the “Packed for 2001” stamped on them?

seeds packets

If you are not sure whether the seed is still viable or whether planting it would be a waste of time, there’s an easy test to find out. It’s called a germination test.

Pull out your old seed packets. Note: check the packages carefully to see if the seeds are treated with pesticides, such as fungicides or insecticides. Avoid handling pesticide-treated seeds.

For each packet you and/or your children want to test, gather the following:

  • Paper towels
  • Either paper plates and plastic wrap /or zip-loc style plastic bags
  • Water

Wash your hands prior to starting and try to keep everything as clean as possible.

1. Prepare a separate damp paper towel for each different seed packet.

2. Select 10 seeds from each packet you want to test. For example, you might have 10 marigold seeds and 10 corn seeds.

3. Lay the 10 marigold seeds on a damp paper towel and fold it over. Then either lay the towel on a paper plate and cover with plastic wrap, or slip the damp paper towel into a zip-loc bag. Repeat for the 10 corn seeds or whatever kinds of seeds are in the rest of the packets.

germination test

3. Come back in 24 hours and 48 hours and look for the tiny root (radicle) poking out of the seed, a sign that it is germinating.  Count how many seeds germinate and how many do not. Certain seeds, like carrots, take a long time to germinate (up to 2 weeks), so keep them moist and don’t give up on them right away. If no seeds germinate after two weeks, then perhaps it is time to invest in a new batch of seeds.

You can calculate the percent germination by dividing the number that germinated by the number you set up. For example if 9 seeds germinated out of 10, then your percent germination = 90%. If only 5 germinated out of 10, then the percent germination is 50%.

If the seeds germinate, transfer the tiny sprouts to containers filled with moist soil and you’ll have transplants ready when it is time to start your garden.

Tie-in books for the youngest set (Affiliate cover links go to Amazon):

A Seed Is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

How a Seed Grows (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Helene J. Jordan (Author), Loretta Krupinski (Illustrator)

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons has definitely been one of our favorite nonfiction authors and this book does not disappoint.

And books for adults:
Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth Kent Whealy

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