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SUMMER SOLUTION - Windowsill gardening

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 12th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Editor's note: This article is part of the Catholic Online Summer Solution program. A program of activities, books and recipes to keep your family busy through the summer. Check back every day for updates and exciting new things to do!

Here is your next Catholic Online summer solution for kids! Today's project is to plant an indoor garden.

The entire exercise is very inexpensive and will give children something to do and watch. For older children, they can keep a journal of progress which you can discuss with them. Include drawings in the journal. They can also turn the project into a mini science project by testing what conditions and circumstances work best for growing seeds.

For most of these projects, you merely need a glass or jar of water, seeds or a tuber, and possibly some toothpicks. However, you can also get some potting soil, and even proper seeds from your local gardening store. Whether you are on a budget and your garden is the windowsill, or you have the space and money to plant a full vegetable garden, this activity will prove both interesting and rewarding.


Common things to grow:


Beans
Spice seeds
Onions
Potatoes
Carrots
Radishes


Many garden shops will have ready-to-grow kits. Consider purchasing one of these for easy success. This is best for small children.

What to do:

In the case of beans and lentils, the dried legumes you eat are actually dormant. That means they're sleeping, waiting for the right mix of moisture and sunlight to sprout. This is actually true with most seeds, even those from supermarket fruits and vegetables. However, it can be difficult (or impossible)  to grow seeds taken from supermarket stock - depending on the fruit and how the fruit is treated before shipping. However, beans are usually easy.

Place the beans in a glass jar covered with a damp (not soaking) paper towel. This allows the seed to soak up the moisture while allowing light which helps prompt the seed to grow. The jar will need a lid or covering to help retain the moisture. Place in indirect sunlight.

Within a 5-10 days, the first sprouts will emerge.

Notice how the plant turns towards the sunlight. To keep the plant growing straight, rotate the jar daily.

For added fun try different kinds of beans and compare how speedily they grow. After sprouting, plant the new crop in soil. Use a planting box if a garden is unavailable. You will not be able to keep the plant if it does not get soil after several days.

Tubers

Tubers are the roots of plants we like to eat. They include potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, turnips, and the like.

What to do:

Place a tuber with its lower third in water. Use toothpicks stuck about 1 inch into the side of the tuber to hold the rest of the plant out of water. Within days you should see sprouts.  Do not let the water get cloudy, if it does, change it immediately. Cloudy water will contribute to algae and fungus which can damage the plant.

For radishes, beets, carrots, and turnips, remove the green tops. Cut off the bottoms of the roots. Place these on small rocks in a dish or tray, normally a pie plate works well. Fill this plate with about 1/8 inch of water, or a bit more. You will see growth within a few days.

Just like the beans, these plants will soon need soil to continue growing. Harvest and enjoy them when they are finished growing. 

Fruit and spices

Papaya
Mustard

Fruit seeds can be difficult to grow, and some of the methods can be quite complex, including simulating winter in the fridge and planting in the spring. However, some can be relatively easy to grow.

What to do:

Use an egg carton if you have one. If not, a small cup will suffice. Fill the container with potting soil about a quarter inch from the top. Pack the soil and moisten it slightly. Sprinkle mustard seeds on top of the soil or in the case of Papaya, plant the seed just under the soil. Papaya seeds should be dry before planting.

Mustard will grow quickly, sprouting within two days. Papaya could take two weeks.

Keep the sprouts in indirect sunlight and water every other day.

Other plants

Virtually every other plant can be started inside the home. All you need is a seed, some water, sunlight, and occasionally a bit of earth. Potting soil works best, but any soil from a park or garden may do. Avoid sand - which isn't soil.

You child should learn and understand how plants grow. This is also a good occasion to visit the bookstore or gardening store to find books about plants. If done right, your child just may gain a love of gardening and develop a green thumb which will come in hand later in life. Homegrown food costs less, tastes better, and is better for you (no icky chemicals, nobody handling it in the supermarket before you buy it).

Good luck and have fun!

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