GET GROWING: 5 gardening activities to entertain kids, indoors and out
Given the current state of the world, it’s not surprising that I’m getting asked about plant themed activities for housebound kids. Most of these can be done with regular household items, but if you need seeds or supplies, you’ll find that many local businesses have stepped up to offer delivery or curb-side pick up. Halifax Seed, for example now has a curb side pick-up service for seed and garden supply orders.
DIY or decorate plant pots
If you’ve got crafty kids, have them paint clay pots for houseplants, herbs, shoots or microgreens, or small growing vegetables like leaf lettuce. Get creative by using tape or stencils to make fun and colourful designs. They can also paint and decorate round rocks or wooden strips, like paint stirrers to be used as plant markers.
Recycle household materials like egg cartons, paper cups, yoghurt containers, the bottoms of milk cartons, or use actual plastic or clay pots for plant projects. Just be sure to add a few drainage holes to the bottom of your containers if they don’t have any.
There are quite a few food crops that can be grown indoors in a sunny window or under a grow-light. The easiest ones to grow include shoots and microgreens. Pea and sunflower shoots are among my favourite edibles to grow indoors with sunflower shoots ready to harvest in a week and pea shoots in two to three weeks.
To plant, fill a tray, pot or container with two inches of potting mix. Scatter the seeds on the soil surface, planting densely. They can be touching or almost touching. Cover with a thin layer of potting mix and water. Harvest when sunflower shoots are two to three inches tall and pea shoots six to eight inches tall.
Kids can scissor harvest shoots and microgreens, enjoying them as-is, or add them to sandwiches, stir-fries and pastas.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a bag of grass seed kicking around your garage. If it’s from last summer, it’s fine to use. If it’s older than two years, it’s likely too old to sprout. So if you have fairly fresh grass seed, have your kids plant some grassy heads. They’re quick to grow and it’s invigorating to have a pot of green grass growing indoors.
A grassy head is just a container of potting mix planted with grass seed. Have your kids make funny faces on the containers with markers or make paper eyes, noses, and a mouth and tape or glue them to the pot to make silly or happy faces.
Plant the seed densely and cover with a scant layer of potting mix. Keep the soil moist until the seed sprouts and is growing well. Kids can use scissors to mow the grass as it grows.
Grow from kitchen scraps
The leftover bottom section of many grocery store vegetables can be planted to produce fresh growth. Use the bottoms of celery clumps, green onions, leaf lettuce, lemongrass, and onions. Plant them in a container of potting mix and place them in a sunny window. As the new growth emerges, it can be trimmed off and eaten.
Or pot up a few garlic cloves or pieces of ginger root. Plant them shallowly so that the tops are still visible and keep them moist until they begin to grow. Garlic greens can be clipped for eating while the ginger forms a beautiful foliage plant. In six to nine months the ginger plant will have more roots for harvesting.
Don’t underestimate outdoor play. Go for a walk and look for early spring plants like crocus, daffodils, and snowdrops. Admire the pussy willows which are starting to bloom and the way our native ferns unfurl after winter. Look for pinecones and other garden treasures. Make mud pies. Build a raised bed or prep containers for growing vegetables.
And don’t forget the teenagers! Even older kids can benefit from a little green therapy. Popular indoor plants like succulents, coffee plants, or snake plants are easy to grow and perfect for novice green thumbs.
Niki Jabbour is the best-selling author of three gardening books, and a two-time winner of the prestigious American Horticultural Society Book Award. Find her on social media and at SavvyGardening.com.