Sunday, January 27, 2013

the Gardening badge

Such post as I will make on the livestock will have to wait. I want to set down what we did yesterday for the Girl Scouts' Gardening badge before I forget!

Here's the description of the learning objective and the requirements for the badge, and an image of the badge (pretty!):

"Creating a bright bouquet of fresh flowers, making a dish with garden-fresh herbs, growing a little green cheer inside with houseplants—these are all things a gardener gets to do. In this badge, dig your hands into the earth and spend time with soil, water, and sunlight to find out how to help life grow from a tiny seed. You can make your own garden—no matter where you live.

1. Visit a garden
2. Explore garden design
3. Learn how to choose garden plants
4. Experiment with seeds
5. Grow your own garden

When I've earned this badge, I'll know how to help plants and flowers grow."

We will be visiting one of the greenhouses at the University at our next meeting, and that will have to suffice for 'visit a garden.' It's January in Massachusetts.

I've asked the horticulturist who'll be hosting us to discuss garden design and choosing plants. We also spent some time talking about how to choose plants at the meeting yesterday. The girls were great about coming up with questions we should ask when planning a garden - what do we want to grow? Do we want flowers or edibles? Can we do both? How big will the plants grow, and will they fit in the space we have available? How long do they take to grow? How long until we should expect to see them come up? We learned how to read the planting guidelines on the back of a seed packet - how deep to plant the seed, how far apart seeds should be planted (and whether to overseed and thin), how long the seed should take to germinate, how long until it's mature, how big it should get, and when we should sow it outside (if we were direct-sowing).

As a craft, I had the girls decorate some white contact paper with which to cover 2-pound yogurt containers, which they used as their seed-starting pots. I didn't get the shape of the contact paper quite right, so all of the pots had crinkly coverings, but the girls didn't seem to mind. We moistened the seed-starting mix, as it had been in my basement, open, and was completely dry. I held up packets of various seeds - giant sunflowers, carrots (and "Tiny Fingers" carrots), basil, oregano, marigolds, spinach, lettuce, bush beans, pole beans, sweet alyssum, and maybe some others. We talked about which seeds would and would not be suitable for planting in our containers. For example, a giant sunflower would NOT be suitable, since it would tip the pot over - and the pot probably wouldn't have enough space for a good root system. We decided that full-size carrots would not be suitable, but that the little carrots would be ok. Each girl decided what she wanted to plant. Then we opened the seed packets, and compared seed sizes. The sweet alyssum seeds were tiny, like grains of sand. One girl chose spinach and lettuce, and we compared the sizes of those seeds. We marveled over the size and shape of the marigold seeds - which look kind of like a miniature carrot. That covered both choosing garden plants and experimenting with seeds. Then the girls put their seeds into the potting soil, covered them at the appropriate depth, and we put the lids of the yogurt containers on for safe transport home. I asked each of the parents to punch some drain holes in the bottom of the containers when they got home, and suggested they could invert the lids as saucers.

We had a really good time, and there was only a tiny bit of seed-starting mix that got onto the table!

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