by Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore
Every April 22nd school children, businesses, and ordinary citizens have an opportunity to celebrate Earth Day. That specific day has passed for this year, but it is not too late to add an interesting, hands-on twist to celebrating and renewing the earth: gardening with your family. If you’ve never gardened before, it can seem like a daunting process. If you live in a big city, it may seem like an impossibility. But happily it is something anybody, with any level of gardening experience, can do anywhere. It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking (although it can be if you’re up for it). Read on for five ways to get your family garden started this month.
1. Pace Yourself
If you’ve got room in your schedule for a big project, great! But if you’re time stretched, don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Start with something simple like an herb ‘garden’ that can be grown indoors, or outdoors in a small window box, flower bed, or ceramic pot. Regardless of whether your garden is large or mini, you still reap the benefits: connecting in a tangible way with nature, de-stressing, and quality time with your family.
2. Have a Plan
Before you head to the store to buy seed packets and start planting, take a few minutes to plan out your garden. First, have your kids consider the landscape you’re working with: is it a flower pot or a patch of garden? Will it get direct sunlight or will it predominately lie in the shade? Next, have them consider your goal: do you want it to bear herbs, vegetables, flowers or some combination of those? By owning the plan, they’ll be more invested in the garden long-term. And simply knowing the answers to these questions will make your shopping experience faster and less overwhelming.
3. Set the Stage with Egg Cartons
An easy way to give your garden a head start and get kids excited about planting is to start your garden indoors. Have them plant seeds in old egg cartons – something they can easily do on a rainy day. Put them on an old cookie tray and place them in a spot where they can be seen every day. Get them in the habit of checking the soil in their carton, and if it’s dry, to adding a few drops of water. When the spouts are big enough, set aside some time to work together to transfer them to a more permanent place – indoors or outdoors.
4. Create Fun Plant Markers
Another great project for a rainy May day is creating plant markers. You can recycle old sticks from the yard and decorate them with seed packets and paint – or use something with a clean, flat surface, like a popsicle stick. Let the kids use their imagination – the more connected they feel to different elements of the garden, the more likely they are to want to tend to it over time.
5. Add A Dash of Friendly Competition
Nothing gets kids motors racing than a little friendly competition. Have a race between family members to see whose garden will grow the fastest. If using vines, measure whose climb the highest and fastest. If growing vegetables or flowers, enter in the State Fair or have a family fair at the end of the season to see who has the best produce and flowers. Check in together a few times a month to see who is ‘winning’ and announce the results to keep competition strong (and interest in caring for the garden high).
We are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, inc., a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed women get themselves organized and co-authors of “Everything (almost) In Its Place .” We welcome your thoughts! Please send ideas and questions to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org  or visit us at www.getbuttonedup.com