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Getting your kids into gardening

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Summer is a great time to get the kids outside and learning about nature, especially when nature’s so close to home – the garden! Why not plant a tree, create a window box, start a vegetable garden or plant flowers in personalized container planters?

If you have a recently moved into a new home, planting a tree is a fantastic way to plant your roots (literally!) at your new address. It’s importance to do some research first, and be sure to involve the kids in this initial step. Find out what kind of soil you have at home, consider how much space you are working with and decide how big you want the tree to grow. Some trees will do well in cold Ontario winters and others are good for small to medium-sized backyards, including Newton Sentry Sugar Maple (12 metres height, spread of 2.5 metres), Single seed Hawthorn (10 by 4 metres), Pencil Point Common Juniper (10 by 1.5 metres)and Upright English Oak (15 by 5 metres).

If you don’t have the space for sprawling flowerbeds, container gardening is the way to go. Let your kids help choose the flowers. A good rule of thumb to think of when selecting flowers is this: you need a thriller, some fillers and a spiller. The thriller is your bold, centrepiece plant – purple fountain grass or large red coleus are good options. Next you need your fillers, those that will surround the thriller. Begonias, dusty miller or marigolds would work well. Your spiller is the plant that will eventually cascade over the edges of your container – sweet potato vine and verbena are good choices. Purchase a good quality potting mix and remember that container plants dry out very quickly on hot, sunny days. Let kids take on the responsibility of daily watering.

Finally, teaching children the basics of growing their own food is a lesson they won’t soon forget. Keep it simple and small to start and select a few vegetables they enjoy eating. Peppers, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce mixes and snap peas are good options. Choosing a spot for your garden is an important step – aim for full sun as veggies need 6-8 hours of sun per day. Ask an expert at your local garden centre for tips on perfecting the soil in your vegetable garden.

If you have a crafty kid at home, have them create DIY plant makers for your garden. Pick up plain, wooden paint stirrers at your local hardware store, paint them various colours and write the names of your vegetables or flowers on them. You could also find small, flat rocks, paint them bright colours and write the names on them.

Jennifer Birch

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