Summer holidays present the perfect opportunity to slowly yet surely connect children with the natural world of growing things as they are the future custodians of our over-exploited planet. If anyone can successfully turn the tables, it is going to be them.
There is obviously no point in trying to ‘force’ a child to take interest in growing and caring for plants, which would probably lead to total refusal to express any interest at all. It is usually a case of ‘slowly, slowly catchee monkey’ to use an ancient Chinese expression.
Educating through example can be the best approach as, one sincerely hopes, if you potter around sowing seeds and tending plants, children around cannot fail to notice. Moreso if the household cultivation leads to something mouthwateringly tasty on the table, a juicy melon for example, their interest may be prodded into action.
Rather than rushing to purchase pots and seeds with which to encourage your children to ‘grow’, you can make the whole exercise much more environmentally friendly and sustainable by having them suggest recyclable things to be used. You can use planting containers, or seed trays that are preferably organic in nature, with ‘free’ seeds extracted from ripe tomatoes, lemons or mangoes.
Ideal seed containers include milk and juice cartons laid on their side with the upper side carefully removed, yoghurt cartons — the lids make perfect trays to stand them on, empty tins with tops removed and any sharp metal filed down until it is smooth and those empty soft drink/water bottles, tops cut off which are the bane of today’s society. All containers need to have drainage holes made in the base so that excess water can escape unhindered.
Making a point of explaining each and every reason for doing what you are doing in respect of recycling containers and using fresh seeds is an extremely useful way to educate children about planetary sustainability without making them feel that they are back in school. When it comes to watering the seed pots/cartons, another great opportunity arises in teaching them the basics of water conservation which are of extreme importance.
Another idea is to harvest ripe seed pods. You will find something useable at all times of the year, of indigenous, not introduced, tree species and get your children to grow these. Later on, when the tree seedlings are well established, find places outside your own garden area, where they can be planted, watered and cared for until they are large enough to thrive without any further attention. In doing this, your children can be taught how important trees are for both environmental and human health on a long term, sustainable basis.
If none of the above methods attract either your children or yourself then there is a sure fire way to encourage them to participate in greening up your local environment in an irresistible, clandestine manner.
Get hold of just one sack full of sweet earth and lots and lots of seeds. The cheapest way of amassing these seeds is, of course, to extract them from purchased fruit and vegetables with tomatoes being way up on top of the list along with all kinds of melon and ‘kaddu’ seeds and off course those of indigenous trees too. With the monsoons just around the corner, this is what you have great fun doing next.
Empty the soil in a heap on a plastic sheet or something else easy to clean. Organise some containers of water and have the collected seeds on hand. Mix up handfuls of soil with a large pinch of seeds and enough water to form tennis size balls, carefully laying each ball of mud and seeds out to partially dry on a sheet of newspaper or something else that is suitable. When you are done there should be an impressive number of what are known by Guerilla Gardeners as ‘seed bombs’!
These are best transported packed on sheets of newspaper, in layers inside a strong cardboard box and after dark or just before it is liable to rain, loaded in to your car. Windows are open wide from which these amazing bombs are thrown out on empty plots and other areas of unutilised ground where, when conditions are right, the plants should spring up.
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