Little Green Thumbs: Kids' Garden Projects
(HealthCastle.com) Summer vacation is a great time to get kids involved in activities that keep them off the couch and enjoying the fresh air. Planting a simple, quick-growing garden can be an excellent way to get kids excited about going outside, and about eating nutritious, local, seasonal foods. Late June / early July is the perfect time to plant some fast-growing crops, and the gardening projects below will have your kids reaping what they've sown before they head back to school in the fall.
Top Summer Vacation Kids' Gardening Projects
Straight out of Jack and the Beanstalk, pole beans planted now will be towering over your kids' heads by the end of summer. Growth starts in a week or two, and the plant shoots up from there, as long as you give it something to climb on - a fence, a bamboo pole, or even a piece of string tied to a high point. Once beans start to appear, pick them regularly to keep the plant producing. Try small bean pods raw in salads, or steam larger pods for a great side dish.
Outside Salad Bowl
Salad greens, like leaf lettuce, arugula, and mesclun do well throughout the summer if they don't get too much sun and heat. A large round pot with good drainage holes is the perfect setting for a "bowl" of growing greens, as it can be moved into the shade on hot days, or kept close to the house under a shady overhang. Seeds can start sprouting after as little as two days, but may take up to two weeks. You can start cutting leaves to use in salads as soon as they are large enough for your taste - more will come up to replace what you cut.
Kids have the image of Bugs Bunny munching away on a carrot straight from the ground imprinted in their minds - so why not give them the opportunity to do the same thing? Carrots will show above-ground growth in 2-3 weeks, and can be harvested at any size, though they are tastiest once they get to be bright orange. If you have no yard space, buy seeds for "half-long" or round varieties to grow shorter carrots in a container.
Personalized Herb Bucket
Let kids mark their gardening territory by giving them their own garden pot or bucket to decorate with paints or permanent markers, then filling it with herbs. You can plant basil and oregano from seed, or buy herb seedlings at the garden center (or sometimes even your grocery store) to get things moving faster. As the herb plants grow, encourage your child to touch and smell them, and try using different ones on their meals to get a sense of how much impact fresh flavors have on good food. Don't forget to drill drainage holes if the container you use doesn't already have them.
The Bottom Line
Getting kids interested in gardening at an early age not only teaches them about local, seasonal food - it also gives them skills they can use later in life to create a bountiful, healthy garden that allows them to eat well, even during lean years. Plus, any project that gets kids out enjoying the sunshine on their summer break is definitely a good thing!