Kids in the Garden
Photo credit: Glenn Fawcett/The Sun
So much competes for the attention of children - iPods, video games, computers and cell phone chatter - that it is hard to get them outdoors, let alone interested in the outdoors.
Charlie Nardozzi, writing for The National Gardening Association Web site, says that kids are instinctively fascinated by nature and you can jump-start their interest by introducing them to plants have really interesting features or textures.
Here are his suggestions:
Sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica)— Also known as the “tickle-me” plant, it has sensitive green, fernlike leaves and produces small “balls” of pink flowers in mid-summer. When touched gently, the leaves automatically fold closed, then eventually reopen.
Lambs’ ears (Stachys byzantine)—In early summer, the low-growing plant produces one-foot-tall spikes covered with small pink flowers. But its foliage is the main draw for kids. The leaves are covered with a soft, white hairy growth that, when stroked, feels like a lamb’s ear.
Ground cherry (Physalis pruinosa)—This easy-to-grow vegetable is in the tomato family, but has fruits that look like small Chinese lanterns. Once the lanterns turn yellow, kids can pick them, tear open the covering, and discover the edible golden fruits inside. Ground cherries are annuals and self-sow readily in the garden; grow them once and they’ll sprout up on their own in future years.
Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea)—Kids will be amazed to find this common vegetable growing in your garden. It looks a lot like a clover plant. However, it has yellow flowers that produce pegs (stem-like growth) after the flowers pass. The pegs grow into the ground around the peanut plant and a peanut shell forms at the end of each peg. Keep the soil cultivated and watered so the pegs can easily penetrate it. Once the plants start to yellow and die, invite your kids to pull up the whole plant—they’ll find peanuts dangling from the ends of the pegs.
Chocolate Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)—Mint plants are fun and easy to grow in the garden. They come in a range of flavors, including ginger, lemon, orange, and apple. A favorite for kids is chocolate peppermint. The leaves are tinged with dark coloring and if you close your eyes, it’s like eating a peppermint patty! Be careful: this low-growing plant can spread up to 3 feet and become invasive. It’s best to grow all members of the mint family in containers or in an area where you don’t mind it spreading.
How do you get your children interested in the garden? Send me a response and I will choose one of you at random to receive the book, "The Family Kitchen Garden." Remember to include your email address so I can contact you for a home address. Don't worry, I won't share it with anyone else!