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Publication: Garden Guides
Gardening Can Be Child's Play

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                 GardenGuides Newsletter 
                   September 26, 2006

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Using Manure in your Flowerbeds

Animal manure is not only a good fertilizer, but also helps 
to condition the soil. Here are some guidelines for using 
manure in the garden:

* Don't use dog or cat manure. These manures often carry 
diseases that can be spread to children. 

* Never use fresh manure, since it contains soluble nitrogen 
compounds and ammonia that can burn plants and interfere 
with seed germination. Manure that is well-composted or has 
aged for about six months is best. When added to the compost 
pile, manure will speed the composting process. 

* Manure tea can be added to the garden for periodic feed-
ings, or diluted and used every time you water your garden. 
Do not allow undiluted manure tea to come into direct contact
with foliage. To make manure tea, simply place a shovel or 
two of manure in a large container filled with water, and 
after a week or so, strain out the manure. To make the 
straining process a little easier, you can tie the manure in 
a burlap bag before placing it in the water. 

* Horse manure may contain a good many weed seeds, so 
compost it in a hot compost pile before adding it to your 

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Gardening Can Be Child's Play
by Georgiana Marshen 

Take a moment and think back to when you were a child. 
Remember when you saw an earthworm poke itself out of the 
ground and the caterpillar eating your mother's parsley. Or 
the day you pulled out your first carrot. Remember collect-
ing beetles and putting them in a jar and finding the water-
melon hiding underneath its own leaves. 

Ah, to be young and innocent again. Planning a garden with 
a child in mind, whether the child is your own, a niece or 
nephew, neighbors or a scout troop, gives you the 
opportunity to be a child again. In these days of high 
stress jobs and everything needing to be exactly so, we 
could all use a little diversion. Oh, the kids will enjoy 
this too! No exacts, just plain old fun. 

Start a child on his or her way to gardening magic by giving 
them an area they can call their own. A plot size approx-
imately 2' x 4' is large enough for a child to handle. Let 
them know this is their garden to do anything they want and 
that you are there only as a helper. Getting the soil ready 
is important for successful growth. A pH test kit, available 
in most garden centers, can be fun to use. 

Everything you will need is included in the kit. Arm your 
gardener with a spoon and go around the garden area collect-
ing soil samples. Put the soil in the tube that comes with 
the kit; add the pellets, which are also provided, and some 
water. Have the child shake the tube according to the 
directions and watch the soil color change. Help them 
compare the color in the tube to the color on the chart to
see what the pH of the soil is. Make any adjustments, if 

Figuring out what to grow is just as much fun as actually 
planting. Supply your novice gardener with graph paper, 
pencils and some seed catalogues. Put their drawing skills 
to work by having them sketch out their garden box. Let 
them pick out what they would like to grow and mark those 
areas on the graph paper. You may have to carefully convince 
them that radishes would be a much better choice than the 
Bird of Paradise. 

You want them to succeed and planting easy crops is a sure 
bet for success. Easter Egg Radishes, Jack-Be-Little 
Pumpkins, Zucchini, Mammoth Sunflowers and Scarlet Runner 
Beans are just a few easy vegetables to try. Cosmos, Zinnias, 
Bachelor Buttons, Pot Marigolds and Snapdragons are brightly 
colored flowers that are easy to grow as well. The adult in 
the group will have a lot of fun with these selections too. 


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Kid sized tools that look just like yours will make them 
feel like real gardeners. Don't worry if you cannot provide 
them, using good old-fashioned spoons, forks, and shovels 
work just as well. Demonstrate how to prepare the soil for 
planting by tilling and adding compost. Have you ever gone 
on an earthworm hunt? Lay old sheets on the ground and wet 
them. Wait a couple of hours then lift the sheets. The 
earthworms will have come to the surface because of the 
moisture. Give your gardeners paper cups and have them 
collect as many earthworms as they can find. Add the worms 
to their garden, put some in yours too. Earthworms help 
aerate the soil. 

Children get very excited when they see things grow. Try 
this indoor seed-starting project. Take the lid off of a 
glass jar and line it with a damp paper towel. Put a few 
zucchini seeds in between the glass and the towel. Replace 
the lid and put the jar somewhere safe, like on the kitchen 
counter. Make sure to keep the towel moist and in a few days 
have the child check the jar. Watch their eyes light up with 
amazement when they look into the jar and see the seeds, 
burst open and growing. Starting seeds in the house can give 
them a head start in their garden. 

Before planting anything in the garden, explain how each 
plant needs enough space and water to grow, but don't get 
too technical, you will lose their interest. Have them bring 
out the graph paper drawing so they know what seed or plant 
is going to be planted where. Help them with the seeding, 
making sure that they do not plant the seeds too deep. Also 
have them plant the seeds in-groups, for example, beans next 
to radishes next to carrots. 

This will aid in identifying weeds later on because it is 
easier to see your seedlings; they will all be together. 
Children are impatient and can lose interest quickly. 
Having starter plants, such as tomatoes is a good idea, so 
the child doesn't have to wait 7 to 10 days for a seed to 
germinate. A daily check on the garden is a must. You 
wouldn't want them to miss the thrill of seeing the first 
bean seed breaking through the ground. 

Weeds are a common problem, whether in your garden or a 
child's garden. Have weed-plucking contests, however, teach 
them to be careful when digging. You don't want them to dig 
up their seeds or disturb the starter plants too much. 

Watering properly is very important. Teach your young 
gardener that too much water can be harmful to their plants. 
Make a rain gauge to help them keep track of how much rain 
fell. Use an old coffee can and help them mark off one-inch 
intervals with a permanent magic marker. Place the can in 
the garden. After a rain they can see how much rain fell on 
their garden. One inch of water a week is usually good for 
most plants. Have them water if not enough rainfall was 


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Bugs- the best part of a kids garden. Give them a jar and 
set them off on bug patrol. Have them pick off any bugs they 
find and put them into the jar. Later on, try and identify 
the bugs that were found. The local library has books on 
bugs, as do many bookstores.  

Harvesting the bounty, the best part of gardening. Make sure 
you have a basket available for the kids to use along with 
a good pair of scissors. Show them the difference between a 
tomato that is ready for picking, and one that is not. 
Carrots and radishes are always fun to pick. Show them how 
the carrot and radish tops push up out of the ground when 
they are ready to be picked. And don't forget to look for 
your jack-be-little pumpkins. They produce so many small 
pumpkins there will be plenty to go around. Purple beans 
are easy to find and fun to pick. 

Here are some project ideas to share with your young garden-
ers. Build a secret garden area in your main garden for kids 
to hide in. Make a tee pee out of bamboo stakes and plant 
morning glories or scarlet runner beans. Kids can sit inside 
the teepee for a quiet hide away. Supply them with ice cream 
sticks and crayons to make garden markers. If they have out-
grown their sneakers use them as interesting container 
gardens. Nail aprons found in most hardware stores, can be 
transformed into gardening aprons. 

Permanent ink markers can be used to create an apron to call 
their own. How about building a toad house. All you need is 
a terra-cotta flowerpot. Bury the pot half way, on its side, 
in a shady spot in your garden. Do not touch these pots once 
you have buried them. And don't forget to lay in a large 
supply of jars for all the caterpillars they find. Adding 
leaves and twigs to the jars will help encourage those 
caterpillars to cocoon and turn into beautiful butterflies. 
Now that is a sight to see. 

Dirt, water, bugs and watching plants grow. Just a few of 
the things that makes gardening fun for anyone. But a 
child's garden is a great place to share an adventure. 

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