How Does Your Garden Grow? (Continued)
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Creative approaches to gardening:
Anything can be a planter. Grow plants in an old work boot, a whiskey barrel, a pile of tires, or a teakettle. Go on a family scavenger hunt and see who can find the most original container to plant in. Just make sure to poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage.
Short on space? Hang pots and grow your tomatoes upside down, suggests Sedbrook. Pumpkins also take up a lot of space; their vines spread throughout the garden and inhibit the growth of other plants. As a solution, grow small white ghost pumpkins and spaghetti squash up a trellis or fence. “This ways,” says Sedbrook, “the vines grown up and not over.”
Sedbrook also suggests trying this fun activity with your child. When the small pumpkins first appear, use toothpicks to carve your name or a design into them. The drawings will grow as the pumpkin does.
Hiding place. Kids love hideouts. Make the outline of a house in the soil and plant sunflowers a foot apart around the edge. Remember to leave room for a door! Plant morning glories with the sunflowers. They will grow higher than the sunflowers, so you can arrange them across the “top” to form a roof. Blue, pink, or white morning glories attract hummingbirds, so you might have some unexpected guests!
If you don’t mind foregoing the roof, says Sedbrook, grow a carpet of thyme in your house instead. Unfortunately, because the thyme needs sunlight, you have to pick either a roof or a carpet for your sunflower house.
For the birds. Make your own birdhouses (see details at bottom of this article). “This is a great winter project for kids ages 8 to 12,” says Hanneman. “It takes a little time because after growing the gourds, you have to dry them out, which takes four to five weeks.” When you can hear the seeds rattle in them, they are ready to be sanded and painted!
Music in the wind. You can make your own wind chime out of almost any small metal items. Hanging old keys from strings is one idea. For details on how to make a spoon and fork wind chime, click here.
Bring on the butterflies. Make a butterfly window box. Transplant annuals that attract butterflies into the box. Try marigolds, zinnias, and petunias. Add a shallow bowl of water, suggests Hanneman, and refresh it every few days. Also, place some pebbles and flat stones in the window box so that your butterflies have a place to rest.
Don’t forget the fish. You can make your own pond by purchasing a preformed shell from a home center. Add water lilies, miniature cattails, water hyacinth, and horsetail reeds, says Sedbrook. Buy a couple of 25-cent goldfish, and you’re well on your way. After a little time your pond will sustain itself: the fish will provide fertilizer for the plants, and the plants will be food for the fish. “Don’t be surprised if dragonflies and frogs start to show up,” says Sedbrook.
Look-a-like scarecrows. Scarecrows may be more for show than for scaring away the birds, but they are a great activity to do with your child. Put your child in charge of coming up with the scarecrow’s outfit. You might want to dig up old Halloween costumes, or your child can use his own clothes. That way, the scarecrow will look just like him!
Finishing touch. Once you’ve planted your garden, have your child make small signs to label everything in it and provide some extra information, suggests Hanneman. It’s a great art project, and it might also inspire your child to lead family and friends on a garden tour.
Find more tips and activities to do with your family in Gardening With Children: Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide (Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Inc. 2007).
To learn how to make your own birdhouse and wind chime, continue to the next page.
Jacqueline Heinze is a contributing editor at Scholastic Administr@tor.