Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life
Introduce the “Little Sprouts” to Gardening

Introduce the "Little
Sprouts" to Gardening
Enjoy the fascinating
experience of watching
a plant grow from
a seed

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Children (and adults, as well) are fascinated by magic and the late winter/early spring months are an ideal time to introduce your children to the magic of gardening. There is no need to live on a farm to enjoy the fascinating experience of watching a plant grow from seed.

Peat pellets are readily available and are a quick, no-mess medium in which to start germinating seeds. Kids will be fascinated watching the dried peat pellets swell to many times their original size with the addition of water. Sets are even available with plastic trays and covers which serve as a miniature greenhouse for starting seeds. Another option is to recycle plastic take out containers with raised plastic lids. Filled with rich potting soil and moistened, they become a quick, inexpensive substitute for a greenhouse.

Make sure your soil is damp and follow planting instructions on the chosen seed packet. After the seeds are planted and covered with soil, cover with a plastic cover to keep warmth and moisture in (both are vital to create an environment suitable for the seed to sprout). Choose a sunny, warm location for germination. Most seeds will sprout and break through the soil surface in 7-10 days.

Once seeds have sprouted remove the plastic top and keep the soil moist. After a few weeks of growth, you will want to thin the seedlings to allow room for strong plant and root development. Use scissors to trim the unwanted plants away—do not pull plants out, this will disturb the roots of the plants you leave and inhibit their growth. When the second set of leaves appear, the seedlings are usually large enough to transplant to larger cups or individual peat pots.

Before the new plants are given their permanent home outside in the spring, they will need to "harden off". This is done by slowly introducing them to cooler temperatures and direct sunlight over a period of about a week. Direct sunlight can "burn" the tender leaves so begin exposure at one hour and increase an additional hour each day.

If you don’t have room for a garden, plants make nice additions in hanging planters, window boxes, large planters on decks or even indoors depending upon the variety. If you have the space, you may want to designate a small location in your yard that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight for a small garden for your child. Just a few plants like cherry tomatoes, radishes or maybe some flowers will teach your little one where food comes from and show them some of the "magic" of nature.

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