Outdoor gardening projects are a great way to spend quality time outdoors with your little ones while teaching them about the importance of nature and the virtue of patience. Read below for three different garden projects that will enrich your yard with colorful flowering plants, butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as yummy vegetables to be enjoyed as snacks.
With the fall season upon us, it is time to start thinking about planting bulbs so that your garden is in peak condition come spring. Planting bulbs that will grow into flowers including tulips, daffodils, paperwhites, crocus and hyacinths, is an excellent activity to do with your children, as kids of all ages can lend a helping hand at various steps along the way. It is up to you to decide where your child will be most helpful based on their age. Keep reading below to learn how you and your little ones can work together to prepare your garden’s spring blooms this fall season.
Before you start planting your bulbs, explain to your children what a plant bulb actually is. If you are unsure yourself, a plant bulb acts as the food storage for the plant so that over the winter months, the plant has an adequate food supply so that it can emerge from the soil in spring. These bulbs provide the plant with enough nutrients to last it for its first year in the soil. Additionally, teach your little ones why it is necessary to plant these bulbs in the fall months. As a refresher for you, spring flowering bulbs are planted in the fall months because they need to be situated snugly in the soil before winter weather freezes the ground. After you plant the bulb, it will begin developing its roots. After the bulb’s roots are in place, it will lay dormant for the majority of the winter months. As the weather warms up, the bulb will then use its stored energy to begin producing flowers and leaves. For most spring flowering bulbs, a little bit of cold weather is necessary for a successful bloom. If the bulbs that require these colder temperatures to bloom, such as crocus, are not exposed to colder temperatures, they may not flower when spring time rolls around.
Next, find a bulb catalog online to look through with your child. Allowing your child to choose which bulbs you will plant is a great way for them to feel more involved in this project. Before you choose which flowers you want to have in your garden this coming spring, make sure that your climate can adequately meet their growing needs. One way to find out if a plant will work well with your local climate is to check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This map was made to help gardeners figure out which plants will grow well in their garden based on the area in which they live.
Once you have determined which bulbs you will plant, it is time to take a tour of your garden to find a good spot to plant each bulb. Bulbs will thrive in sunny locations within soil that is well drained. If your garden does not have a location that is well suited for a bulb, you can always plant the bulbs in containers and place them in an area that is more suited for bulb growth.
It is time to purchase your bulbs. As you and your children shop for bulbs, there are a couple ways you can tell the healthy bulbs from those that may not grow as well. Look for bulbs that feel firm when you gently squeeze them. If a bulb feels squishy when you squeeze it, it is likely that the bulb was not stored properly or that it is dried out. It is worth mentioning that bulbs are poisonous if ingested by humans or animals, so if you are gardening with young children, use extra caution when shopping for your bulbs and make sure your child does not put the bulb in their mouth.
Now for the fun part! You and your children can start planting your bulbs. Most bulbs will come equipped with details about how to space them and how deep they should be planted in the soil. If your bulbs do not come with this information, you can always find it online. As a general rule, bulbs will prefer to be planted two to three times deep as they are tall. While temperatures are above freezing, make sure to water your bulbs and keep the ground moist. However, do not over water your bulbs. As mentioned, this is a crucial time for the bulbs as they establish their roots. If your bulbs receive too much water, they can rot and will not produce spring flowers.
After your bulbs are in the ground, it is time to wait for spring. If you think it will be helpful, make signs to place in the locations where your bulbs are planted so that you do not forget where they are in your garden. As spring approaches, you and your children can begin looking for the fruits of your fall labor.
2. Plant A Garden That Will Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds To Your Yard
Planting a butterfly garden with your children is not only beneficial for the beautiful flowers it will bring, but also the many butterflies that will be visiting your garden after your plants are in the soil. Because butterflies are attracted to brightly colored flowers that produce nectar, you will have the chance to add some color to your home’s landscape while teaching your children about the lifecycle of the butterfly. As an added bonus, hummingbirds might also be attracted to your butterfly garden, giving you and your children even more wildlife to enjoy in your beautiful yard. Read below for step by step instructions on how you and your little ones can plant the perfect butterfly garden.
First, find a location in your front or back yard which receives six to eight hours of sunlight. You will also want to find a spot that is sheltered from the wind. Because butterflies go into hiding at night, your butterfly garden should include or be planted near shrubs or small trees. This will also give them a place to attach while they are in their chrysalis, or transitional stage between caterpillar and butterfly.
When choosing flowers to plant in your butterfly garden, make sure the plants are well suited for your local climate. Your butterfly garden should not only include colorful flowering plants to attract the butterflies, but should also have leafy plants which will attract butterflies that are looking for a place to lay their eggs. One helpful tip is to always choose native plants for your butterfly garden, as these plants will entice butterflies that are native to your area.
As you and your children begin to choose plants, it is a good idea to choose a few different plant species that will bloom for the duration of the growing season. If your plants are blooming throughout the entire season, butterflies will be attracted to your garden for a longer period of time. A combination of annual and perennial plants will give your garden a better assortment of flowers when butterflies are most active between the middle and later months of summer. To make it easier for butterflies to find the flowers you plant, make sure to plant each type of flower in a group of at least three. Additionally, you can plant shrubs that produce flowers, as these plants will also attract butterflies to your garden. Some flowering shrubs include glossy abelia, lilac, summersweet, buttonbush, blueberry, mockorange, ninebark and spicebush. Along with providing food for the butterflies, these shrubs will also provide shelter.
Below are a couple examples of different species of butterflies that are native to Houston and the plants they prefer to enjoy as a food source:
If you want to attract adult Giant Swallowtail butterflies to your butterfly garden, you should plant Lantanas or orange trees. Lantana is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the verbena family. The flowers it produces range from vibrant red and yellow to delicate pastel pink and white. If you want to provide a host plant for Giant Swallowtail caterpillars, try planting citrus, hop tree, prickly ash or rue.
Adult Monarch butterflies are most attracted to milkweed, asters, red clover, zinnia, cosmos, lantana, pentas and daisy. These flowering plants will attract the adult Monarch butterfly to your garden as they provide nourishment for these garden visitors. To also provide a host for Monarch caterpillars, plant milkweed. Having plenty of host plants in your butterfly garden will help to ensure that caterpillars continue to feed and transform into butterflies right in your yard.
The adult Variegated Fritillary butterfly is drawn to flowering plants such as meadow flowers, hibiscus and flowers belonging to the composite family. Host plants for Variegated Fritillary caterpillars include violets, pansies, stonecrops and passionflowers. All of these flowers would be a beautiful addition to any garden.
Choose which flowers you like best and begin planting. After you and your children have finished planting all of the stunning flowering and host plants in your butterfly garden, you can make it a game to check for different species of butterflies each day!
3. Plant A Garden Full of Healthy and Delicious Snacks
There may be no better way to enjoy the fruits of your labor than by indulging in a fresh tomato or cucumber grown right in your back yard. As you and your children grow and tend to your vegetable garden, you can teach them the virtues of patience as well as the importance of connecting to and respecting the natural world. Keep reading for instructions about how you and your little ones can plant your very own vegetable garden.
Find the perfect location in your back yard for a vegetable garden. It is important that the location you decide to plant your garden receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day, is protected from pests, has soil that adequately drains and is situated near a water source. Because it is mostly up to you and your children which vegetables you would like to grow, the size of your snack garden can vary. If you do not have adequate space in your backyard or if you do not have a back yard at all, you can choose to grow your vegetable garden in a container on a sunny balcony.
Choose which vegetable you would like to grow. This is a good step to get your children involved, as they may want to choose which vegetables they would like to have for a snack once the vegetables are done growing. A few vegetables that make for good snacks and that can be grown easily in your garden are snap peas, carrots, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.
It is time to start tending to your snack garden. After you have planted your vegetables, make sure you are providing them with adequate water and weeding the garden regularly. You can find further information on how to tend to specific vegetables online or from an associate at your local garden center.
Harvest your newly grown vegetables. After you have harvested your vegetables, sit down with your children and discuss the different recipes you can make with the vegetables or ask your little ones how they would most prefer to eat the vegetables. It might be fun to look into different types of dips that go best with the particular vegetables you have grown.
All of us at Natran Green Pest Control hope that you and your family have fun completing these garden projects!