Gardeners often get the bug from messing around in the dirt as kids. You can encourage your kiddos' green thumbs with these easy projects that are sure to delight them.
*Get Creative with Containers
For your kids' indoor or outdoor starter garden, let them get creative choosing their own planters -- from big old toy trucks to metal lunch boxes to fun-shaped kiddie sandboxes to paddling pools. Clean store-bought vegetable cans are a great choice -- with the tops taken off and the sharp edges smoothed. Have the kids scavenge in the yard for small stones to layer in the bottom of the containers for drainage. Then they can get their hands dirty by putting in composting soil and pushing in bean seeds. Water every few days and watch your magic beans grow!
*Topsy-Turvy Recycle and Upcycle
This project comes from Sayward Rebhal, who blogs at BonzaiAphrodite.com. If you have a deck or porch but don't have a yard, you can grow tomatoes upside down in large empty water bottles. Cut the bottom off each container and pierce four holes, one on each side of the jug, and push twine or thick string through for hanging. Delicately feed the stems of a young tomato plant through the open bottleneck, and then fill the bottle with potting soil almost to the top. Clear containers are best so your kids can see the soil and spot the roots and stems growing down. Hang low so your little ones can easily reach them for watering.
*Grow Herbs on a Sponge
Indoor sponge gardens mean no messy soil. Have your kiddos pick some colorful kitchen sponges from the store. Then, for the container, they can choose a shallow tray, plastic storage tub or even a mug or old teapot. To get really creative, cut the sponges into shapes to make a design. Anything goes for the container. After soaking the sponges thoroughly in clean water, place on the tray or cut them to snuggly fit a creative container, such as a teapot. Have the kids sprinkle herb seeds of one kind onto each different sponge. If the seeds are larger, push them into the holes of the sponge. Next, cover with an upturned clear plastic container or (loosely) with plastic wrap. This helps the seeds germinate when kept in a warm location such as a sunny windowsill. Your kids will be delighted when they see the seedlings start to emerge. That's when they can remove the plastic and watch their herb garden grow. When the herbs have reached 3 to 4 inches tall, your kids can enjoy helping you cook with them.
Gently crack the top of an eggshell and discard the egg or save it for cooking. Rinse the shell and use a pin to pierce a hole in the bottom of each one. Your kids can gently draw faces on the eggshells or write the name of the herb they'll plant in each one. Then place the shells in eggcups or an empty egg carton. Place a wet cotton ball in each egg, sprinkle in seeds and watch the eggs' herb hair grow within days. Or place a small bulb in each eggshell with no soil; keep moist and beautiful flowers will start to grow! You can then plant the entire biodegradable eggshell directly in the garden. You can also grow flower and vegetable seedlings in the egg carton itself, with a spoonful of potting soil in each egg compartment.
*Make Your Own Flower Seed Balls
This idea comes from KidsGardening.org. Seed bombs are often dropped from planes to help areas of devastation grow back -- for example, from wildfires. Kids will love getting their hands muddy in the clay to make the balls to bury in your own backyard. Pretty much any seeds go. But especially consider wildflowers such as red poppies; milkweed, which is food for caterpillars; and coneflowers, which birds and butterflies love. You'll need fives parts clay (from your local craft store), one part potting soil or compost and one part seeds. First, have your kids mix the clay and the compost, adding a little water to make the mixture sticky. Then add the seeds and dig in to roll the mixture into spheres the size of golf balls. Let the balls air-dry and then plant them in large outdoor containers or directly into your garden. Your kids will love it because it's messy and fun!