OUT IN THE YARD: Children’s summer —time for fun in the sun

Published 12:04 am Sunday, July 10, 2016

Summertime fun for children begins the moment that last school bell rings in June. Are you already  hearing, “Mom, I am bored. There’s nothing to do”? Are you tired of seeing your children watch television and play games on their techy toys?  Plan some fun/educational activities to reinforce science skills they learned in school. Gardening is one way for your children to achieve this.

Start small. Remember your own child’s attention span. Is it 5, 10 ,15 or 30 minutes? Break gardening tasks into manageable chunks for your child’s attention span.    Select a container. An outdoor garden idea is to use a small child’s swimming pool.  Recycle items found in your residence, such as toy trucks, beach pails, ld children’s shoes, buckets, pots, wooden boxes, old tires or an old baby bath tub. Children can paint on tires, buckets and wooden boxes to add creativity. A vertical garden can be made with a hanging closet shoe rack. Let children decide what plant container they would like to use. They have great ideas!Each container needs holes punched in the bottom to provide drainage for the root system. Roots absorb oxygen from air spaces in the soil and too much water will drown the plant. Root rot is the result. Small clean rocks, gravel and broken clay pots are added to aid in the drainage. Children can scavenge the yard for rocks, gravel and sticks. A coffee filter in the bottom of the container topped with sticks and leaves will do nicely. Additionally, packing peanuts or foam packaging material, seashells and marbles are easily used by children.

Fill the container with good garden soil or a small container can use potting soil. Roots have little hairs on them that take up the nutrients. Remember that the plant is only as good as the soil in which it is grown.

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Choose appropriate seeds for July. Seeds that will grow in hot weather this month in Jefferson County include okra, black eyed peas or southern peas, pumpkin, zinnia and sunflower. Follow package directions for planting. Okra seeds need to be soaked overnight in room temperature water before planting. Check pots daily in the summer for water needs. Smaller containers must be watered more frequently.

For an indoor garden tryf the following experiment. Evenly space three or four toothpicks around the middle of a sweet potato. . Hang the sweet potato by the toothpicks on the lip of the jar. Cover the bottom half of the potato with water and watch it grow! Later you can plant it in soil. Cruise the Internet for more fun experiments!

Now get out those techy camera phones and take a picture of your garden! Who knows? It may be part of a story for school next fall!

Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener Eileen Slater at enslater08@gmail.com or call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at (409)835-8461.