[Ed. note: this article is part of our series of weekly family activities called Family Fun, published on Fridays]
Believe it or not, it’s time to start your garden!
Kids are a lot like plant seedlings: small but fast-growing; fragile but strong; reminders of God’s grace and life’s important things; and in need of good care.
So what better activity to involve your kids in this weekend—when winter is saying its last goodbyes and spring its first hellos—than seed starting? Putting a seed in the dirt and nurturing its growth are some of the easiest and most delightful activities a young child can do, and the process of planting a seed, nourishing it with God’s simple provisions (soil, light, and water), and watching it flourish is a good learning experience for the whole family. It’s also a money saver—growing plants from seed is more economical than buying seedlings, and harvesting your own vegetables is priceless!
Here’s how to get started:
Starting a Garden from Seed
1. Pick your Players
- Using the gardening plan you have already created, decide how your garden will grow: Will you have flowers? Organic vegetables? Plants that will provide you with good salad greens (like lettuce and spinach), or plants that will please the tastebuds (like strawberries)? A yard full of native plants to attract wildlife?
- If your family is starting the gardening adventure for the first time, consider planting some simple, guaranteed-to-please plants like lettuce, basil, parsley, squash, or beans.
- Buy seeds at a local hardware store or nursery, and consider purchasing organic or heirloom seeds if you can. Organic seed is derived from plants that were grown without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and heirloom seed comes from plants that have been grown historically, but not used widely in modern agriculture. Growing heirloom plants helps preserve traditional plant strains.
2. Set the Stage
- Your seeds need a good home in which to start their sprouting, but you can be creative with this! Egg shells, egg cartons (when you’re ready to plant them, just snip them into their individual cups and plant each one directly in the ground!), old seed trays, and clean yogurt cups (poke a hole in the bottom of each to allow for drainage), and cups made out of newspaper (in the image below) can all be good incubators for your soon-to-be baby plants.
- Place these individual smaller containers in a larger tray. An old baking dish will do. Label your seeds according to type using Popsicle sticks or old plastic utensils.
- Fill each container about ¾ of the way with potting soil.
- Water the tray, not the individual containers, until the soil is soaked.
- Following the directions on the seed packets, place your seeds in the soil.
- If you like, stretch a strip of plastic cling wrap over the top of the container to create a little greenhouse around your plant and maintain the soil’s moisture. If you do this, you won’t need to water the seeds again until they have sprouted.
- The most important thing for your seeds at this point is warmth. Place them in a warm location as coziness, even more than light, is what they require when first planted.
- If you haven’t covered your seeds’ homes in plastic wrap, continue to water the tray around them so that they remain moist (don’t let the top of the soil dry out!), but never soaked.
3. Lights, Camera, Action!
- When your seeds begin to sprout into seedlings, remove the plastic wrap (if you’ve chosen to use it) and place the tray in a bright spot—a windowsill, sunny table top, or beneath a fluorescent light.
- Eventually you will need to thin your seedlings. When this time comes, follow the directions for this process on the back of your seed packets. But for now …
- Watch ‘em grow! The first leaves to appear on your baby plants are actually food storage cells called cotyledons. Watch for the true leaves to appear after these, and delight, along with the seeds’ Creator, at their flourishing.
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