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.
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 attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators by planting food for them that kids like too. Kids can find a large container, 18 to 24 inches, and fill it with organic potting soil and starter plants: organic strawberry, basil, parsley, and thyme. Bees, butterflies, and kids like these plants. Kids can plant milkweed to give a home to the monarch butterfly. Organic gardening improves the soil, air, and water in the garden, as it uplifts the spirit, renews the mind, and recharges the body of the gardener. Kids can use self-watering containers or attach a drip watering system between patio, balcony, or deck veggie garden containers. Raised bed pollinator gardens can include squash, borage, Jerusalem artichoke, lavender, nasturtiums, and sage. When kids add their favorite veggies, the pollinators are at home in the garden and do their job efficiently, spreading the pollen of one flower to another flower and fertilizing the plants.
Kids are fascinated by nature blooming in an organic veggie garden, where a community of living things get along together and flourish. Wherever the garden is located, on a balcony, patio, or backyard, kids can create an environment to boost the harvest. Kids can plant certain plants to create an ecosystem for the birds and insects that help make a backyard or patio veggie garden a success. The ecosystem includes established trees, which provide windbreaks, shelter, and home to birds and insects that keep the pests from the veggies. Kids can made a toad house in climates that have moisture by turning a terra cotta pot on its side in a grassy corner near a fountain or pond. Bird baths and feeders can add artistic touches and attract helpful birds to patrol the insect pests. Kids can encourage bees by planting flowers like calendula or nasturtiums. Studies have shown that the presence of bees can increase yields between 10 and 50 percent. Kids can plant milkweed to attract the monarch butterfly. Plan the garden to get full sun exposure for six hours and place the plants in a raised garden bed with the tallest in the back and the shortest in the front. Kids can plan a shady seat in the garden to sit and enjoy the peace and beauty of their garden ecosystem.