Rainbow Garden

rainbow garden

My eight year old recently planted her first garden! She’s always been an enthusiastic helper in our family garden plot, but this time it’s all her design. It all started when I started pulling out some blue pansies to make way for some more summer-y plants in our backyard planters. She asked if she could have them for her very own garden. UM YES OF COURSE. She has been reading Gardening With Emma: A Kid-to-Kid Guide this spring, and I told her to look through it to get some ideas if she was interested in expanding her garden. And she landed on a rainbow garden! I can’t even tell you how perfect this is for her. Isn’t that what’s so great about gardening?!

It would have been great fun to take her to the garden center and let her choose the plants for her rainbow garden, but our area is asking kids to stay away from retail establishments as much as possible. So, armed with her list, off I went! I knew the most important thing was hitting all the colors of the rainbow. We ended up with red snapdragons, orange marigolds, yellow calendula, green gladiolas, the aforementioned blue pansies, purple basil, and some magenta flowers that I can’t remember.

rainbow garden
Princess Harriet Pepperbone

And she planted them all by herself! She learned a new vocabulary word (rootbound) and how to make sure plants could make the transition to their new home a little easier. (Interested in container gardening with kids? We’ve got great tips!)

We also planted some edibles of her choosing, including a lunch box pepper (which she named Princess Harriet Pepperbone after a character in her favorite book), the Chioggia beets she became enamored with from Emma’s book, nasturtium because she thinks they’re yummy, and her very own purple carrots.

Ambitious? Perhaps! It’s been about a week, and so far she’s been great about remembering to water. She loves playing with the hose, so that helps. She’ll be spending just about all summer in our backyard, so it’s great for her to have her own little territory. I'll be sure to check back in once the full rainbow is in bloom.

Garden Together At Home

Garden Together At Home

April is Kids Garden Month! This year we're inviting you to share how you #GardenTogetherAtHome. You don't need a garden to participate. Just share how you're bringing gardening into your at-home life, from reading about or drawing gardens, to planting seeds, or sharing garden-related lessons with your students. As always with Kids Garden Month, creativity is encouraged!

We invite you to use Kids Garden Month as an opportunity for all of you, who love gardening with kids, to share the fun things you're up to, as well as get ideas from one another. You can follow along with the hashtag #GardenTogetherAtHome on Instagram, or check out the awesome gallery of entries. (You can read the entry description by clicking on the image.) We have already gotten so many great entries!

As incentive to join in, we're giving away lots of prizes this year. You can win an AcuRite weather station, hand tools from Corona tools, seeds from Botanical Interest, or a seed starting kit from CowPots! Winners will be selected randomly from eligible entries at the time of the drawing. Prize drawings will be held on April 7, April 14, April 21, April 28, and May 5. While multiple entries per family or educator are allowed and encouraged, once you have won a prize you will not be eligible for future prizes.

Learn more about our Kids Garden Month contest. We can't wait to see how you #GardenTogetherAtHome.

Plant a Seed Day

plant a seed day

Y'all - spring is SO CLOSE. I know it's 80 degrees in some parts of the country, but here in Vermont it is ... not that temperature. Regardless of temperature, the first day of spring is just a few weeks away. If you're looking for a meaningful, and garden-related way to celebrate, consider taking part in Plant a Seed Day, hosted by our friends at Big Green.

On March 19, you can join a massive day of action that rallies people to stand up and take action to build a better food system. In our country, there are 40 million people who don’t have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food.

It's simple - pledge to plant a seed, with your family, students, co-workers, or whoever you consider your people. And then, on March 19, the first day of spring, get planting! I already told you about my flower garden dreams for this summer, but now I'm also thinking about all the tomatoes and eggplants and peppers and brassicas that I will start from seed. Together, my family will weed, water, and care for those plants until we harvest and eat them. I am so grateful that we are able to feed ourselves this way.

Flower Garden Dreaming

flower garden

We have eleven hundred inches of snow on the ground here in Vermont and so naturally I'm thinking about this summer's flower garden. Last year I made an effort to grow even more flowers than in years past, and hardly any of them did well. The dahlias were attacked by slugs, the zinnias we started indoors from seed were pokier to grow then if I'd just tossed the seeds in the ground, and the sweet peas didn't flower. I dreamed of vases of flowers in every room and settled for child-picked wilted dandelions on the dining room table. (Which of course is charming in it's own way.)

Like all gardeners, this year I believe it will go better! I want to have an abundance of flowers so the kids can pick what they like to create bouquets for themselves, friends, and neighbors. And maybe they'll cut some for me, too? A parent can dream. Maybe we'll even try this flower arranging activity!

flower garden
A mix of seeds from a butterfly friendly flower packet.

One thing that is really fun about planting flowers is how varied all the seeds are! From tiny poppy seeds to big round sweet peas, or the miniature broom shape of a bachelor button, seed shapes can be fun to explore with your young gardeners. One of the things that I had great luck with last year was a "Bring Home the Butterflies" flower mix . (The header picture is my little pocket garden in bloom with this mix.) But the seeds are all varied, and it can be a fun guessing game to try to guess which seeds will grow into which plants. Maybe an expert gardener can help out here (that would not be me).

This year I'm planning on a combination of starts from the garden center (lots of snapdragons, as well as coleus and cosmos) plus I'm trying 5-6 types of flowers that can be sowed before the average last frost. Here in Vermont, our growing season is short and this can help with getting flowers in bloom before it gets too cold. Oh and this year I'll just direct sow my zinnias. One thing I will start from seed under grow lights, next to my tomatoes, is this very lovely anniversary aster from our friends at Botanical Interests. These look amazing! Huge white blooms that will either be stunning alone, or mixed in with other cut flowers. Did you know that Botanical Interest will donate $1 for each packet of these asters sold to KidsGardening? We're so honored to be partnering with them, and this will truly be a stand-out addition to your garden. Although eek, will I let my kids just pick these?! Or will those be just for me? Luckily I have many months to figure that out. You can buy these online, or from your local garden retailer.

flower garden

Red Cabbage pH Experiment

My family recently visited one of our favorite science museums, and my kids got to do a very cool hands-on experiment with red cabbage that I couldn't wait to tell you about. After my last time writing about red cabbage (the time I accidentally made fart paint), I thought this was a good way to redeem one of my favorite vegetables.

This experiment would be fun to do with kids of any age. My 4-year old has no idea what pH means, but it didn't stop her from having fun using a medicine dropper. So, if your kid has the dexterity to work a dropper, they would likely enjoy it.

Here's the basic gist:

  • Cut up about 1/4 red cabbage, and boil it in a few cups of water. Pull out the cabbage and reserve the cabbage water. Let it cool and pour into a container. It will be purple.
  • Gather a few things from your house that are acidic, basic, or neutral. (Within reason, don't choose anything unsafe!) Here are a few ideas: aspirin, baking soda, detergent powder, lemon juice, vinegar, ammonia, sugar, salt. Write the name of each substance down on a piece of paper.
  • Have kids scoop a small amount (like, 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon) of each of the gathered substances into small bowls or ramekins. A plastic paint tray would work really well. Make sure you label which substance is which!
  • Using a medicine dropper or pipette, put a dropper-full of cabbage water on the substance. What color does it turn? Record the color results on your paper listing all the substances you are trying.
  • Interpret your results. If it stays the same (purple), your substance is pH neutral. If it turns pink, it's an acid. If it turns blue, it's a base. The stronger the color, the higher (or lower) the pH of the substance.

As I said, we did this experiment at a museum, but it would be a great hands-on activity for studying pH, or to use up some questionable cabbage. This activity is also mentioned in GrowLab: Activities, along with more discussion on plant acids, and the effects of acid rain. Check it out if you want to dive deeper on pH!

 

 

New Newsletter Offerings

One of the things we pride ourselves on here at KidsGardening is our original educational content. From growing guides to lesson plans, and activities to gardening basics, we are thrilled to share new resources with you each month through our newsletter, KidsGarden News. Do you get this email? If you have friends or colleagues who would benefit from receiving that information, please encourage them to sign up.

Understanding that there may be many of you who are specifically interested in our activities, we started an Activity E-Kit a few months back, and I hope you'll give it a try! It's a few simple, seasonal activities that you can do with the kids in your life with just a few materials, many of which you may already have on hand. We send it once a month. We hope you will give it a try!

We also now offer a monthly round-up of our grants and contests, so you'll never miss a deadline. Learn what's available now, if your program is eligible, and get quick links to the applications. We hope it will make it easier to track all of the available opportunities.

 

Apple Taste Test

apple taste test

As stick season quickly approaches, we're trying to soak up every last bit of fall here in Vermont. And what's more quintessentially autumn than fresh apples?

apple taste test
The heirloom apples at City Market in Burlington, VT

Earlier this week, my 4-year old and I couldn't resist the amazing heirloom apple selection at City Market, our local co-op. I mean, could you?! We decided to stick with small apples, because miniature things are cute, and chose six varieties for an apple taste test.

I was inspired to try this activity from the latest KidsGardening newsletter offer, the Activity E-Kit. Have you seen it? Each month, KidsGardening will send seasonal activities with a list of items to gather to complete the activities, and you and the kids in your life are set for a few fun activities! (Hint hint, you can sign up to get the Activity E-kit here.)

Since time is always scarce at our house, we incorporated our apple taste test into dinner earlier this week. In addition to apple slices, I offered a baguette, cheddar cheese, mustard, kale chips, roasted almonds, and a few other random leftovers from the fridge that rounded out the meal. Do you ever do dinners like this? I just started, and they are always a huge hit.

Of our six apples, we had four that everyone loved, one that everyone disliked, and one that was ok. We learned that our whole family likes apples with rough skin. While the kiddos (age 4 and 8) mostly gave tasting notes such as "yum," "crunchy!," or "tastes like bananas," the grown-ups were able to be a little more distinctive with words like mild, tart, tannic, floral. The biggest hit with the kids was the Hidden Rose - it's pink on the inside! The adults liked the Ananas Reinette. I'm looking forward to trying a few more in the next couple of weeks.

If you also want a fun snack / dinner / escape from all the Halloween candy, check out the Celebrating Apples activity. Let us know your favorites!

 

Kids and Bees

kids and bees

Recently my daughter’s second grade class took a field trip to an apiary. Their class is studying pollinators, and her fantastic teacher set up an opportunity for kids to meet a beekeeper and interact with hives. Of course I volunteered to tag along. A big part of this was that I wanted to meet bees up close and personal (and of course get to know the kids in my daughter's class).

kids and bees
Quietly observing pollination activity

The kids had a long walk to the apiary, and we passed the time by chanting about how much we love bees. It was a beautiful early fall day in Vermont and there were lots of bees out on flowers and weeds on our walk. Even though they had been studying bees, there were quite a few kids who were scared of being stung. How was this going to go if they were surrounded by thousands of bees?!

Once we got to the apiary, kids were divided into two groups that would take turns doing an activity. One group found a flower to sit near in a native pollinator garden, and did a quiet observation of any visiting insects. The other group dressed in the kid-sized beekeeper suits and visited the hives. Can you guess which activity kids were more excited for?

kids and bees
A dead drone (male) bee

Kids who were scared of bees without a suit were fearless wearing a suit. They were excited to listen to the beekeeper and interact with the hives. They got to hold bees in their hand, observe them closely, and learn all sorts of cool facts. Such as:

  • Boy bees don’t sting.
  • Girl bees have a stinger because when they were not chosen to be the queen, their egg tube turns into the stinger. (I feel like this is a whole mood.)
  • Girl bees kick the boy bees out of the hive as it starts to get cold.

It was really fun seeing kids be able to get up close and personal with bees. It’s a hands-on learning experience they’ll remember forever. If you ever have a chance to take a class or your own kiddos to an apiary – do it!!

Root for Gardens

We're right in the middle of our back-to-school-gardens fundraiser and we need your help!

root for gardens tshirtAs a non-profit organization, we rely on support from our partners, sponsors, and friends just like you to help us fulfill our mission of creating opportunities for kids to play, learn, and grow through gardening.

This fall, we launched our Root for Gardens t-shirt to raise much needed funds to support our free original educational resources.

The shirts come in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes so you're sure to find one that you'll love. There are even kid sizes! We're really excited about it, and we hope you are too.

Want a few more reasons to go ahead and hit "purchase?"

  • You'll be the best-dressed gardener at your harvest celebration, regional conference, or garden work day!
  • Look good and feel good about doing good!
  • Everyone needs a shirt with carrots. Even if you already own one, get this one to wear while the other is in the wash!
  • Your support really does make a huge difference to KidsGardening, and to the parents, educators, and families we serve.

Don't delay! The shirts are limited-edition, and there is less than a week left in the fundraiser. After you order your favorite color, share the campaign with your friends and family!

Summer Photo Contest Winners

photo contest

We just finished our Summer Photo Contest and we were overwhelmed with fantastic entries. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - thank you to every parent, educator, summer camp counselor, grandparent, second-cousin-twice-removed, and caregiver who takes the time to garden with kids. It's powerful, and it makes a difference in their lives. If I saw you in real life, I'd love to give you a hug.

We received so many excellent entries (372 to be exact), and it was SO hard to pick winners. I wanted to share just a few here, but you can see even more on our Photo Contest Winner page, and we'll be sharing them across social media as well.

[Header image: "Fuzzy caterpillar face," photo by Lexie. I love how kids notice the best details! Lexie captured a great view of this creature's face, which looks incredibly like a Muppet.]

Cooperation

These two are almost too much cuteness in one photo. What I really love about it is how capable these two are! They are trusted with watering the garden (an essential task!) and they are cooperating to get the job done. The garden is a beautiful place to practice cooperation skills. And trusting little ones to do hard things can be challenging as a parent/teacher/caregiver!

Photo Contest
"Time to water our garden! Vivian and Onyx, both almost three years old, are sharing the hose to fill up their watering can." Submitted by Liz.

Let them be messy

Look at those little hands, working hard to create seed balls for pollinators! Getting in the garden can be messy. It's also a fantastic sensory experience, and totally worth it. You've got to help kiddos clean up their own bodies, the tables, the floor, the wall, the ceiling. Sunhats off to all the grown-ups not afraid of a mess!

kids photo contest
Pollinator balls in the making at Glastonbury East Hartford Magnet School in Glastonbury, CT.

Same, my friend

Raise your hand if that's how you feel after an evening in the garden?! Yep, me too. Harvest time is great, but man am I tired!

photo contest
This is my son Ethan who joins me at the community garden working quite a bit. This evening he just couldn't resist a snooze. Photo submitted by Emily.