There are a lots of fun ways to motivate children to become active gardeners. Gardening should not be viewed as a chore but rather as a creative and exciting project. I am recommending several proven ways to get your kids involved in making a purposeful garden this summer.
Take a field trip to the herb and vegetable section of a garden nursery. Let the child choose the plants – with some input from you, of course. Children often pick familiar plants to them like strawberries and pumpkins. I suggest trying a theme garden. How about a pizza garden? Make it in a large container and plant it with tomatoes, oregano, basil, and other Italian herbs. Also, fragrant plants appeal to children so I suggest chocolate or rose scented geraniums, lemon verbena, and lavender. All these plants can be harvested and used fresh or dried for their fragrance or flavor. Plants with interesting texture are often fascinating to kids. Try lamb’s ears, also known as “bandaid plant” (Stachys byzantina). The children will love the soft, furry leaves that feel like bunny ears and which can be wrapped around a small cut to stop bleeding!
Try making a mini-farm by using a flat container with drainage and filled with potting soil. Level the soil and make small rows, place the seeds in your rows and cover lightly. Keep the soil moist but not wet. Soon the seedlings will emerge much to the child’s delight. It’s a good idea to use vegetables that the child likes to eat such as carrots and lettuce. Some plants, other than the lettuce, will get too large and eventually need to be planted in another container or in the ground. Not surprisingly, a child might be willing to try eating some unusual or new vegetables if you try this project.
If you have a cat, be sure to grow catnip plants! Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is easy to grow as long as it has nutritious soil and full sun. I suggest you grow some of the more beautiful varieties of catnip such as ‘Walker’s Low’ which is a gorgeous perennial. The leaves and stems of catnip contain a compound which stimulates special receptors that detect pheromones. To a cat, these produce a sense of euphoria so you might find your cat lounging ecstatically among the catnip plants. The leaves of catnip can be cut and dried and then used to make catnip-stuffed toys for your pet.
An easy and rewarding project for the whole family is creating a butterfly cafe in your garden. Find a location with full sun and good drainage. For immediate results, I recommend using long blooming annuals. Butterflies love nectar-producing flowers, especially those with red, yellow, orange, pink or purple blossoms. The following list would be excellent choices for your butterfly garden:
Blue salvia (mealycup sage)/Salvia farinacea
Spider flower/Cleome spp.
Mexican sunflower/Tithonia rotundifolia
I guarantee that if you plant a garden or container with a few of these long bloomers, you will have an abundance of butterflies throughout the summer!