In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
July, 2005
Regional Report

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Egg people are cheerful companions and easy to make.

Share the Joy of Gardening with Kids!

It seems that every elementary school has a garden program these days. Alice Waters, the Berkeley guru of California cuisine, has initiated a popular planting program where children plant seeds, water them and watch them grow, then plant them in a garden bed to mature and ripen.

My idea of gardening with kids is to give them a big pile of dirt and let them go wild. Provide trowels and buckets and let them get as dirty as they like. If you feel that children need more supervision, here is an easy project that will teach responsibility and patience.

If your kitchen is like mine, things come to life in the pantry all on their own, either through neglect or lack of use. Once old potatoes begin to sprout, cut off a few inches of the sprouted end. Stick a few toothpicks in the cut portion of the sprouted potato to support it over a glass jar full of water. Place the cut side facing down so that it has contact with the water, then place the jar in a sunny location. The next thing you know, potato vines will be growing here, there, and everywhere!

Sprouting Veggies
The planting technique used for potatoes is the same for sprouting avocado seeds. Just remember to keep the water level topped off so that it does not drop below the level of the potato or avocado seed. The watering would be a good chore to delegate to the children since it would be an easy lesson in responsibility.

You can use the same method for planting carrot tops. This project won't work if you use peeled and prepared carrots. You need fresh carrots from the grocery store that still have the stub where the foliage use to grow. Cut off the top about 1 inch below where the foliage would have been. Set the cut tops into a shallow bowl of water so that the water just covers the base and allows the tops to stay dry. In a week or so, you will see some new growth. Once again, keep the water topped off so the carrots don't dry out.

Eggshell People
Another easy project that delights young and old gardeners alike is making eggshell people. You can use fresh eggshells or colored plastic Easter eggs.

To prepare the shell for fresh eggs, remove the top of the shell by tapping around the top gently with the blade of a sharp kitchen knife. The egg should break clean at that point so you will have deep shells perfect for planting. Rinse the shells with fresh water and allow them to dry for a day or so. Fill the clean shells with potting soil and sprinkle grass seed or any type of small seed on the surface of the soil. Mist the egg people each day to water. In a very few days, the grass seed will sprout and begin to grow. Once the "hair" is growing lush and rampant, you can decorate the faces with crayons, felt tip pens, or paint. Use pipe cleaners or paper cut outs to make glasses or silly neckties. Let the kids have free rein on creating the faces; who cares if the egg people have three eyes?

No matter what kind of project you decide on, do some type of gardening with children. Who knows, you may be tutoring the next Luther Burbank!


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