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Practicing your green thumb and starting ‘Victory Garden 3.0’

Metro photo Planting a garden is one way to prepare for uncertain times — and it can be a fun activity for children of all ages.

During WWI and WWII, “Victory Gardens” filled with fruits, vegetables, and herbs were planted at private residences. They were planted to supplement food stocks, boost national morale, and aid general physical and mental health. Everyone had a role to play, especially children.

Getting Started

Today if the family doesn’t already have a garden, a lot of space, or sunshine, consider container gardening. They introduce gardening to young children and produce remarkable varied crops and aid health. Families can purchase potting soil and seeds now at grocery stores, pharmacies, or hardware stores. Garden centers will be open soon.

Most container plants need more than six hours of sunshine and potting soil, not garden soil, because it doesn’t drain well and has unwelcome disease and weeds.

Whether growing in a container or in ground you can start seeds indoors about 4-6 weeks before planting outside. Almanac.com has the frost calendar for your area.

Easy plants to grow are patio and other tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, zucchini, yellow long necked squash, herbs, and annual flowers like petunias, and small sunflowers for color. Marigolds discourage rabbits, deer, squirrels, and chipmunks.

Indoors

Depending on your climate, seeds can be started indoors sometime in early spring to give them a head start. Pre-moisten potting soil to the consistency of crumbly brownie mix and fill containers compactly to avoid air holes. Any large or small yogurt type containers, with holes poked in the bottom for drainage will work. There are also many commercial containers.

Follow the directions on the seed packet for proper planting depth and success. Plant a few extra because some may not germinate — you can always thin out extras later.

Tiny seeds should be barely covered with soil. Seedlings need air and water. Set the containers in a cake like pan in a warm location. Place water in the pan for the soil to soak up moisture from the bottom. Keep the soil like a damp sponge and check with your finger every day. Empty any extra water that is not absorbed from the pan. Do not let pots stand in water.

As soon as the seedling emerge in two-three weeks place pots in a bright location. A sunny cool area in the high 60s will produce sturdier, stockier seedlings. Seedlings in a high temperature will get leggy.

You may add a teaspoon of 1/2 the usual strength of liquid fertilizer once seedlings have one or two sets of leaves. Once the seedlings have a full set of two healthy leaves, it is time to thin to one seeding to each little pot. Choose the healthiest, strongest looking and snip off the others at the soil line.

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Grandparents Teach, Too is written by a group of teachers and former teachers who contribute ideas and resources to help educate children and grandchildren. For more GTT articles and resources, visit them online at http://grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com.

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