My daughter is an outdoors lover through and through. No matter the season or weather conditions, she wants to be outside enjoying all that mother nature has to offer.
In the winter, we like sledding, ice skating and snowman building. We spend hours on end playing in the snow. But even winter enthusiasts start to miss the signs of life outdoors.
For too long, animal sightings, bright colorful foliage, simple sounds of critter commotion and the scent of growth are scarce. We become starved for new life and fresh growth by the time spring rolls around. We crave an end to the stillness.
For those who feel the same, brush off the winter blues with some simple indoor gardening activities you and your children can enjoy.
Sprouting seeds is simple and rewarding for young gardeners. You don’t have to spend money on expensive kits or prepackaged terrariums. You can build your own, using seeds you purchased for this year’s vegetable garden.
Try one of two methods to watch seeds sprout. The simple step-by-step directions are easy enough for kids to try on their own.
One type of seed. If you are sprouting just one type of seed, line a glass jar with a damp paper towel and put several seeds between the glass and towel. Then attach the lid and place the jar out of direct sunlight. Check the paper towel daily and moisten it as needed. Your seeds should start to sprout in a few days.
Different varieties of seeds. If you want to sprout more than one variety of seed, you’ll need to create a mini greenhouse. Place a damp paper towel in the bottom of a recycled foil pan and gently place the seeds on top of it. Place the pan in a clear plastic bag. You can keep track of where you put certain types of seeds by drawing a map of where each variety was planted. This will make it easy to identify which seeds sprout first.
Seeds to try. You might try sprouting zucchini, beans, cucumbers or broccoli.
Caring for houseplants can teach children about the responsibility and satisfaction associated with nurturing a living thing. Follow thee tips to delegate age-appropriate tasks to your child and choose a plant variety that works for you.
Preschoolers. Let them spray leaves and dust them off using a sponge.
School-age children. School-age children should be able to help remove dead leaves and help repot houseplants. You can also show them how to pot the offshoots of other plants.
Houseplants. When you’re selecting potential houseplants for your children to take care of, you want to start with a beginner’s level of difficulty. That means choosing tough, fast-growing plants that don’t require a ton of light. Make sure you avoid plants that are sharp, prickly or toxic.
PLANTS. Teach your child to use the acronym to troubleshoot for their houseplants. PLANTS: place, light, air, nutrients, thirsty (water) and soil.
Grow a Venus Flytrap
There’s a little bit of magic that goes into growing a Venus flytrap.
Native to the bogs of the Carolinas, the flytrap’s leaves are specifically designed to trap soft-bodied insects by snapping closed. Once it’s trapped its meal, the flytrap digests the insect over the course of a week. Then its leaves reopen and the process stars over.
Growing a Venus flytrap is exciting for young children. If you’d like to get one for your child, you can start by calling around to local garden centers to inquire about their availability.
Growing conditions. The Venus flytrap prefers to grow in a sunny, cool area with high humidity, making a terrarium ideal. The planting medium should consist of about 65 percent sphagnum moss and 35 percent sand. Water your flytrap with distilled water and keep the substrate moist but not overly wet. Feed your flytrap by releasing small flies inside the terrarium. The insects must be alive. However, the flytrap can go long periods without eating insects. Flytraps do not like drought, fertilization or low humidity.
Paint garden rocks
During the winter months, children may enjoy painting terra cotta pots for container gardening or painting garden rocks to use as plant markers.
- Acrylic paints in various colors
- Clear varnish
- Cover your work area in newspaper.
- Tell your child to select rocks that are about the size of an adult’s hand and have a smooth, flat shape. Wash and dry them thoroughly.
- Paint the top half of the rocks with a thick layer of acrylic paint. Let it dry.
- Using a contrasting color, paint the plant’s name. If there’s a mistake, use the base coat to cover over it. Then allow it to dry before making corrections.
- Next, paint a design around the plant name if desired.
- When all the paint is dry, add a coat of varnish to protect the rock from the elements.
You can use the plant markers in your garden this spring or your child may choose to give them as gifts.
Composting with worms
Using worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material into a valuable soil amendment is called vermicomposting. Vermicomposting can help you produce valuable nutrients for your garden. It can also be done simply enough to teach your child about the process.
- A shallow plastic or wooden 5- to 10-gallon container
- Moist strips of newspaper or leaves
- Red worms or red wigglers
- Purchase red worms or red wrigglers from an online worm farm.
- Rinse out your wooden or plastic container. If it is wooden, put plastic on the bottom of your container.
- Add bedding made of newspaper strips or leaves.
- Fill your container with soil, organic matter and a few worms.
- Cover it with a loose fitting lid that allows air to circulate.
- Place it somewhere shady and moist.
- Add some kitchen scraps, preferably raw fruit and vegetables. Exclude orange rinds, citrus fruits, onions and broccoli.
In the favorable environment you just created, you worms will produce compost. Meanwhile, your child will learn about composting, the value of worms and the interdependence of plants and organisms.
Grow a garbage garden
Children can grow a leafy garden, using only kitchen garbage.
- Pie pan
- Fill your pie pan with pebbles and cover them with water.
- Place the tops of root crops — beets, carrots, turnips — on the pebbles.
- Observe roots and feathery leaves develop.
You might also try planting seeds you would otherwise toss out. Garbage gardening teaches children there is value in things we discard.