By Bryn Huntpalmer
Visit Local Gardens for Inspiration
There are so many beautiful gardens to visit in the Boston area to get your kids excited about caring for their natural environment. The Public Garden sits on 24 acres and features an array of plants (some very unusual), a lagoon, and sculptures and water fountains. You can spend the entire day at the garden for free–though the swan boat rides are extra–exploring various plant life, enjoying a picnic, and feeding the ducks.
If you need a break from the heat this summer, check out one of Boston’s many indoor gardens. The Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses at Wellesley feature a diverse collection of plants (many food and spices) within sixteen interconnected greenhouses. A desert house contains cacti and succulents, allowing you to sneak in a little science lesson about how plants adapt to their environments. During the summer, the gardens are only open from 8am-4pm on weekdays, but this can be a great activity to do with kids who are home on summer break. While you’re there, don’t miss the Edible Ecosystem Teaching Garden to learn how to produce your own food bearing garden using sustainable practices.
Plan Out Your Garden Space
Most plants need a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight, so you’ll want to position your garden in an area that gets plenty of natural light. If you don’t have yard space, consider starting with a container garden. I love how these plastic bottles (from laundry detergent and soda bottles) have been re-purposed as planters that will certainly add a fun element to your garden that attracts your child’s attention. Creating these planters is also a fun craft project that you can do as a family–great project for a rainy summer day.
If you do have some yard space, consider building raised garden beds. Raised garden beds are great if you have poor quality soil — rocky, clay, or sandy — because you’ll control what kind of soil goes into it. These beds are relatively simple to build yourself, and you can add features to help increase drainage and to deter pests. Here is a tutorial to get you started.
Select Your Plants
Do you want to grow flowers, herbs, vegetables, or some combination? Better Homes and Gardens has a helpful list of the top 15 native plants of the northeast. In terms of vegetables, be realistic about what your family will actually eat in order to prevent food waste. For instance if you are growing tomatoes, know that each plant can produce 10-15 pounds worth of fruit throughout the season. Carrots, radishes, and corn only produce once a season though so you may want to plan space for a few more of those plants.
Add an Element of Whimsy
If you want your kids to take an active interest in the garden, you can assign them various responsibilities such as watering and weeding, but also think about adding fun elements to the garden that will make them feel like it is a space for them, too. I like these DIY garden mushrooms because they provide a nice space for your children to play or enjoy a picnic-style lunch.
Via Birds & Blooms
You can add fun outdoor games near the garden to encourage your kids to spend time outdoors, getting some fresh air and much needed vitamin D!
Via The Gardening Cook
Composting is a great way to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. It also spares you the expense of pricey fertilizers and prevents your harvest from being exposed to unknown chemicals. It’s also a great way to get your kids to help clear plates after meals. Teach them about what food scraps can go into the compost and if your kids are into the creepy crawly, maybe even start a worm compost.
For more tips and tricks, head to Modernize.com.