By Kathy Frederickson, Hennepin County Master Gardener
You want to introduce your child to the joys and process of growing and gardening, but where do you start?
Start here and now.
There are only about three challenges ahead that you need to meet:
- Do you have a sunny window ledge or table?
- Do you have a clear, clean liter-sized soda bottle?
- Do you have some good dirt?
If you do, you have the foundation for your child to grow something. The soda bottle will be your planter – you’ll cut it across its width about a third of the way up and slit up the side. The top part will act as a small greenhouse and the bottom will be used from seed planting to its juvenile stage. A good tutorial is found here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Pop-Bottle-Greenhouse/ (It shows the seedlings in eggshells to start, which you certainly can do, but planting directly into the soda bottle is easier).
Now, what to plant? If you have access to a sunny place outdoors, decide where you will grow your seedlings before acquiring the seeds. You CAN just grow something on that sunny living room ledge – OR – if you have a sunny space outside, your choice might be fast-growing green beans or lettuce. Marigolds and sunflowers are easy flowers to grow outside, too.
If they’ll stay indoors on that ledge, try basil. It is an herb used fresh when torn into pieces and placed on top of pizzas or in pastas. Seeds are readily available at your local garden stores or even in the grocery store. A packet would be adequate for a whole classroom of plants and will cost only $2.50 or less. You’ll only need a few seeds, so share them with friends!
How to Plant
- Place about an inch of rocks of any size in the bottle bottom.
- Place a couple of inches of garden soil (borrow a cup from a neighbor!)
- Dampen the soil slightly with water
- Grab a pencil. Your child will poke about 5 holes into the dirt – just a half of a pencil eraser deep.
- Drop a seed in each hole and gently push the dirt back on top of the seed.
- Gently dampen the soil again.
- Place the bottle top on the bottom, set on that sunny table or ledge and wait.
In Minnesota, wait until June to plant the seeds directly into the soil outside. You will have to wait 30-60 days to harvest by snipping the leaves.
Keeping the soil damp but not wet is key. If you stick a pencil into the dirt and the dirt clings to it you can wait another day to water. Some kids find it fun to make a journal of growth observations to mark the milestones of seedling emergence. While you are waiting the days to sprouting, have a look at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/Garden/ and use it to explore the wonderful world of gardening possibilities!