Outdoor Classroom: Planting the Garden in the Spring!


Spring Equinox is upon us and our little children are like those little sprouts growing so quickly! The bulbs planted last Autumn have indeed sprouted and tulips are adding color everywhere.

If your weather outside is warming up, then it's time to offer your children some seed starting activities. 

In the Montessori-style of working with children, activities are often set up in an individualized manner. Here is one way to set up a seed starting work:

This little set-up is designed for one child at a time to start seeds indoors in a soil compound. 
The set-up:
1. A little 4-step card with pictures of the process for the child to follow 
2. A container to hold the seeds
3. A child-size spray bottle of clean water
4. A plant label & a felt tip marker
We used a seed starting medium that has to be soaked overnight, but ordinary garden soil works just fine, too.

The little spray bottle of water is a "control of error" to prevent the child from over-watering the seed after it is planted in the soil. Children might still over-water, but they really have to spray for a long time to "drown" the seeds, as opposed to pouring too much water from a watering can. 

We allowed each child to plant one seed from each seed packet (snow peas, bush beans, pole beans, and pumpkins) and then mark their little seed-starting "plot" using a plant label with their name on it.(The older children wrote their own names on the labels.)

Each child cares for their little indoor seed plot by watering every day (once again with the spray bottle of water) and the children take this responsibility very seriously!

Meanwhile, the children have been busy in the Outdoor Classroom digging and preparing the vegetable garden. You can read about this process in my earlier post at this link: Time to haul & dig in the garden

Some seeds work better planted directly in the garden. Radishes and lettuce are great veggies to start directly in the garden in the early Spring. 

After preparing the garden beds, the children planted the seeds in rows that we marked with cute little plant markers and string.

This technique offers a "control of error" for the children:
1) where to plant the little seeds, and
2) later, where the seeds are planted so they can easily avoid walking on the area and squashing the little seedlings!
Also, there is that added component of READING. The children love to read the names of the veggie seeds that were planted!

I found these gnome plant markers on sale at my local nursery supply store, but I have seen really cute plant markers on Etsy at this link:

Even if you don't have space for a raised bed veggie garden, little children still love to plant in a garden box using a child-sized garden trowel (plastic works just fine) and garden gloves are always very popular!

 I've found child-size garden tools, garden gloves, and even the gardening boxes at both Home Depot and Lowe's during this time of year.

And, children can still have fun hauling soil in the child-size wheelbarrow over to the garden boxes. I often buy huge bags of garden soil and instead of carrying them to the garden, I open the bags next to my car and then the kids can fill the wheelbarrow with soil and haul it over to the boxes. Much easier for me and more fun for the children!

These garden boxes, planted with herbs, were donated by some of the moms who built them of wood, then had their children decorate the boxes with colorful hand prints.

In California, our water is precious, so we mulch whenever possible. I set up an Outdoor Classroom activity for an individual child. There is a big bag of mulch, a handy bucket nearby and a child-size hand trowel. The child fills the bucket with mulch and then carries it over to the garden and pours the mulch out, then gently spreads it on top of the garden bed. 

My all-time favorite mulch is pictured above. It really holds in the moisture in our dry climate and it mulches for a whole season.  I buy it at my local nursery supply store. Here's the link: 
It's made from cocoa hulls and can be pricey. However, the huge bag lasts a long time and the mulch smells so, so good! 

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