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Home Gardening Activities for the Whole Family

Finding indoor gardening-related activities can be daunting, And, it’s even more of a challenge for parents whose kids were part of a school garden program with schools closed until the fall. To help, GCG has compiled some of our favorite indoor gardening activities for the whole family! Our Education and Programs Manager, Caitie (who is working from home with her adorable 18 month old daughter Julia), has compiled some GCG favorites for indoor gardening activities for the whole family. Here are some of our recommended activities for all ages.

planting activities that can be done at home with everyday materials.

SEED TAPE

picture from www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com

Making seed tape is a fun, meditative activity that helps you plan out your garden. Not only does seed tape make for orderly rows of plants, it can help seeds from being washed away or washed too deeply into the soil when they are first watered or during spring rains.

  1. Cut strips of newspaper about 1 inch wide. You can also use toilet paper, white streamers, or any other kind of lightweight recycled paper.
  2. There are a couple of ways you can make a simple glue to help your seeds stay in place. You can mix flour and water to make a glue paste the consistency of thick gravy. Or, you can mix one cup of water and one Tbs of cornstarch and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture starts to boil and gel. Elmer’s glue will work as well.
  3. Use a Q-tip or paint brush to dot the paper strip with your glue. Consult seed packets or a seed catalogue to find out the right distance apart to make your dots for the type of seed you’re planting. This can be a great opportunity to practice measurement skills! For example, if seeds are to be spaced 1 inch apart, your child can use a ruler and mark one-inch increments as a guide for where to dab glue.
  4. Place a seed on each dot and set the strip aside to dry.
  5. Plant seed-side up and cover with soil to the depth indicated on your seed packet or GCG rule of thumb.
  6. Water and wait!

GCG Rule of thumb – Planting depth depends on the size of the seed. General rule of thumb is to plant a seed about as deep as it is large.

Mini Egg Carton Greenhouses

It’s fun to figure out how to reuse all kinds of containers and turn them into pots. One of our favorites are plastic egg cartons. Seeds have needs! You and your mini greenhouse can provide for a seed’s germination needs of water, soil, warmth, and sun by following these steps:

Water

Plants need water through all phases in their lifecycle, but not too much! Use a thumb tack to make several holes in the bottom of each egg well. It’s important for water to drain out the bottom of a pot so that roots aren’t sitting in pooled water. Roots need to take in water, but they also need to breathe air! Old baking sheets and containers like takeout tops make good trays to catch water underneath your mini greenhouse. Water gently with a spray bottle or spoon water into the wells.

Soil

Use potting soil or seed starter mixes that are lightweight and hold onto moisture. Make sure your soil is moist. This means when you squeeze a handful of soil it holds together because there is some water in it, but crumbles a little when you let go. It’s not sopping wet and doesn’t drip. Monitor every day.

Planting number and depth

The egg carton wells are small. Depending on the size of the seed, plant 1 to 3 seeds per well. You can plant more, especially of smaller seeds, and thin them to 1 to 2 seedlings. Planting depth depends on the size of the seed. The GCG general rule of thumb is to plant a seed about as deep as it is large. You can also read seed packet or seed catalogue directions to learn how deep to plant your seeds. Label your mini greenhouse by writing varieties in sharpie directly on the plastic or make a key on a piece of paper. It’s great to write the date you sowed the seeds as well!

Warmth

Seeds do well if their environment is warm and moist during germination. After planting your seeds, close the lid but monitor each day to see how you need to adjust the top of your greenhouse to allow for proper ventilation. Use a loose rubber band or pinch the egg carton closed in the middle. Heavy condensation is a sign that more ventilation is needed. If you see condensation, open the lid a little more. In general, while seeds are germinating it’s good to have your greenhouse in a warm place in your house. For most seeds, this doesn’t need to be in the sun.

Sun

Once your seeds have germinated, place your mini greenhouse strategically by a window. A south facing window with 6-8 hours a day is ideal. If you don’t have this, that’s okay. Use what you have.

Transplanting Time

May 15 is generally a safe time to plant outside since the danger of frost in New England has past. “Harden off” seedlings by leaving them outside in a sheltered place for 2-3 days before you plant them in the ground. Don’t forget about them outside and take them in at night! When it’s time to plant, squeeze the bottom of wells to loosen the soil plug. The plug should somewhat maintain the egg carton shape. If it all falls apart it may be a little too early to take them out. Roots may not have had a chance to develop. Are you seeing roots up against the plastic? It’s time to plant! Don’t let your seedlings get rootbound.

Making Your Own Newspaper Pots

  1. Find an empty glass jar. Take off the lid if it has one.
  2. Cut a full spread of newspaper in half down the center seam. Fold one piece in half lengthwise and give it a good crease.
  3. Roll your jar so that the edge of the newspaper is about ¾ inch up from the bottom the jar. Roll the newspaper all the way around the jar.
  4. Newspaper will circle up above jar’s mouth. Scrunch this newspaper down into the jar.
  5. Pull the newspaper pot off of the jar.
  6. Make a fist and squish the newspaper down inside the pot with the front of your fist.

POLLINATION ACTIVITIES

April, May, and June are a great time to get out and observe the different types of flowers that are blooming at any point in time. It’s also time to keep your eyes out for pollinators, like bees. Flower dissection teaches the parts of the flower and how pollination happens. A Flower scavenger hunt is a great way to appreciate all of the different and beautiful forms flowers take right in your neighborhood and identify the parts of these flowers. You get to act like a bee in the Waggle Dance game while learning how bees communicate.

FLOWER DISSECTION

Dissect a flower. Draw and label the flower parts.

What are the parts of a flower?

Note the anther (male part with pollen at the tip) and pistil (female part the includes the stigma which is the opening leading own to the ovary that contains the ovules).

What is pollination?

During pollination, an insect rubs against a flower’s anther while it is sipping a flower’s nectar. The pollen sticks to the insect and, without knowing, the insect carries the pollen in its travels and rubs it against the stigma of flowers on the same or different plants. Pollen travels down the style to the ovary and can fertilize the ovule leading it to develop into a fruit whole seeds can germinate into a new plant (plant reproduction)!

FLOWER SCAVENGER HUNT

Go out in search of flowers and you will be amazed at how many you find! Challenge yourself to look for the smallest flowers. For example, a head of grass in early June holds small, exquisite flowers that are easily overlooked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Materials

A collection cup

Magnifying glass

Tips

  •   Take only one individual flower of large composite flowers, such as rhododendron.
  • In many cases it may not be appropriate to pick a flower that you find. It might be in someone else’s yard or there are less than ten of a kind. In these cases, appreciate from afar, gently look inside to see flower anatomy, or take a picture.
  • Count up how many different flowers you have found and share them with your family.
  •  You could identify the flowers with an i.d. guide.
  •  Press flowers between sheets of heavy paper tucked into the pages of a heavy book.

WAGGLE DANCE

Bees need a lot of nectar and pollen to feed the bees in their hive. Bees get nectar and pollen from flowers. When a bee finds flowers, she goes back to her hive to let other bees know where to find them. She communicates the location of the flowers through how she moves her body in the Waggle Dance! Have fun imagining what it’s like to be a bee in this hide-and-seek dancing game. This game can be played by two or more players.

Materials

A flower or something to symbolize a flower (for ex., a ribbon)

Background

In the Waggle Dance, a bee runs straight ahead for a short distance and returns in a semicircle to the starting point. She runs through the straight stretch again and returns in a semicircle in the opposite direction. The dance follows a figure-eight pattern. During the straight stretch, the bee moves the back end of her body and buzzes as she goes. The direction of the straight stretch tells the direction of the flower. The farther the target, the slower the waggle dance. For example: in 15 seconds, the bee may complete 8 to 9 figure eights for a food source 200 meters away, 4 to 5 figure eights for a food source around 1000 meters away, and only 3 figure eights for a food source 2000 meters away. The farther the flower patch lies from the hive, the longer the dance lasts. A bee communicates how good the flowers are as a food source by how excited she is. When excited she will flutter her wings to produce a vibration sound.

How to play

Steps

  1. Pick your hive space in a room or outdoor area.
  2. One person, the “scout bee,” secretly hides the flower or flower symbol.
  3. The “scout bee” flies back to the hive and does the Waggle Dance by following these dance steps:
  4. Face the direction of the flower.
  5. Waggle-walk while taking a few steps in the direction of the flower. The speed at which you waggle your bottom tells how far away the flower is. Waggle fast if the flower is close.
  6. Circle to the right back to your starting place.
  7. Waggle-walk again in the direction of the flower.
  8. This time circle to the left back to your starting place.
  9. That’s one waggle dance.
  10. The other bees then “fly” off to find the flower.
  11. Once the flower is found, pick a new “scout bee” to hide the flower and start dancing!

Happy Growing!


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