Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2005
Regional Report

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Playing and learning go hand-in-hand in the garden.

Playful Activities in the Garden

The mother exclaimed in wonderment, "My son wants to grow beets! He's never liked beets before, but now he wants to grow them in our garden. He loves this shredded beet salad you made, and the beet cake is wonderful." Her amazement followed her son's participation in one of our "Fresh From the Garden" workshops put on by the University of California Extension Service.

Getting kids interested in gardening can be easy, since it's a parent-approved way to play in the dirt. But too many weeding episodes during summer heat can kill anyone's spontaneous interest. To add fun, education, and nutritional eating to the mix, here are some activities to spark further discoveries.

1. Plastic bottle greenhouse. Cut the bottom off a liter-size water or soda bottle. Snuggle it an inch deep into the soil over a small transplant. Water in and around the bottle to settle it. Remember to remove the screw-on top, or you'll have steamed plant!

2. Personalize a child's garden space with a scarecrow using the child's clothing or artwork made of recycled throwaways like egg cartons, plastic jugs, bubble pack, etc. Make a simple frame from sticks and twine or nails, and create the rest from the child's imagination. Old Halloween outfits can be a good start.

3. Make those weeds interesting by teaching how they compete for water, space, sunlight, and nutrients. Prepare two large plots, perhaps 10 inches x 10 inches each, scatter weed seeds over both, and water so they germinate. Divide each plot into 4 squares, and plant a different type of vegetable seed in each square, such as beans, radishes, lettuce, and chard. Duplicate in the second plot. As weeds come up, allow them to grow in one plot, and weed them all in the second plot.

Have children observe, compare, and record the rate of growth, the appearance of the seedlings, and overall appearance of the two plots. Have them evaluate the varieties and types of vegetables by their ability to compete with weeds.

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