Gardening 2

www.help4everyparent.com

On this page you will find Bev Boorer's articles on:

For more of Bev's articles click on Gardening 1 and Gardening 3 on the right
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Kids and Seeds

When we plant seeds the most boring part is waiting for the them to sprout. Itsometimes seems to take forever for that little curl of green to sprout from the damp earth. Imagine how a child would feel. Children are notorious for being bored, so letís get them excited about seeing seeds germinate.

Choose a big seed that is easy to handle. A broad bean seed would be ideal especially if you can get some straight from the pod. Purchased seeds will need to be carefully wiped free of any additive like fungicide, with a damp paper towel before you let the kids touch them.  Otherwise, make sure they wear gardening or rubber gloves.

Let the kids soak one seed overnight in a cup of warm water. In the morning it will be soft and swollen and they will be able to take the shell off gently to see what it looks like inside. They might like to keep a special Seed Diary to record their findings. If they have a mobile phone with a camera, they may photograph it.

For the rest of the project youíll need a straight-sided jar or glass, a roll of black paper, some blotting paper or thick paper towel, potting mix, two seeds, ruler and rubber band.

  • Make a tube from the blotting paper small enough to fit inside the jar. It should rest firmly against the sides of the jar. Now fill the jar with potting mix, being sure to use gloves.

  • Insert a ruler gently between the paper and jar, and slide a seed down into the gap. Do this on each side of the jar.
  • Carefully moisten the potting mix; wrap the outside of the jar in black paper and fasten it with the rubber band. This will keep the light out, just as if the seed was in the ground.
  • Place in a cupboard, but water it every few days if needed, and keep a watch on the germination process.
  • If a Seed Diary is being kept, the dates could be written down with a drawing of what the seed looked like on that day.
  • When the seed has leaves, plant it out in the garden or in a pot. If your child is computer-literate, he/she could make a graph on the computer
    of the seedís growth rate. If they have been taking digital photos of the seedís progress, they could make a slideshow out of it.

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Cuttings
Now that winter is on its way, the kids might like to help out by taking cuttings of frost tender plants for you - as long as they are old enough to handle secateurs, of course. Otherwise a pair of blunt-end scissors might be good enough to cut sappy stems like begonia or impatiens.Pass out some pots for them to fill up with soil or potting mix (donít forget their gloves), then they can place the cuttings straight into the pots. Suggest they find a sheltered spot like under the edge of the veranda or on a sunny patio for Ďtheirí cuttings. They will be proud to own their own instant pot plant and will be able to care for it by watering and pruning off dead foliage over the winter.

An old pencil is a good tool to poke a hole into the soil before pushing in the cutting and can save the stems from snapping. Fuchsias tend to snap easily, but cuttings strike really well in the autumn so the more you take the more youíll have next spring, when the frosts are over.  Depending on the size of the pot, two or three cuttings can go in together.

Itís amazing how many plants will grow by cutting. Let the kids try out growing those plants that you would not normally take cuttings of, just for an experiment. You might be surprised.

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The easiest flower

 If you are really not into gardening, but youíd still like to encourage your child to learn the basics, look no further than nasturtiums. They are the absolute most hardy, foolproof flower that anyone could attempt to grow. The seeds are big enough for little fingers to hold easily and they can be planted 15mm deep, straight into the garden or a biggish pot, wherever they are to flower. 

They need full sun and moisture to establish them; after that, they seem to thrive on neglect. It wonít take long for those golden, orange, tangerine and red flowers to gladden your heart and brighten up the drabbest corner. One of the best things about nasturtiums is that they self-seed easily. Even if the kids go off the idea of gardening, these will still pop up year after year. They can be trained to wander up netting, and look fabulous dangling down from a hanging basket or over a wall.

To make matters even more interesting, buy the Double Gleam Hybrids or the one with the variegated leaf. Cream spots on a light green leaf add interest while you wait for the flowers. Nasturtiums are edible, though your child might find the leaf too hot for their taste. You could still pinch a few to put in your salads Ė the flowers are edible too and add visual appeal to a bowl of greens.

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Gardening tips for kids with disabilities

Children with a physical disability or special needs may like to potter about in the garden. Growing plants is something they may get a lot of satisfaction out of and all they need is a little help. First, make sure the bed is raised so that there is minimal bending. It should also be narrow, unless both sides can be accessed easily. Childrenís arms are shorter than adults, so make sure they can reach across easily. The total width should not exceed double the childís reach, or a single arm length for a border.

If it is too difficult to make a raised bed, a line or group of pots standing on bricks or a bench seat should be about the right height. If using a table, the pot should be shallow, or the top of it is likely to be too high for comfort. Safety is paramount, so if using potting mix, make sure they have gardening gloves that fit well.

Small tools will delight the user and if they have handles that are ergonomic, all the better, especially if the disability affects the hands. A small watering can be used to make the job of watering easier and if the pots are outside, a plastic chair placed strategically will be appreciated.

For wheelchair access itís a good idea to make the garden bed - or place the pots - close to a paved path. A gravel path is hard to wheel through, so should be avoided. Itís important to choose plants that are not prickly or thorny to avoid unnecessary injury.

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Kids and Popcorn

Most kids love popcorn, so if you want to encourage your kids into gardening, suggest they grow their very own popcorn. Corn from popping is different from sweet corn, but can still be purchased in similar small packets. It needs good, rich soil with plenty of fertiliser (1/4 cup per metre) and water.

In the north of Australia and in the tropics, corn can be planted at any time. In the temperate regions it needs to be August before the first planting is made, while gardeners in cold regions must wait until October. Furrows 25mm deep are needed, with the seeds planted about 15 cm apart. Rather than one long row, a short block of three or four rows will give a better pollination rate.

If the soil is nice and damp when you sow, cover the bed with grass mulch to conserve the moisture, then there will be no need to water anymore until after germination. While the corn is growing, a good watering twice a week is better than daily superficial watering.

For the best popping results, the corn must be left on the cob until it is fully mature. The silks will be dry and brown by then and the kernels should be hard. If the kids get impatient, they can eat some of their popping corn while the kernels are still soft just as with ordinary sweet corn.

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Growing butterflies

Did you know that you can grow a butterfly? That is, if you plant the right kind of foliage in your garden, you can attract the butterflies of your area to feed and to breed. If you just want to watch butterflies feeding, then you need to plant the type of flowers that they love to sip nectar from. These are usually plants with a very strong scent like the buddleia, wattle and citrus blossom. 

Two trees that butterflies like and you can grow in tubs are Oliverís sassafras that attracts the Blue Triangle Butterfly and Doryphora sassafras for the Macleayís Swallowtail. If you keep them pruned lots of fresh leaves will emerge and that is what the butterflies look for when laying eggs.

Butterflies like puddling! No, not splashing in a puddle like you would, but sucking up moisture from damp ground. To provide a puddling place for your butterflies, get a shallow dish and fill it with course sand, then pour on enough water to make it quite damp. Keep it in a sheltered place.

Butterflies donít like wind; they like warm sun and a sheltered place. So if you want to make a garden to attract butterflies, this is what you need to find. Beside a shed or wall will often be a sheltered spot. Have a few flat stones in your butterfly garden for the butterflies to rest on and donít forget that puddling dish.

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Growing Caterpillars

Butterflies donít always breed where they feed. If you want to see your butterflies breed, then you will need to grow the kind of plants that caterpillars like to eat. Then of course, when they are used for breakfast, they will look quite tattered. But butterflies donít want their babies to starve, so they wonít lay eggs on a plant that the caterpillars cannot eat.

If you grow some plants that butterflies like to eat and some that their caterpillars like to eat, youíll be sure to see both in your garden. Different butterflies live in different areas, so youíll need to do some research on the Internet to find out which ones live in your area. Here is a website from which you can access information about South Australian butterflies and the plants they and their babies love to eat.

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Growing Snakes with Bev Boorer

A most unusual plant for kids to grow is the Snake Lily. The flower stem that pushes up from a tuber in the spring really does resemble a snakeskin with dark green silver and purple colours. This first stem grows to about 30 cm and unfolds into a beautiful huge pink lily, rather like an arum lily in shape. After the flowering another stem will grow up. This one is up to a metre long and when it unfurls youíll see some very large leaves. The plant likes dappled shade, but will grow in full sun if the ground is moist enough.

It will take three years to bloom, but to save waiting that long, you can buy a three-year-old plant from Paradise Distributors, 9 Paradise Place, Nambour (bob@paraplants.com) for only $8.90.

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Growing Elephants with Bev Boorer

Another unusual plant is the giant Elephant Ear imported from China. The leaves are - as its name suggests - as big as an elephantís ear so that is sure to delight any child who grows it. They are bright green and rounded in shape. The plant likes lots of moisture and unfortunately doesnít like frosts. You can buy it in 100mm pots from Paradise Distributors, 9 Paradise Place, Nambour (bob@paraplants.com) at around $18 ea. Youíd need lots of room for those big leaves too. They grow well over head height.

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Growing carrots

Spring is a lovely time to get out into the garden and encouraging the children to grow vegetables can encourage a lifetime of healthy eating. Kids often love growing vegetables that form underground. This is because they love to dig and they love to be surprised. Growing things like carrots, radishes and potatoes is always surprising because they donít get to see exactly what or how many are there until they dig them up.

Carrots are not hard to grow and if you sprinkle a few seeds of radish in with them, these will germinate first. This will keep the children interested and help break up the hard crust of topsoil, allowing the tender carrot leaves to grow through. Carrots can also be picked at various times, so for little kids who might become impatient waiting, they are ideal.

They can pick a few when they are just fingerlings and still eat them, and they can wait a bit longer to get larger ones. You can also encourage them to eat carrots by allowing them to choose the cooking method. Carrots can even be juiced, so the kids can drink their carrot if they want to.

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A Garden Makeover 1

If you are one of those would-be gardeners that love to watch the makeovers on TV, but donít have the time of energy to do it yourself, why not let the children do it for you?  You could start them off with one corner if you donít think they could handle a whole backyard. It may delight you to see what they can come up with.

Of course there would have to be a few rules to suit the age group and what is already there. You may not want to see the whole area turned into a dirt bowl just right to make roads for the latest toy dump truck. In this hot weather they might prefer to have a swimming pool put in - or try to put one in of their own. So rules and suggestions to start them off will be good.

A budget would be good too. Let the kids get their creative juices flowing, but limit the amount they can spend. But make it enough so that they can really add some features to make a difference. Such things as a water feature, seating, statues or stone lanterns will delight them and you too. Shrubs, small trees and perennials to suit your climate and the season will also be necessary.

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Growing Pom-poms

A delightful flower that will entrance any child interested in gardening is the pom-pom zinnia. The ball-shaped flowers with closely packed petals resemble a pom-pom and come in many different colours such as pinks, oranges, yellows and white.

Itís not too late to plant zinnias in temperate regions; they can be planted from spring through to late summer. The seed will germinate better in the hotter weather. But of course, children often prefer to work from seedlings to get a quicker result. Choose a sunny spot and friable, rich loam for the best results. If seed is used, dust it with a fungicide first to prevent damping off.

Once they are established, zinnias need little attention apart from watering and weeding. Adding some lawn clippings to the garden bed will keep their roots cool. They will benefit from regular feeding with liquid plant food once they are half grown.

Many other varieties of zinnia can be grown; Gold Medal is a particularly good plant and grows to 100 cm high. The flowers are large doubles in a stunning array of colours. Envy has green flowers, while Lilliput and Thumbelina are the smaller ones. Zinnias are good for cut flowers if your child is interested in taking flowers to school.

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Kids_Growing_Ponytails_

A ponytail palm, that is! These cute little trees are not really palms but they do resemble the palm tree due to the fact that the foliage comes out from the top of the trunk. They are ideal for kids to grow as they are practically indestructible and can be grown indoors in good light. 

They will need to be started off in a pot to match the size of the plant Ė some are quite tiny and they do not grow quickly.  Even when the base of the trunk expands to the size of the pot it will still be happy for ages. Ponytail tree roots are like a fine mesh and do not mind being squashed up. Water lightly only when the soil is dry.

As the ponytail tree gets larger the base of the trunk will swell until it resembles a fat bottle. This curious characteristic has given other names such as elephantís foot tree and bottle palm to the ponytail tree. Eventually the swelling trunk will cause the pot to crack; it should be re-potted before this happens if you want to keep the pot for another plant.

When it eventually gets too big for any pot it will need to go outside. This could take some years. Plant it somewhere there is plenty of room as they can grow quite big and the trunk can expend to three metres at the base when mature.

Ponytail trees donít need too much water; it will rot the trunk Ė and they are happy without fertiliser. They bear white flowers, but donít hold your breath waiting for this to happen. It could take up to ten years. The seed pods are a pretty pink, but unless you have both male and female trees there will not be any.

Its attraction is more in the curious swelling trunk and curved strap-like leaves. The leaves have quite sharp edges, so you will need to wear gloves and a long-sleeved top when handling a larger specimen.

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Growing Pretty Sweet Alice

Sweet Alice is one of the easiest flower seeds to grow of all. All you need to do after preparing the ground is to sprinkle them over it and lightly rake them in. Of course, if you want them to grow in rows then you have to make a shallow row to sprinkle them into.

This can be easily done by gently pressing the edge of a board or an old pencil into the ground. Sprinkle the seeds along it and whisk a little soil over the top Ė only about 2mm deep. If the ground is damp, sprinkling a few handfuls of grass clippings over the seeds will help to keep it damp until they germinate in about ten days.

The flowers of Sweet Alice or Alyssum as it is called can be white, cream and violet. And look great as a border or a massed planting. They can be planted all year round in most temperate regions and in the autumn and winter in hot areas.

Alyssum only grows to 10cm high and the foliage is delicate and almost fernlike. It will grow in part shade or full sun and responds to an application of blood and bone before planting and a soluble plant food afterwards. Snails love them, so you may also need to put out some snail bait. Sweet Alice also looks great in a container.

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Kids Growing a Treat for Kitty

If you have a kitten or cat in your household, why not try growing catmint for it. All cats are said to love catmint, besides, you can use the leaves for brewing a tea or to flavour meat or salads.

Catmint is a hardy perennial that grows around 60-90 cm tall. Its greyish leaves are about 5cm long, heart-shaped with soft furry undersides. Flowers can be pink or white and grow up in a spike. Bees love them as well as cats.

Catmint can be grown from seed or root division and is best started in the spring Ė but that is not far away and if you live in a warm climate you could probably get some going now if you make sure it is in a warm spot. Follow the directions on the packet if growing from seed.

If your kitty-cat likes to scratch at everything else rather than her scratching post, a little catmint rubbed over the scratching post will make it her favourite place.

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Quick Growing Vegetables

Since children always like to see results quickly, the idea is to start them off with seeds that germinate quickly such as lettuce, radish, bush beans, snow peas, tomatoes, pumpkin and squash.  In fact some of these seeds can be germinated in a moist jar under the kitchen sink so that the kids can actually see what is happening. Once a shoot is showing they can then be carefully placed into the ground and it wonít be long before a seedling will pop up.

Additionally, the kids can make little newspaper pots and start off their seeds in these, then plant the whole lot Ė pot and all Ė into their garden when the seedling is big enough. This will save the plant from suffering transplant shock and ensure it keeps on growing quickly. Simply roll two layers of newspaper around a container such as a tin or plastic mug and fold one end in. Then  slide the container out.

When kids can pick and eat their own vegetables it will give them good dietary habits that will keep them healthy as adults, so there are many advantages to letting them grow their own stuff.

For kids who love flowers, nasturtiums and sunflowers are quick germinators and both can be used for eating. Nasturtium leaves and flowers can be include in salads, though the leaves are a little hot, while sunflower seeds can be used as bird feed.

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Kids Making Snail Traps

Snail traps are easy to make and save having poison around that may be attractive to pets or toddlers. Take a small plastic container such as a margarine or small ice cream container and set it into the garden so that the top is level with the top of the soil. Fill it up with stale beer and sprinkle bran on the top. Not bran from a cereal packet but the kind you purchase from a pet store.

The snails will be attracted by the smell and when they crawl onto the bran they will fall in and drown.

A slug trap can be made from a hollowed out half potato. Cut the potato in half and scoop out some of the inside. Then place it hollowed side down in a cool place in the garden.  You can scoop out a little hollow to place it in or place it near some edging. Early in the morning you will usually find some slugs inside the hollow part. They will have to be gathered up and disposed of.

Dropping them into really hot water will kill them. You can also place them into a tin or jar and seal the top, then leave it out in the sun. This may seem cruel, but they will eat your plants up if they are not dealt with. If your children are too tender-hearted to kill them simply seal them into a plastic bag and drop them in the bin.

If you want to use snail bait, make sure it is placed under a rock or heavy piece of timber so that pets cannot access it. Older children should wear gardening or rubber gloves when handling snail bait; younger children should not be allowed to touch it.

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Safety in the garden

The garden is a wonderful place for kids to play as long as they follow some safety tips.

  • Teach children not to eat anything from a plant before showing it to an adult.
  • Children should look at instead of touching any creatures they find.
  • Provide garden tools that are meant for children Ė adults tools are dangerous for kids.
  • Make it family procedure to use hats and sun protection while gardening.
  • There must be adult supervision Ėa crawling baby or a toddler can drown in water left in a bucket.
  • Many garden plants are poisonous or have poisonous parts but instead of removing them all from the garden, learn about them and teach the children the facts. There is an excellent illustrated guide to common plants that cause problems in Australian gardens on the Westmead childrenís Hospital site at http://kidshealth.chw.edu.au/ 13 11 26 is the poisons number to dial for emergencies.

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Many thanks to Bev for her articles over the years. From here Helen takes over.

Chickens at Child Care- by Helen

Several of the Child Care Centres I visit have pets for the children. Caring for pets helps children to develop a sense of caring for others. Children interact naturally with animals and relationships with them can help children to develop confidence, responsibility and trust. It also helps them to understand and care for the environment.

Hens are the pets in several centres and are of great interest the children. The best way to provide an enclosure and hen house is to ask for volunteer parents to do this job. There will probably be some parents with experience who can do this as it is essential that the hens have a secure home. There are foxes even in town some times, and it would be awful to arrive one morning to find the hens had been killed.

Hens will provide eggs, manure for the gardens, chickens, opportunities for conversations and observation, and help children to take responsibility for feeding pets. Hens and chickens provide many sensory learning opportunities too.

Children must be gentle if handling the birds and supervision is always needed at that time. I noticed with interest a report about the naming of the hens at one centre. The children had come up with some unique names. I am sure that everyone including parents will gain much from those pets.

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Guinea Pigs as pets

Guinea pigs make great pets as they are cuddly and sociable and will enjoy attention. They can be kept in the garden if given the right kind of shelter. They live up to nine years and grow about 30 centimetres long and an adult will weigh just over a kilogram. They do have sharp teeth (that never stop growing), and claws, so children under six shouldnít have unsupervised access to them. Older children can learn to feed the guinea pigs and clean their cages and be able to handle the animals carefully.

Cages should be at least 1.3 metres x 60cms for two guinea pigs. They will be happiest if they have a companion. Choose pets of the same sex to avoid the problems of finding homes for babies.

Food Each animal needs a cup of fresh fruit or vegetables daily and plenty of hay and grass, and water. They donít need a very varied diet but they must have some fruit that is high in vitamin C each day, as that vitamin isnít stored in the body. Never give them meat, dairy products or bread.

Books have been written about these lovely little animals and how to care for them. For a start, visit www.australiancavysanctuary.com/guineapigcare.htm this site has lots of helpful advice.

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Gardening after Floods

After such widespread flooding there will be many gardens sadly in need of some TLC, so what better way to engage your children in a little gardening than to start a new garden where the old one was washed away. This is your chance to change things around if you want to, adding new features or a new garden altogether.

Children and mud seem to go together very well, so most kids will enjoy helping to rearrange the garden after a flood. However, the mud should not be dug up while it is still wet, or it will end up setting like cement. Once it has dried out to a damp state, it can be dug into the ground and will provide many nutrients for new plants. However, floods may have washed out other nutrients so be sure and add more fertiliser to your new garden. This is a job that the kids can do, with a little help on the side.

It is quite likely that more mulch will need to go on and in the garden after a flood, so while you are digging, check to see whether the soil is crumbly in texture or not. If itís not, add lots of mulch and dig it in, then after the plants are in you can add more hay or straw around them. Kids will like doing this job too.

If the garden area has been well and truly scoured out by floods it might be necessary to import fresh soil to have any success growing plants there again. Getting a trailer load in is not difficult and the kids will enjoy helping to spread it out, especially if they can run and jump in it. Make sure they keep boots on though, because you can never be sure that there will be no prickles, or even snakes or spiders in it.

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Early morning gardening

Early morning is a great time for you and the kids to be outside watering, especially  as kids and water go together so well in summer. Getting that early morning sun before the air is hot will give the family as well as the plants a good start to the day. Early morning is also a great time to hear and see birds. Encourage the kids to listen and see how many different birds they can hear. Use the trees to set up activities underneath for the kids too e.g.

        use magnifying glasses to inspect insects

  • provide boxes and plastic animals to make environments

  • jugs and containers for water pouring

  • climbing games if the trees are suitable. The kids will invent lots of games when they climb into the branches.

The evening is also a good time to water the plants, but I find that everyone is tired then and sitting around under a tree is the preferred end of day activity. Try some word games then or some storytelling.

Following the fires many families will have lost their gardens and communities may have lost their farmlands and animals, their parks and their pets. Planning a new garden and helping an affected community redevelop will help kids to understand what has happened and how the problems can be solved. One way of doing this is to pot plants or germinate seeds and care for them ready to send to places where they will be needed.

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Using excess vegetables

If youíve grown tomatoes, you may have heaps of them as summer ends. Get the children organized with baskets, bowls, plastic bags or even ice cream containers to pick all the mature vegetables. Who can pick the most? Who can make the vegetables look most attractive? Who can pull the most weeds to make the vegie patch look tidy?

Then get the kids organized to cook.  Baked tomatoes are easy. If they canít use knives safely yet, you can cut the tomatoes into slices while the kids can lay them on foil on a baking dish, cut side up. They will enjoy drizzling them with oil and salt. Bake in slow oven 2 to 3 hours.

Zucchinis  may also have got away from you in the garden. Organize a zucchini competition with prizes for the smallest, longest, fattest, and most zucchinis picked from the vine in one day. Get the kids to find recipes for using zucchinis and help them make the recipe that appeals to them most.

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Autumn planting

In the past month Iíve done quite a bit of gardening with my three year old granddaughter. We went together to the nursery looking for something to brighten a garden I planned to dig outside the caravan Iím sleeping in at the moment. We bought pansies and violas. After quite a wet period the soil was good to dig and I got the weeds out in one afternoon. I showed my helper how to make a hole just the right size with her trowel and she soon became an expert at dropping the plants into the holes and firmly pressing the soil back into place. Over three weeks we also bought primula, pollyanthus and calendulas. Several of the violas are already flowering and every day we admire our garden. She loves to water it too. On our last visit to the nursery we found ranuncula corms sorted into colours and of course we bought pink ones. They are not yet planted and weíll have to wait till spring to see the flowers. Next visit weíll look for some vegetables to plant. There is nothing like starting gardening while very young and having my young helper has certainly made my garden time more enjoyable. 

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Gardens, parks and playing outside

In South Australia there is a push to get kids playing outside more because 26% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 are overweight. The Premier says that this has happened in just one generation because kids lives are now dominated by technology that is keeping them inside so they are missing out on the energy using games that they played in the past. In 2014 the government will have Parks and Places as its theme. There will be free entry to National parks and a website to suggest activities and places to go to. Organization like this helps families who often need suggestions or groups to join on an outing.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program will also be expanded too. This program isnít just for South Australia but already 50,000 children around Australia are tending gardens, growing healthy food and learning how to cook it into tasty, nutritious meals. These kids are excited and will be the next generation of gardening enthusiasts as well as excellent cooks. When a school registers for training in this kitchen garden method, a designated teacher will be trained in all aspects of presenting the program including how to integrate it into all aspects of the syllabus. Surely individual families could have a similar program too perhaps run by local councils or local gardening clubs..

It doesnít matter where you live, whether it is hot and dry or cold and wet; whether you live in the outback or in the city, kitchen gardens along the Stephanie Alexander style are possible.

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Community gardens

Community gardens are growing up in many places and are a great way to involve kids from your neighbourhood. Some of the benefits of having a community garden are

  • meeting people and having positive interactions
  • using waste land
  • conserving water
  • improving the environment
  • sharing plants, ideas and stories
  • learning about food and nutrition
  • increases interest in nature
  • helping kids to learn to take responsibility
  • team working helps self esteem
  • growing plants encourages patience

The best results are achieved when kids are involved from the start. So many of them are living in flats and units these days that a garden is a luxury many kids donít have in everyday life. Community gardens can be set up along the verges of footpaths or in laneways or on unused land but ask about local rules first. Many town councils give support to groups setting up community gardens even providing grants.

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Bug Motels

Setting up a bug motel is an interesting idea I came across. This can encourage children to find out what insects do in winter. A couple of shoe boxes set one on top of  the other would work, but bricks piled up with cardboard or wooden shelves would work just as well or any small cardboard box with a shelf or shelves inside. On the shelves put items where insects can hide and hibernate. Include pine cones, icypole sticks, shredded paper, stones, damp sawdust, a small bottle or a plastic cup, small tins and anything else that looks as if it will be a good place for an insect to hide. Put your motel in the garden and encourage your child to look inside it each week to see what it is sheltering there. Talk about safety and not touching spiders or other dangerous things. Provide a magnifying glass too. Help your child to identify the creatures and to research for information.

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Windy winter weather

This last week has been extremely windy and no one has wanted to go outside. Even the birds have disappeared. In some parts of the state trees have been uprooted and tree branches have fallen. Even where nothing significant has fallen, paths and grass are littered with twigs because of the wind. Where have the birds gone in this wild weather? A friend tells me theyíve gone to the forest, but will be back feeding in our gardens as soon as they can fly straight and safely.

School holidays began yesterday and the wild weather means that it is safest for our kids to be inside unless you have a sheltered courtyard type garden where loose objects arenít likely to fly around and cause an accident. It might be a good time for the kids to make a bird feeder or an inside window-sill pot.

Bird feeder:

  1. Fill the bottom half of a recyclable plastic bottle with wild bird seed. Cut a section out of one side of the bottle so that birds will be able to access the seeds.
  2. Cut a slit either side of the bottle to slide through a wooden spoon or a sturdy twig for the birds to perch on.
  3. Screw the top on the bottle and tie a string or some wire under the top to hang your feeder from.
  4. Tie the feeder to a tree branch or from a beam on a pergola.

Inside window-sill pot

Make sure the pot has a saucer before filling with potting mix. Visit the nursery with your kids to find either herbs or mini flowers that will grow in a pot inside. Plant the herbs or flowers and place the pot on a window sill that gets plenty of light. Water every couple of days or when the soil is dry.

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Treats for the birds

My neighbours have recently completed a roof of strong wire netting to keep the galahas and rosella out of the chook yard where they were enthusiastically sharing the hensí seeds each day. A row of birds sat watching the activities from a nearby tree and are no doubt now frustrated to see the seeds, but no longer be able to reach them. Experts tell us that we shouldnít make wild birds dependent on hand outs from humans, but in winter small treats can help them. In your garden hang up pine cones, and the hollowed out skins of lemon and orange halves that you have stuffed with suet and seeds. Be sure that the treats are hung where cats canít reach them. Use string or raffia to tie the treats firmly.

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Treats for birds