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Planting our garden

I am not a gardener. Growing up, I remember my mom spending seemingly endless hours taking care of her plants, especially in the summer. It seemed like drudgery to me. Dirty, sweaty work and all you got in exchange was a few lousy flowers. Um, no thanks.

But my perspective has changed a little now that I’m older. I still have no desire to be outside pulling weeds or mowing the lawn. But I am excited to garden with our son — to be outside with him digging things up, planting seeds, watering, watching things grow and finally enjoying the fruit of our efforts.

On a practical level, I’m also hoping to cut down our grocery costs a little by growing some of our own organic fruits, vegetables and herbs. Besides the economic benefits, I’m also looking forward to just having better tasting food. I have yet to taste a tomato from a grocery store that actually tastes like a tomato should.

To kick off the start of our garden, I decided to do some activities related to gardening this weekend with our son. For our guidebook, I relied on Seeds! Seeds! Seeds!. I had picked up this book recently at our library and immediately decided that doing some of the activities in it with our son would be fun. I read passages from the book out loud to our son as we completed each activity.

Our First Garden

In the book, Buddy’s Grandpa sends him five bags with different activities related to seeds in them. The first activity involves sorting seeds and gluing them to a piece of sturdy paper. This is the start of Buddy’s “seed collection,” which he continues to add to throughout the book as he finds other seeds.

The little man adds some color to our seed collection.

Rather than starting a seed collection, I decided to use the same concept but glue the seeds of what we are planting in our first garden. Because many of our seeds are small and hard to distinguish, I did not attempt to have my son sort them. Instead I poured a few of the seeds from each of our seed packets into my hand and we glued them onto our paper by their label (he had fun with the glue stick). When we had all of our seeds glued, I counted them out loud for him.

We are growing sunflowers, cilantro, lettuce, sweet peppers, black eggplant, cilantro and shell peas. I got all of these seeds last year through Seeds of Change’s Sowing Millions Project, when they were offering 25 organic seed packets for $4.99. (We’ll also be planting tomatoes, but I’m not attempting to grow those from seeds.)

The Plant Life Cycle

The next activity involved the life cycle of plants. Buddy’s Grandpa had made cards for Buddy showing each stage of the cycle for Buddy to put in order.

I scanned the pages of the book with the cards and made copies for us, printed them out and cut them. (You can also find free downloads with lifecycles of a pumpkin and an apple, plus other botany materials, at Montessori for Everyone.) As I explained the life cycle of a plant to my son, we glued the life cycle cards in order onto our piece of paper beneath our seeds.

Sunflower seeds

Montessori MondayNext, Buddy’s Grandpa gives him a small plastic bird feeder and two plastic baggies of sunflower seeds — one with the hard shells to feed the birds and another without the shells (and toasted) for Buddy to eat.

I put the two types of sunflower seeds into bowls and explained the differences to our son. He jumped into eating his sunflower seeds right away! Then I showed him the bird feeder and the bag of bird seeds. I started spooning the seeds into the bird feeder, and then let him try to do it. We ended up with quite a few seeds on our kitchen floor before I decided to move this activity outside. Then, we hung up our bird feeder in one of our trees in the backyard. So far, it does not appear that we’ve had any visitors.

Beans are seeds, too

The next activity simply involved gluing different beans onto a frame. I used a wooden frame I had received as a gift and a bean soup mix I picked up at the grocery store, since we don’t eat beans. Then I spread glue all over the frame, and the little man and I glued the beans to the frame.

Growing grass

grass manThe final activity involves making your own Chia pet of sorts. To do this, I cut out some simple shapes from construction paper (two blue almond shapes for eyes, a red heart for a mouth and two brown semi-circles for ears) and taped them onto an old glass jar that we had.

Then, my son and I used his shovel to fill the jar with potting soil. When it was full, we sprinkled the seeds over the top and I covered them up with a little soil. Then, we watered them.

My hope is to have our son water this little jar in the coming weeks to involve him in the growing process.

Starting our garden

After all of these activities, it was time to do some more planting. We started with our sunflowers. I had already cleared out one of our garden beds so we dug holes to plant the seeds. Then, we covered them with compost (our little guy had fun with this part) and watered them. We planted the rest of our seeds in paper egg cartons.

My hope is that over the spring and summer going out to our garden will become a regular family activity. I’m hoping our son will get a full sense of the cycle of life, as we use our table scraps to make compost, which fertilizes the plants that we’re growing, which we’ll then either eat or compost, starting the cycle again. I think our son will have fun composting (he already enjoys feeding “Duke,” our nickname for our composter, which we named after our dearly departed bulldog), fertilizing the garden, pulling weeds (he’s already good at this one, too), watering the plants, picking our tomatoes and veggies, and, of course, eating them. I have no doubt that he’ll enjoy eating them actually! We all will.

Are you planting a garden this year? What are you planting?

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2 Responses to Planting our garden

  1. I’m chuckling at the fact that you’ve named your composter “Duke.” :-)

    I too am not a gardener, but I every year finds me trying just a little bit harder. This year I’m going to try to grow some asparagus (for harvest in 2013).

    And thinking that it’s just a matter of time before you’re keeping chickens. :-)

    Glad that you’re posting this all on your blog – it really is informative and helpful!!

    • Thanks, Hannia. We would love to keep chickens! I just don’t think we have the space for it where we’re at right now.

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