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Kids Gardening in the Desert Southwest

Gardening can be a fun experience for children and a rewarding one for you. Planting a tiny seed, watering it and watching those first leaves pop-up is usually enough to get young children interested in gardening.

Give them a space of their own in your garden and let them pick out what they want to grow. There are so many fun and interesting fruits and vegetables. Huge pumpkins, like "Big Max" or tiny "Jack-be-Little" pumpkins. Squash that looks like spaghetti inside, huge 200 pound watermelon or kid-sized cherry tomatoes. The fun is just waiting to be planted!

First of all, pick out a space where the garden will receive full sun. You could make raised beds or plant in used plant or tree containers, 15 gallon or larger would be best.

If you are going to plant in containers, buy some good potting soil and fill them about three or 4 inches from the top. Place a pole or stick in the center for plants that climb or need support.

Pick out some seeds! You could go to your local nursery or look online. The online selection is usually much better, the prices much lower and most of the time you don't even have to pay sales tax!

Plant the seeds according to the directions on the package and let the kids take care of "their" garden.

Many seeds are available for free, just look around your neighborhood or check out the plants around the mall. Sycamore trees have seed balls just full of easy and quick growing seeds and Oak tree acorns are very quick to sprout.

Many other seeds can be collected from the fruits and vegetables you use everyday. Here are some suggestions:

Avocados - Very easy, clean the seed and plant immediately.

Potatoes - Peelings will grow new plants from the "eyes" on the peel. Let the peal dry a bit before planting. Or you can poke four toothpicks one on each side of the potatoe, and place it in a glass of water to watch the top and roots grow, the toothpicks hold it up.

Cantaloupe - Clean the seeds before planting.

Tomatoes & Peppers - Make sure the fruit is ripe and clean the seeds. If the seeds are from hybrid fruit, they may not be what you thought they were, but it will be fun to see what they grow up to be.

Pumpkins - Pick a ripe pumpkin, if it is supposed to be orange, make sure it is all orange, not too much green and clean the seeds before planting.

Peanuts - Only raw peanuts will grow, remove the hull before planting and try to plant in a sandy loam soil.

Watermelon - Clean the seeds before planting.

Carrots - Actually carrot tops, place the top of the carrot in a shallow dish of water and watch the ferny top grow.

Indian corn - Remove the dry kernels from the cob and plant in several rows or a group, not one long row.

There are many more grocery store items that will grow. The seed needs to be from a "ripe" fruit or vegetable. Sometimes things like potatoes are sprayed with growth inhibitors to keep them from sprouting in the store. Just experiment to see if it will grow for you. Try strawberry seeds, raw nuts-still in the shell or how about something exotic like mangos or kiwi. The kids will really enjoy planting what they like to eat!  


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