Children have so many ways to keep busy. Computers, televisions, tablets, game consoles, the Internet, and more. However, as a parent, you know that some of those “things to do” are rather mindless and void of any learning value. The question is, how do we get children away from the mindless into something not only educational, but fun as well.
Take gardening for example. Gardening for kids can be more than a hobby; it can be a life skill that can serve them for the rest of their lives. Gardening is not only educational, it is relaxing, fun, and can bring you and your children together in a new exciting way. Not only that, but creating a garden that is free of artificial pesticides, growth hormones, and other dangerous chemicals is healthy for your family.
Here are five ways to get your child in the dirt and growing a garden that everyone will enjoy.
1. Let your kids choose what to plant. Give them a say as to what goes in the garden. Just be sure to offer some guidance without making the choice for them.
2. Give them the opportunity to dig in the dirt and create the rows. Yes, they may be crooked, but with time it will get better.
3. Design a garden just for them. Put their favorite veggies and fruits in a spot created for them. You can even let them make a special sign just for their garden. The book Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots explains how make a pizza garden for instance.
4. Make your garden an insect friendly one. No, not for unwanted insects, but rather for those that aid in keeping your garden clean of the all the bad bugs. Lady Bugs are great insects to have around because they eat the nasty aphids that want to ruin your garden. Bees are also quite welcome and once you explain how vital they are to a garden, it helps alleviate fear.
5. Tell your kids that once the garden in complete that they can create a special salad or bouquet just for the family. Don’t get in the way mom, just be a guide.
There are so many ways to make gardening for kids a special treat. Find a nursery near your area and visit it often with your children. Get them ready for the experience and the joy of gardening.
Remember that as a parent, you have way more influence than any television show ever could. So be creative with your approach, make it a fun experience, and your children will learn to appreciate, maybe even love, gardening.
Spring is almost here. Let’s get busy!
March Garden Chores:
- Dig runner bean and celery trenches and fill with manure, kitchen waste, and garden waste
- Spread compost/manure on garden beds
- Mulch fruit trees
- Feed fruit trees (organic blood, fish, bone, and seaweed mixture)
- Protect apricots, cherries, peaches, and nectarines from frost if they begin to blossom
- Use a winter wash on fruit trees to control insect pests and fungal diseases
- Plant bare root fruit trees and bushes
- Plant early potatoes, shallots, garlic
- Rake seedbeds and start weeding
- Spray apple/pear trees with neem oil to prevent scab
- Keep growing seeds indoors for planting in spring
As you make your garden plan for spring and you order seeds from catalogs take a moment to think about plants you can grow for their medicinal properties. There are plenty of safe and effective herbs you can grow and use in homemade remedies for everything from first aid uses to illness.
Learning about herbs and all their uses is actually quite fun. It is a perfect way to pass time during the dreary, cold winter months. Make a plan now to come to know the following herbs and plant a few. Then when spring and summer comes try your hand at making herbal remedies. You can create your very own homestead apothecary! Enjoy!
20 Safe Herbs to Grow and Use
Aloe – A succulent prized for its thick gel that is perfect for soothing burns and skin irritations.
Burdock – This tenacious weed is great for skin problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
Calendula – Beautiful flowers that promote cell repair and growth in rashes, sores, and burns.
Chamomile – Gentle but effective in treating colic, indigestion, infection, and more.
Chickweed – Soothes skin irritations and calms itchy eyes. Great eating too!
Dandelion – A great liver tonic and blood purifier. Good for digestion.
Echinacea – Stimulates the immune system and fights off cold and flu in the beginning stages.
Elder – Helpful with fevers, viral infections, and frequent bladder infections.
Goldenseal – Can be used to fight off illness and conjunctivitis. Makes a great mouthwash.
Hawthorn – Can help with cholesterol levels and blood flow.
Jewelweed – Excellent for dealing with poison ivy and poison oak.
Lemon Balm – Helps with depression, memory, focus, and digestive issues like colic.
Licorice – Soothes inflamed tissues such as sore throats and ulcers. Also good for adrenal fatigue.
Marsh Mallow – Lubricates dry coughs and moisturizes the lungs. Also soothes skin.
Nettle – Helps with joint pain, allergies, and hay fever.
Plantain – Often used for wounds, bites, stings, and blood poisoning.
Red Clover – One of the very best vitamin and mineral supplements you could ever take.
St. John’s Wart – Helps with stress, depression, nerve damage, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Valerian – Helps with insomnia and nervous system disorders.
Yarrow – Helps with swelling after injuries, soothes menstrual cramps, and reduces heavy bleeding.
Don’t let the cold temperatures and rainy (or snowy) weather get to you. Spring is right around the corner and there are lots of garden chores that require your attention this month.
February Garden Chores:
- Harvest winter hardy cabbages, brassicas, leeks, celeriac, parsnips, rutabagas, and winter radishes
- Check garden beds, fruit cages, etc for damage after snowfalls
- Start making homemade cloches/hoops
- Winter prune established apple and pear trees
- Prune grapevines and fruit bushes
- Stock bird feeders
- Cover seedbeds with newspaper and cardboard
- Buy/start seed potatoes
- Lay out garden plan for upcoming year
- Order seeds from catalogs (think regional, organic, heirloom)
- Order new asparagus crowns for planting in March/April
- Sow seeds indoors for planting in spring
Gardening can be hard on the environment if you don’t know what you’re doing. This may seem seem impossible since gardening and cultivating the earth seem so earth friendly but think about the impacts of what you are doing. Are you using chemical fertilizers? Are you buying plants raised with bee killing neonicotinoid pesticides?Are you using unsustainable amounts of water? There are eco-friendly gardening practices that you can use to lessen the impact on Mother earth. Here are easy gardening tips you can use to reduce pressure on the environment.
Reduce Water Usage
There are many ways to reduce water usage when gardening. You can use mulch, which will keep water from evaporating into the environment. Mulching reduces the need to fertilize as much too. It’s important to use sustainable and all-natural mulch products that are free from pesticides and chemicals.
Another option is to utilize grey water. The same water you used to shower with or wash clothes with can be used in the garden if you set up a greywater system and change a few household products and practices. Recycled water? Yes please!
Grass is a big water-sucking plant that has no use other than its looks. Instead go with clover, creeping thyme, or even rock. The less grass you have compared to other types of plants, the more you’ll cut down on water waste.
Use Native Plants
When you use plants that are native to your area, it means they’ve adjusted to the climate and don’t need as much outside intervention to grow healthy and strong. Remove foreign invasive plants and replace with what is native to your area. You may have to ask at your local extension service which plants are indigenous to get started.
Invest in Irrigation
For plants that do need regular watering, and gardens, consider an irrigation system that measures the amount of water the plants are getting. This will help you avoid over watering, as well as keep you informed about how much natural rain has occurred so you don’t have to use as much tap water.
A rain barrel to harvest rainwater is another important aspect of any eco friendly garden. Turning on the tap should be a last resort and depending upon how many barrels you have, you can collect hundreds of gallons of water for those times when rain is sparse.
Use Natural Weed Control
Believe it or not, plants have different natural weed control properties. You can control all kinds of pests with the right plants. Consider different ground covers based on the pest you’re trying to avoid. You may want to plant creeping wintergreen, juniper or verbena. You can even use essential oils in the garden. Just remember to plant water-thirsty plants together and drought resistant plants together.
Use Recycled Goods in the Garden
Don’t go out and buy a bunch of brand new gardening stuff when you can repurpose things you already have. This saves money and planetary resources. Instead of seed planters use eggshells, toilet paper rolls, and newspaper. Instead of buying cloches, use milk jugs. Garden fabric for weeds can be avoided with newspaper and cardboard. Get creative!
Use Organic Soil and Compost
To keep your garden and yard happy, it’s best to use organic products that are pesticide free and disease free. By far the easiest and cheapest route is to make your own compost. It is incredibly easy and it turns your soil into nutrient rich black gold! Everyone should have a compost pile.
Use Push Reel Mowers
A push reel mower doesn’t use fuel and it cuts the grass differently than fuel-powered mowers. Plus, leaving the clippings behind can actually help the soil. And if you’ve cut down the areas that have grass, this will be perfect for your postage size of grass. Oh, and if you allow clover to overtake the grass you have to mow even less!
By implementing these eco-friendly gardening practices, you can cut your own carbon footprint to the point where you may even negate it. We need to be leaving the soil better than we found it!