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Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - March 4, 2011

Garden tips for March

It's never too early to pass on a love of gardening

by Jack McKinnon

There are families where the children grow up knowing that their parents and grandparents were gardeners. They can point to the lemon tree that grandma planted in the back yard that still produces lemons.

This month's garden tips will be on helping children get started in gardening. Here are the tips:

1. Always a good start in showing kids where plants come from is to grow sprouts. Beans work well as do alfalfa seeds. Put three tablespoons in the bottom of a clean quart jar and rubber-band a piece of window screen (from the hardware store) over the mouth. Rinse twice a day with clean cold water and put it on a window sill out of direct light. In a week the jar will be full of new plants. Make a salad with them and repeat.

2. Buy some packs of seeds at the nursery or hardware store. When you are looking at the selection, read the package back for when to plant them. This month plant beets, carrots, chard, radishes and nasturtiums.

3. Plant a tree with a child. They will never forget the special day with mom or dad. Be sure to plant it high so it can settle to ground level. Keep the soil level around the tree the same as when in the pot.

4. Sprout an avocado seed with three toothpicks stuck in the sides at equal spacing. Place on a glass of water so the roundest part just touches the water. Keep it in a window out of direct sun but warm. Refill the water as needed.

5. Go for a walk around the neighborhood and name plants. If you don't know the names, take a sample to the nursery and have them identify it.

6. If you have a young child, make a stepping stone with their footprints in it. Buy a bag of ready-mix concrete, mix up half of it with water and form it into a flat shape. Put a plastic bag over the kid's foot and press it into the wet concrete. Repeat with the other foot, being sure to remove the child's feet from the concrete.

7. Buy your child a pruning shear and teach them the basics. Let them prune dead branches, flowers and old fruit. After they get better they can start thinning and shaping plants.

8. Grow a vegetable garden and give the kids age-appropriate chores. Weeding, watering, thinning and harvesting all teach great lessons seldom learned in school.

9. Cook what you grow. There are no better memories than making a pasta primavera or a soup from veggies you grew yourself.

10. Plant something new every year. Mark the year by what you planted. Make it special and the legacy you leave with your children will likely go to their children as will the stories, the recipes and the love.

Good gardening.

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-455-0687 (cell) or by e-mail at jack@jackthegardencoach.com. Visit his website at www.jackthegardencoach.com.

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