Kids can be responsible stewards of the earth by starting in their own yard. Creating a sustainable landscape with low water usage and low maintenance where we live is an attainable goal. Ninety percent of insects are beneficial and aesthetically beautiful native plants are their food and shelter. To make a landscape sustainable the plants must be climate appropriate, be planted with awareness of their future growth, grouped with plants with the same water needs, and arranged for wildlife habitats. Birds, butterflies, and bees need certain plants, shrubs, and trees for food, water, and shelter. To encourage wildlife, kids can plant a balanced ecosystem, with plants that repel pests and attract friendly insects, birds, and critters. Kids can get their Wildlife Habitat certified by The National Wildlife Federation by going to www.nwf.org.
Kids can plant native plants in the right place for their sun and water needs instead of lawns. Raised beds and planter boxes for organic herbs and veggies filled with rich organic soil are attractive, wildlife friendly, and provide the best tasting, healthiest food for the family. Kids can keep water run-off on the property with land sculpting to add water features, which can solve drainage and erosion problems, as well as bring needed water for a wildlife habitat. Kids can plant fruit trees that grow well in their climate around the perimeter of their yard. The sound of running water, the smell of fresh fruit and herbs, and the cheerful colors of the flowers attract birds and butterflies, as well as turning the yard into a tranquil garden retreat.
Kids can grow abundant food in small spaces with techniques developed over the last century. In the 1920’s the philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, and his followers broke from conventional monoculture row planting and invented a gardening method called biodynamic, using organic compost and mulch for fertilizers and practicing companion planting. Biodynamic gardening also takes into account the influence of the sun, moon and planets when planting the garden. Building on this method and the French Intensive method of planting vegetables close together and using cloches to grow year round, Alan Chadwick created a 4 acre Biodynamic Garden Project at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the 1960’s that produced four times as many vegetables as a conventional garden, while needing less water and less maintenance.
Kids can grow their own biodynamic garden by creating a healthy garden ecosystem. Kids can view their garden‘s soil, plants, insects, and animals as parts of a single living whole. A self sustaining garden supplies all of its own essential nutrients for balanced growth, from organic matter for compost to micronutrients for healthy plants and requires the least amount of time and money in the long term. Using raised beds, planter boxes, and vertical garden containers filled with rich organic soil, earthworm compost, and a drip watering system, kids can grow an abundant harvest of fruits and veggies on the balcony or patio.
Kids can grow native wildflowers and help restore a healthy balance to their local ecosystem. Growing organic native wildflowers saves water, feeds and shelters birds and other wildlife, and attracts beneficial insects with their favorite food. Organic milkweed is the only food for the Monarch butterfly which is endangered, like the honey bee, because of the wide use of pesticides, herbicides, and native habitat lost to development. Kids can plant local native plants and wildflowers and create food and shelter for the honey bee, the Monarch butterfly, and other pollinators. When the right native plant is established in the right place, it does not need extra fertilizer or water and produces lovely colorful flowers. Local native plants have evolved with local insects, birds, and animals and have developed symbiotic relationships with each other. Preserving and protecting the local habitat for our pollinators is important as they are responsible for every third bite of food we eat. Each butterfly species has its favorite wildflowers for its nectar and pollen and as the host plants for its emerging larvae. Kids can visit a local nursery that specializes in native plants to find plants and seeds that have not been treated with chemicals to plant in their backyard. Kids can create wildflower seed balls and distribute them on road mediums, empty patches, and vacant lots to save the bees and butterflies, while beautifying the roadside with lovely flowers. To give the wildflower seeds a good start, kids can mix the organic seeds in a tiny mud ball of rich organic compost and clay and let them dry. Kids can also join City, State, and National Park Rangers in public wildflower planting projects in their town.
Kids can save the Planet by growing an organic fruit, herb, and veggie garden in the patio, backyard, school, or community garden. Kids can grow their own abundant, cost effective, organic snack bowl of fruits and veggies. Local, fresh, organic produce has more nutritional value, is more delicious, and creates a better environment for everyone. Kids can use kitchen and garden waste to recycle into compost to create rich organic soil alive with microorganisms that provide a healthy habitat to attract pollinators and beneficial insects and ward off pests. Kids can choose local native species of plants to attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Kids can fill raised beds, pots, and containers with their favorite foods by choosing organic seeds that particularly suits their taste and environment. By planting close to conserve water and prevent weeds, by selecting plant varieties that best suit the region and climate, by using mulch and compost to enrich the soil, and by rotating crops to balance the nitrogen in the soil, kids can produce an abundant harvest in containers of organic soil on a patio to feed their whole family.
More and more kids in the city are enjoying green living spaces, including many new community and school gardens. Green roof gardens with herbs, veggies, and food for pollinators are growing in cities across the country. Kids are setting up rain barrels, tanks, and collection ponds to collect rain water to be used to plant trees along the streets and water garden projects. These green projects cool and clean the air in the city, reduce energy costs, and improve the standards of living. Kids are creating green walls in their schools with herbs and salad greens covering the wall using a drip watering system. Green walls can also bring to life underutilized sides of buildings, bridges, and highway underpasses which can change an urban neighborhood into a delightful place to live. Kids can make seed bombs from organic native plants that provide food and shelter for the bees and butterflies. For example, kids can give local organic milkweed seeds, the only food for the Monarch Butterfly, a good start by mixing the seeds in a tiny mud ball of dirt and clay and distribute them on road mediums and vacant lots, while beautifying the roadside with lovely flowers. Kids are making Wildlife Habitats for birds, toads, lizards, bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies in their backyards by planting organic native plants that indigenous creatures need to survive. Kids have fun growing food in their patio, school, and community gardens and bringing the best tasting produce to the dinner table. Kids can turn cities into gardens by planting containers of herbs, flowers, and veggies where they live.
Kids can plant flowers in their organic container herb and veggie garden that grow better when cut often, providing a cutting garden that entices pollinators and garden partners. Many perennial flowers, like hollyhocks and foxgloves, are beautiful decoration in the garden and can provide food for hummingbirds and bees. Kids can create gorgeous bouquets to decorate the family table, fill the house with a delightful aroma, and please Mom. Kids can plant marigolds and nasturtiums as borders around their raised bed gardens to deter pests and attract beneficial insects that add bright colors to a bouquet. Nasturtiums are edible and have a peppery flavor, looking lovely stuffed on a plate. Kids can go to the garden center and smell the aromas of the roses and peonies and choose a variety they like to add to their garden. Roses are edible, attract pollinators, have intense perfume, and are the flower queens of the garden. Butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees like bright colorful flowers like zinnias and sweet peas which also like to be cut for bouquets. Kid can harvest the flowers early in the morning using pruners to cut a long stem. Flowers can be conditioned for a couple of hours in water before being arranged. Kids can snip the leaves that will be under the water and put the strongest stems in the vase first, adding flowers until the vase is full. Kids get a feeling of satisfaction when they arrange the flowers they grew into a lovely table decoration the whole family can enjoy.
Kids can find lots of adventures in the garden and opportunities to transform even a small space into an outdoor oasis. In the backyard or patio, kids can create an organic container veggie garden with pots of delicious tomatoes and strawberries to eat on the vine. Growing organic veggies and herbs, excites kids to try new foods and learn to cook. Any space with plants growing has the potential to encourage kids to be outside in the fresh air, grounded, and in tune with nature. It encourages carefree play, the release of stress, and projects to spark the imagination. Kids that have these positive experiences of gardening and outdoor play are able to experience being one with nature and cope with life better as adults. As wildlife explorers, kids can grow plants that attract butterflies, and track the progress of new caterpillars becoming butterflies in a butterfly journal. Kids can monitor the weather with an outdoor thermometer and rainwater gauge and collect water in a rain barrel. Kids can make colorful plant labels, garden signs, wind chimes, bird screen light catchers, and decorated pots. Being outside in the sun and fresh air, creating their own adventures and growing their own food, helps kids to connect with their place in the circle of life, giving them freedom, confidence, and responsibility.