Sunday, March 15, 2009


(I included pictures of some of our neat visitors. These were taken 2 years ago.)

Yes, I meant to spell it that way. Gardening is a great teaching tool. One thing kids can learn is how vegetables and other plants grow. Let them prepare the soil, plant seeds, water, pull weeds, harvest the crops. Depending on their ages, you may need to help with some steps. You could even give them their own garden space and let them decide what they want to plant and where they want to plant it. (Tiger Swallowtail to the right)

Olivia likes to plant seeds, but not all of them are big enough for her little fingers to handle. So I let her plant the big seeds and I do the little ones. Sometimes I let her try the little ones, too. Sunflower, borage, nasturtium, and squash seeds are big enough for little kids to plant, as are peas, beans, and potatoes. Radishes, cucumbers, zinnias, and marigolds are great for children because they germinate quickly. Lettuce and basil also germinate quickly but have tiny seeds. (Zebra Swallowtail - really hard to photograph!)

If you plant some flowers, you can watch for caterpillars, butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. We had lots of butterflies and bees around our zinnias, sunflowers, and lantana (buy lantana as a bush). What better way for kids to learn about the life cycle of butterflies than by watching it? Have the kids see if they can identify the butterflies. They can look for caterpillars and may be able to find some cacoons. If you find a cacoon, put it in a jar with a lid and airholes and watch the butterfly emerge. (Giant Swallowtail)

Here are a few other things you can do...
1. Build a bean teepee. Make a teepee with cane poles. Run some twine horizontally around the poles, leaving a door, to make a "web" for the beans to climb. (I'll see about getting a picture.) Plant your beans around the base of the teepee. Watch them grow!
2. Grow a sunflower house. Plant your seeds in a square (or other shape), leaving a door. When the sunflowers grow you'll have a house.
3. Eat the veggies! Don't forget the sunflower seeds. Also, some flowers are edible (nasturtiums, borage, and squash blossoms to name a few). Use herbs for seasoning and teas.

Bee on a sunflower

American Lady and Spicebush Swallowtail

Below are pictures of the gulf fritillary and its caterpillar. The passionflower, an interesting-looking plant, is its only larval food plant.

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