It is spring. Plants are waking up from their winter naps. Take advantage of children being out of school to involve them in the wonders and joys of gardening. Let them plan their own garden and plant. Plant seeds indoors, start new plants from cuttings, make garden ornaments, and keep a record.
Start a journal listing plants (variety, common and botanic names), when planted and bloomed, etc. Also, note the weather, how much rain, big storms, or anything impacting the garden.
Herb sprouts for salads. Plant seeds in composite egg cartons using moist sterile potting mix. Place on top of the refrigerator for heat, insert tongue depressors and loosely cover with a plastic bag. Cut when 3-4 inches tall.
Start a children’s garden with plants picked out by the children. It need not be a separate garden, but their plants added to a specific area. Let them make a sign noting it is their garden and give it a name. Paint and place rocks next to their plants. Next spring, the rocks will remind the children where their plants are. Make a chart as to where the plants are, the common and botanical name.
Botanic names tell a lot about a plant. Sometimes it is color (rubra), country of origin (japonica — Japan), or the name of the person who discovered it (Poinsett and Dahl). Have the children search the plant’s name and how it was discovered. Many such searches rival movie intrigue with high adventures, fighting pirates, landslides, safaris that lasted years, finding new countries, etc.
Have the children start a rain gauge. Use a permanent marker to indicate inches on a large medicine bottle. Use duct tape to hold wooden skewers on opposite sides and insert in the ground.
Kids also may enjoy a bird feeder. Recycle a 10-15 ounce pull-tab can (no sharp edges). Paint the outside, glue a cord around the middle, add a loop to hang it, and glue a smooth branch or dowel rod to the inside. Add seed and hang. Record in the journal when placed, how often seed is added and what birds it attracted.
THINGS TO DO
• 15-minute gardening — Draw water the day before watering houseplants. Add one-fourth-strength fertilizer to the water that will be used to feed plants that are starting to grow.
• Garden — Continue to clean up the garden, remove packed leaves and renew mulch as needed. Continue until the twig or branch bends. Mark the location of magic lilies. If moving spring bulbs, dig a large enough ball to avoid disturbing the root system. Fill in the hole with other plants or dirt.
Cut flowers to share with those who cannot get out. To protect all, call before delivering and leave by the door.
• House plants — Repot plants that will spend the summer outside. When to water can be confusing. Label tongue depressors to designate when and insert into each plant’s soil. Set a week to always water the once-a-month plants and mark it “M.” For twice-a-month, “T-1/3” (or “T-2/4”) for the bi-monthly watering, and “W” for weekly.
• Trees — Some plants naturally are late to break dormancy. If you are not sure whether a tree is alive or not, bend the twigs. If they snap, that part of the plant is dead. Or prune. Dead wood generally is a light tan and is not as easy to cut as live. Cut into live wood to stop die-back.
• Tools — Knowing which tool is best for which job makes gardening easier. What is the difference between a spade and a shovel? The first digs and has a straight joint between the handle and blade. A shovel scoops. Its blade edge is straight and curved where the handle joins the blade.
Scissor pruners blades sharpened on both sides give a clean, sharp cut. Anvil pruners have one sharp cutting blade and one flat blade for holding a cut stem, such as a rose.
Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun’s gardening columnist, at email@example.com.