I’m convinced there’s a magnet between my kids and dirt! It was this ‘attraction’ (and a desire to teach some life lessons) which drew me to introduce gardening to my crew.
Those of you living in military housing know the rules for gardening – even container type – can vary widely by post. In those cases where it is strictly forbidden, you can stick with ‘window’ options or seek out a community garden in your area.
Gardening presents a number of benefits for kids. My top targeted goals included:
Developing a basic understanding of plant life cycles
Grasping concepts of cause and effect
Reasoning and discovery
Nurturing a love of nature
Improving nutritional values – (Sneaky mom realized if they grew it, they’d be more likely to eat it!
And # 1 – unplugging from electronics!
Honestly – black (and blue!) thumb here! I didn’t have a clue where to begin. The kids (FINALLY) settled on seeds for a veggie, an herb and a flowering plant.
We browsed online in search of bio-degradable options for ‘starter pots.’ After seeing one too many Pinterest fails, I decided to stick with paper (cardboard) cups – poking holes in the bottom for drainage and lining them up in a flat storage tub we had on hand. We opted to fill each cup about ½ – ¾ of light potting soil mix, moistening the soil before dropping in the seeds.
Our first attempt didn’t go so well. We waited… and waited… and waited some more. The kids were convinced we had purchased ‘duds’ for seeds. After researching (and learning more about germination!) – we tried again. This time we built a tent of plastic wrap to help maintain humidity. We also made sure to slightly dampen the soil… not soak. We chose to sit the container on top of the dryer in our laundry ‘closet’ to provide warmth. (Those with a garage laundry subject to cold temps will need to find an indoor alternative.)
Once the leaves begin to poke through, we removed the plastic wrap and moved to our front room (a.k.a. “The Oven”) as it is hit by full sun for the better part of the day. (If you have a movable shelf large enough to hold your plants closely under fluorescent lights you may speed things up!)
While we were waiting, I set the kiddos to work painting 5 gallon buckets we found at the home improvement store.
As the plants began to develop more, we began measuring and tracking growth rates. Since we had more starters than we truly needed, we also experimented with varying amounts of water and sunlight.
After the last projected frost date, we were finally ready to move outdoors and transfer to containers on our patio. I poked holes in the bottoms of our buckets, then had the kids add a layer of gravel (for drainage.) We topped with the potting soil and then transplanted our hardy little plants into their new home! A gentle soaking followed and we were good to go! The rest of the summer we continued to water and picked weeds as needed… finally enjoying the ‘fruits’ of our labor at the dinner table (either on our plates or in a vase as appropriate!)
While I don’t expect we’re ready to become farmers, we did manage to pair science with real life applications and check off all my targeted goals. An unexpected side benefit – we ALL got ‘schooled’ in the virtue of PATIENCE!
Now if only I can get them to put it into practice with one another! *sigh* Have you tried to garden on base? What tips would you add?
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