Summer Gardens: Getting Dirty With Your Kids

If your kid has a garden in his or her life, whether at school or in your backyard, you may already have a budding scientist, environmentalist or farmer on your hands.

To encourage summer learning, here are some ideas on getting dirty with kids.

Magical Bean Garden: Construct a sturdy tee-pee out of bamboo stakes and plant beans at the base of each pole. Scarlet runner beans are dark blue with streaks of purple. The green vines sprout vigorously, produce brilliant red flowers that attract hummingbirds and then yield eight-inch long beans.

Pizza Garden: Plant a circular plot with six triangular “wedges” of basil, tomatoes, parsley, oregano, onions and tomatoes.

Three Sisters Garden: The Lenape Indians who made New Jersey home, grew corn, squash and beans together in a space-efficient companion planting that increases yields, conserves water, provides vine support, and enriches the soil.

Moonlight Garden: Plant white flowers and foliage to gleam under a full moon, such as impatiens, daisies, dianthus, lamb’s ear, lavender and snapdragon. Local garden centers can also recommend night-bloomers like angel’s trumpet. Solar-powered or candle-lit lanterns add a magical glow for nighttime story reading.

Sun Garden: Sunflowers are a can’t-miss hit for little ones because the seeds are large enough for little fingers and the plants grow fast. Kids love observing how the flowers turn to track the sun’s progress across the sky.

Fairy House Garden: If you have a shady corner, you can create a fairy house garden. Consider the space from the vantage point of a very small being for whom delicate ferns are as big as a tree. Define the “yard” with decorative stones. Fairy houses are traditionally built with found twigs, bark, and moss, but a small decorated shoebox would work too. Hang a small wind chime or dream-catcher to let passing fairies know of the new vacancy.  

Invite Winged Visitors: If your kids’ interests run more to the feathered than foodie, put up a bird-feeder, add a fresh water source, and you are on your way to creating a Certified Backyard Habitat.

Go to School: Your local school gardens may need tending during summer break. Contact your school garden’s organizer to see if help is needed.

Sometimes plants don’t grow, sometimes they get eaten by pests and sometimes they die from neglect. That’s all part of the learning process.

Luckily, I’ve found that gardening is mostly about enjoying and learning about nature.

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