If you’re looking for a great way to encourage healthy eating habits, recycling, or time together as a family, gardening is a great way to do it all! This time of year you can find almost any store selling seeds, pots, potting soil, and other garden products, many of them for very little cost. An added bonus: with a little creativity, the planters can be practically free!
Recycling is a great message for our children today. Everyday Americans produce an average of 4.43 lbs or more of garbage per person. Using items like plastic containers that cannot be recycled, metal cans, or even old dishes can be a great way to create fun planters while also reducing the amount of trash your family places in the bin.
Create your own self-watering planter out of a plastic two liter or one liter bottle for smaller plants like herbs that can be set in a sunny window. Plastic bottles can also be a creative outlet for your children to design their own planter with recycled materials. This activity is also a great science experiment to see the roots grow if you use clear bottles.
Recycling newspaper for starter pots is another way to use a household product for a creative and inexpensive gardening opportunity. Newspaper is bio-degradable so you can plant it directly in the ground after your plants get far enough along to be replanted. This can help prevent shock to the plant during the transfer from the indoors to your garden outside. You can even make a planter out of a toilet paper roll, another bio-degradable option!
Encouraging healthy eating can be a challenge, especially with so many sugary and salty snacks within reach, however getting children invested in the garden as a family activity is a great way to get the veggies on their plates. Whether you grow veggies from seeds or you buy plants that have been propagated at the store, get your children involved. Let your children pick some of the seed packets they want to plant, or pick the plants that they think look the best for your garden.
Spend time watering your plants together, pulling weeds, and investigate new stages in the growth of your plants such as first leaves, flowers, visits from pollinators, and fruit development. By the time your vegetables are ready to harvest your children will be excited to pick them and chances are, try them for dinner.
It can be hard to wait for results, but there are some seeds that will sprout quickly like squash, zucchini, pumpkin, beans, peas, corn, and sunflowers which can produce some pretty impressive results for your family. These seeds also tend to be a little larger in size which makes for easier planting with little hands.
All of the plants mentioned above would do best in a larger outdoor space if you plan to actually harvest any veggies. If you are working indoors or in pots outside you may want to consider purchasing starter plants for quick results, or just be willing to give seeds of smaller plants like lettuce, spinach, and herbs some time to really get going.
To save on the budget here are a few tips for planting season:
1. Catch the end of year sales on seeds, pots, and other garden accessories. If you can plan ahead for the next year and purchase your seeds when they go to 50% off or more you can get a pretty nice collection of goodies for next spring. Most of the seeds that are packaged for this year will still be good 6 months to a year from now when you are ready to start again. Also start your seeds indoors earlier in the spring so by the time your planting date comes around you have a head start without paying the $2.50-$3 or more per plant for starters. The planting date for Hampton Roads is April 15th.
2. Go in with friends and divide the seeds if you only need a few. Most seed packets come with a lot more seeds than you actually need to plant. Have a planting party for your friends and their families to all bring a couple things and share with the group. This gives everyone a good variety without wasting seeds, potting soil, or money.
3. If you are using large pots fill the bottom half of the pots with leftover plastic bags or bottles. This will keep the pots lighter, therefore easier to move if needed, and will also require you to spend less money on potting soil which can get expensive. Just be sure not to completely block the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot.
Happy Planting from the Norfolk Botanical Garden!
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