Saturday, June 28, 2014

Children's Urban Gardening - Making do with small spaces

Urban Children's Herb & Vegetable Garden
I had the opportunity to visit Creative Little Minds, a bilingual day care on Chicago's Northside. I was pleasantly surprised to see how the owner, Gloria, is incorporating gardening into the regular activities for everyone. This is with very little space in a city block. Here's the integration of Urban Gardening, Community Gardening, Children's Gardening and education all in one.   

Maybe these are some best practices:
1) Select clear garden spot with easy access for kids.  There is no threat to other garden plants or outdoor furniture or breakable objects. I think the use of the fence and walkway on the side of the house (pictured right) is a great idea. Although I wondered if there was enough sun for mature plants. 

2) Plants, pots, and tools are all placed within easy reach and at their level. I can imagine that it is easy for kids to inspect their plant growth every day.  The planters on the fence are at multiple heights - based on each child's abilities.

Each Child's name on their plant

3) Clear responsibility and accountability for each child with a different plant. It's shown on the overall garden board - but kids also have their names with next to their plants. You have to overlook the spelling on the chart - I think everyone gets the idea. 

30 Young gardener's assignments ;)

4) A wide variety of plants being grown - but all vegetable and herb containers for the kids. This makes lessons on farm-to-form. fresh cooking, sharing in class or at home much easier. 

5) supplement with trips to the local grocery store. Gloria said that they take trips to see produce in the stores and can also talk about the growing, farming and the like. (must be a fun discussion!)

6) Containers with other types of plants - succulents and flowers, are available for everyone! She had a patio that was bursting with color from flowering plants as well as coleus with very bright leaves. I wondered if they propagated those :)

Some things that I advised were selecting plants that would thrive in smaller pots and and with restricted light. For example, I don't think the tomatoes will do very well.  Some of the herbs were thriving and getting close to bloom - so w talked about some lessons in pruning and harvesting.  We also talked a bit about watering, fertilizing, and maintenance. 

I applaud those that help urban children explore nature! Good Job! Gloria says she tries to add something new every year to the curriculum and environment. This garden spot has been a big hit. 

See my post from later in the year to check out their harvest!

Teresa Marie 

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