Special gardening teaches responsibility

By Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, 

Esther Macalady, Tim Fox

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders. — Abigail Van Buren

One way to teach age appropriate responsibility is to grow some tolerant plants that require little care for little children.

Outdoor Garden

If you are planting a summer family garden select plants that germinate quickly, produce a crop quickly, and require minimum maintenance other than watering and feeding. There are a few plants that follow those criteria: snap peas, sun flowers, radishes, marigolds, cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, carrots, and potatoes. Read and follow the directions on the package together. Examine the seeds and explain that there is a plant inside. Set plants are also available.

In the case of potatoes explain that they are tubers, the swollen parts of underground stems. When you plant these tubers, the eyes (stems) will grow to create a new plant. Petunias, pansies, and fragrant herbs are also good choices for young children.

Families can teach care based on needs like appropriate soil, sunlight, nutrients, enough water on a consistent basis, feeding, and protection from animals, insects, and weeds.

Planting Succulents

Succulents can be enjoyed year around indoors and are very tolerant. There are 6,000 varieties in 25 families. Some of them have flowers. They are beautiful, interesting, and sometimes strange looking arid plants so let the soil completely dry out like a dessert. Then water them like a sudden rain storm one evening and let them totally dry out again for weeks or months.

To plant, find a large wide bowl or pot preferably with a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Mix a little sand in the potting soil to make it more porous and choose from a large variety of succulents. Children can plant a number of small ones and add tiny natural gravel or stones on top of the soil. They can add a few Lego people, too.

Avoid high temperatures though.

Some of the most popular are hens and chicks, the multi colored rose shaped echeveria, burro’s tail, panda plant, spikey aloe, kalanchoe that has babies on the end of its leaves, curly succulents, rows of beads, baby toes, and many color choices. Succulent cacti should probably be avoided until children are much older.

The most enjoyable part of succulents may be visiting stores with children and adding to the garden. Tiny ones are usually inexpensive and make great gifts.

However, if your children like to water, try another child friendly plant like bamboo, not succulents. They come in many varieties and shapes and are fast growing. Whatever the choice, young children will be able to watch over and care for their plants with probable success.

For more ideas to nurture responsibility see grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com and wnmufm.org/Learning Through the Seasons pod casts and live, Pinterest, and Facebook.