Newswise — Springtime seed and garden catalogs are meant to tempt gardeners, but their colorful photos also can spark children's interest in learning more about gardening, the environment, food and nutrition, said Evelyn Neier, state coordinator for the Kansas Junior Master Gardener Program.
Older children will be able to read the catalogs; younger children usually find them visually appealing, said Neier, a horticulturist, who also is a Kansas State University Research and Extension 4-H youth development specialist.
Gardening can be a family-friendly activity that encourages healthy physical activity and a greater appreciation for the environment, while also providing fresh-tasting homegrown vegetables and fresh-cut flowers, said Neier, who encourages parents to invite children to look at the catalogs with them.
Taking children to a spring garden or flower show; nursery or garden center, hardware or other store with a gardening section also can nurture the child's interest in gardening, she said.
Checking out new or newer varieties or plants that may produce pink heirloom tomatoes, purple carrots or white, rather than purple, eggplants may be all that it takes to interest children in growing " and eating " a greater variety of health-promoting fruits and vegetables, she said.
Seeds are inexpensive and don't require much room to grow, said Neier, who encourages families with a budding interest in gardening to start with a small garden space or containers on a porch, patio or deck.
"Planting seeds and watching them grow can hold a child's interest," she said. Early spring plants such as leaf lettuce, spinach or peas, also can help to build enthusiasm for melons or pumpkins that require a longer growing season, but are pleasing to children.
Mixing flowers with vegetables can add color and texture to a flower bed or container gardens, Neier said.
"Being a gardener isn't a prerequisite, but starting small is recommended. Planting too large a garden can make a pleasurable hobby a chore," said Neier, who advised beginning gardeners to choose a couple of different plants that grow well in Kansas.
A list of flowers that grow well in Kansas is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on Extension's horticulture Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu/horticulture. Click on Prairie Star Flowers for a list of annuals that bloom well in Kansas or Prairie Blooms for a list of perennial flowers that also perform well.
The Kansas Junior Master Gardener Program, which combines science, language arts, mathematics, social studies and life skills, is partially supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Family Nutrition Program. More information on the program is available at K-State Research and Extension offices and on the Kansas 4-H Web site: www.kansas4h.org , and click on Programs.
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus in Manhattan.