rainbarrel April is National Garden Month® and April 22nd is Earth Day, which makes this month a great time to jump into the garden with kids. Many garden activities are fun and help kids better appreciate ecological concepts and environmental responsibility. In fact, what you chose to do in the garden can make a real difference in your environmental impact, and whether your kids embrace the practical ways they can help preserve our world.
Here are some simple activities to do with kids this month to bring home the importance of caring for the environment. Adopt just one or two of these ideas and you can help to make every day Earth Day in your yard.
Recycle and Reuse. Most kids know about recycling glass bottles and newspapers. However, show them how to reuse household materials in the yard and garden, and you can tune them into recycling on a larger scale. For example, eliminate watering waste by cutting off the bottom inch or so of half-gallon plastic jugs, burying the necks in soil next to shrubs and large annual plants, and filling the upended jugs with water. To preserve soil moisture and prevent weed growth, mulch your garden pathways with cardboard or layers of newspaper. Cover the cardboard or newspaper with grass clippings or old leaves to give the garden a natural look. Start a compost pile with food scraps from the kitchen and grass clippings, fallen leaves, and other garden debris. Help nest-making birds by placing clumps of animal hair or old twine on trees and shrubs in the yard.
Grow Organically. Pledge to bypass chemical pesticides and instead go organic. Together, identify bugs in the garden and decide which are 'good' and 'bad.' Handpick and squish the bad guys (invite other kids over to help!). Install barriers, such as floating row covers, to prevent pests from attacking favorite garden plants. Using the garden as a metaphor for the larger natural world, talk about the ways that pollution and harmful chemicals can affect all creatures great and small.
Collect Rain Water. Place barrels under roof down-spouts to collect rain water for use on garden and container plantings. Conduct an experiment by using collected rainwater on some plants and municipal water on others to see if the plants grow differently. Set up rain gauges and monitor how much water Mother Nature provides. Discuss the amount of water plants need compared to the amount of rainfall in your area. See if kids notice the effects of water stress on garden plants.
Plant an Edible Tree. In celebration of Earth Day, plant an edible tree this year. Apple, pear, cherry, citrus, and nut trees not only sequester carbon and reduce global warming, but also provide us with food. Inform kids that if 1 million trees were planted annually, they would sequester about 25,000 tons of carbon a year -- the equivalent of taking 5,000 cars off the road. While selecting your edible tree, explain that broad-leafed trees se...