Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we’ve no place to go, Let it Grow, Let it Grow, Let it Grow!
Gardening with your children indoors can be an exciting and rewarding activity, especially when the weather outdoors is tempermental. There is a great sense of fulfillment when children begin to see seeds sprouting, or a flower begin to bloom. It provides opportunities for you to spend quality time together as a family, away from video-games, cable-television, computers, and the fast-paced-tech world we live in today. Here are some introductory gardening activities toinitiate your children to the wonderful world of indoor gardening:
Create a planting calendar. Together, determine the average last frost date in the spring, and have your kids mark the date on the calendar. You can call a local garden center or your local Cooperative Extension office if you need help. Use that as a starting point to determine when to start seeds indoors which will later be moved outdoors. These dates will also establish the time to begin sowing seeds outdoors. Cool-season crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, lettuce and spinach can be planted outdoors a few weeks before the average last frost date. Warm-season crops like cucumbers, melons, peppers, squash and tomatoes must be planted after the last frost date scheduled on your calendar.
Start an indoor herb garden. A sunny windowsill provides adequate light and is perfect location for an indoor herb garden. You can start your herb garden from seeds, cuttings, or transplants. When starting from seed, plant them in a moistened mixture containing equal parts of sand, peat moss, and soil. Most herb seeds are so small that they should not be planted more than a quarter –inch deep in moist soil. Another option is to sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and cover the surface with a light potting mixture. If you do not have any sunny windows, you can also use an artificial-light system to help your herb garden grow. The Growlight Pro Indoor Garden is a compact artificial light system that tucks into any available space so children can grow fragrant herb gardens, sprout seeds, or bring seedlings to flower. Click here for more tips and an article on Herbal Adventures for your kids.
Develop a plant-based school science fair project. It’s that time of year when your middle-school children will choose their own science fair project. Help foster your young scientist by selecting a plant-based activity. Our book, GrowLab: Activities for Growing Minds will help spark students’ curiosity about plants and invite them to think and act like scientists. Developed by the National Gardening Assocation and written and field-tested by educators, this complete curriculum uses fun, illustrated activities to explore plant life cycles, examine plant diversity, and investigate the interdependence of plants, humans, and other living and nonliving things. It’s a great resource for your child when he/she is selecting a plant-based science fair project.
Use recycled containers. In lieu of purchasing plant containers, consider recycling a coffee can, or a cookie tin. When properly cleaned, you can also reuse your milk cartons, cottage cheese or other plastic food containers to create your indoor planter. Be sure to thoroughly wash and dry these containers, and then punch a few holes at the bottom so excess water can properly drain.
Decorating plant containers. It is a lot of fun to decorate clay pots with your kids. Begin with a clean, smooth pot and then add imagination. You can paint the outside of the pot with acrylic paint. If you want to achieve a “color wash” look, you can either thin the paint (craft stores carry products for this purpose) or apply the paint and then gently wipe some of it with a paper towel while it’s still wet. Another option is to glue and seal some photos, magazine clippings, or paper drawings to your container. This can be done with Mod Podge—a glue, sealer, and finish all in one. It comes in different finishes including a “sparkle” version to add some glitz to your craft. Use one coat to glue-on the material and another to seal over the surface. For more information, click here for our extensive article on Decorating Clay Pots.
Grow flowering plants from seeds. You can grow many different types of attractive and colorful indoor plants from seed including impatiens, geraniums, dwarf marigolds, sweet alyssum, lobelia and pepper plants. Plant the seeds as instructed in small peat pots or trays. As the plants grow, transplant your seedlings to larger 4-inch pots. Have your kids get in a routine of watering and caring for the plant. Teach them to how to pinch-back blooms for bushier growth, remove faded blooms, and rotate the plants (on occasion) to maintain an even shape.
Plant an indoor rock garden. Start by finding a large and deep enough container for a variety of plants, pebbles, and rocks. Go on a journey outside with your kids to hunt for the garden rocks or in the future think about collecting rocks while on vacation. During your ‘rock hunt’ take the opportunity to contrast the differences between igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic types of stones. Some plants recommended for your indoor rock garden include a variety of tall, low, and spreading plants. For your tall plant consider a unique foliage plant like “mother-in-law’s tongue” or “snake plant”. For medium-sized varieties plant marigolds, zinnias, or sweet alyssum. And finally, English ivy for your low-spreading plant. Place the gravel and pebbles along the surface, saving room between the plantings for clustered rock arrangements. Consider adding some personal touches like flags, pinwheels, or stone figures so thatin the end, your child will have a unique and creative rock garden of their own!
Remember, it doesn’t take a gardening expert to ‘get growing indoors.’ Indoor gardening can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience for your children, and there are so many activities from which to choose. So whether you decide to start some plants from seed, start an herb garden, make an indoor desert garden, decorate some containers, or simply transplant an older plant, just remember to ‘Let it Grow, Let it Grow, Let it Grow!’