Garden Notes

Applying art and science for ideas in the garden

Barbara Faurot
Posted 5/13/20

The garden can inspire fun, learning and some healthy eating for students of all ages who are learning at home. I turned to some experts, parents and gardeners for ideas and inspiration.

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Garden Notes

Applying art and science for ideas in the garden

Posted

The garden can inspire fun, learning and some healthy eating for students of all ages who are learning at home. I turned to some experts, parents and gardeners for ideas and inspiration.

Home gardener Shannon Conner’s elementary school kids know the value of creating habitat for wildlife. This spring they enjoyed building an insect hotel for their garden, joining function and whimsy in their landscape.

“We used wood scraps, a piece of a barrel, bamboo and whatever else we could find to make a house for bugs,” Conner said.

Other garden lessons her children enjoyed were picking salad greens, planting sugar snap peas in their chicken coop for shade and chicken treats and a quick math lesson using a measuring stick to mark holes for strawberry plants.

Bridget Gregg, program coordinator for the WSU Extension’s Master Gardener program, finds that choosing and planting seeds is a fun and inexpensive science project, extending through the summer and into the fall. Nita Wester, master gardener and co-instructor of the WSU Extension “Growing Groceries” class and 4-H educator, confirms that kids like to choose their own seeds to grow.

“On several occasions, students inspired their families to start gardens at home because they were so enthusiastic about our group gardening project,” Nita said. “Even if you have limited garden space, nearly every vegetable has varieties that can be grown in a pot.”

In fact, May is a good time to start many crops outside, such as peas, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and kale. Some excellent free resources are available to learn about timing for seed and plant starts in our region, including the nonprofit Tilth Alliance at tilthalliance.org and WSU Extension’s publication, “Home Vegetable Gardening in Washington.”

To find seeds, check out local garden centers. You can also join the WSU Extension Master Gardeners Seed Library to borrow previously saved seed. While the physical seed library is currently closed, home gardeners may become members and request seeds at extension.wsu.edu/jefferson/master-gardener-seed-library, then receive them by mail. The idea is to encourage gardeners to borrow seeds, grow plants and return the seeds they save at the end of the season.

Identifying interesting plants offers more opportunities to learn about plant botany in your own backyard or neighborhood. One of my favorite plant apps is the beautifully designed Trees Pacific NW at treespnw.com. Once downloaded, you won’t need an internet connection to access the information. It is a great hiking companion to identify native trees, their range and size, cousins, wildlife benefits and cultural uses.

For all types of plants, iNaturalist at inaturalist.org is a collaboration of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. With this free app, you can upload photos taken with a smartphone, identify plants, share your observations with fellow naturalists and discuss your findings with plant scientists.

Finally, field sketching is another at-home activity to blend the art and science of gardening. The Port Townsend School of the Arts offers online “Art Prompts for Kids,” including this step-by-step sketch of a daffodil at youtube.com/watch?v=zmlhTy0lRMc. Finding a quiet spot to sit, observe, sketch and then research your plant can be a fun, meditative part of the day.

If students or parents have plant questions, they can take advantage of online plant clinics to connect and learn from Master Gardeners any time at extension.wsu.edu/jefferson/gardening-2/plant-clinic.

(Barbara Faurot is a Jefferson County Master Gardener and Master Pruner, working with other volunteers who serve as community educators in gardening and environmental stewardship.)

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