Gardening with kids: Starting herbs for spring

10 cool things about herbs for kids

1. What are herbs? Herbs are the leafy green parts of a plant, fresh or dried, used for flavouring food. They can also include seeds or flowers. Herbs are used for flavouring, perfume, medicine and food.

2. Ancient Romans and Greeks thought basil would grow more pungent if you shouted at it when you planted the seeds. This could be a lot of fun to try. Plant two and yell at one, see if it makes a difference.

3. Ancient Greeks believed that if you left a basil leaf under a pot it would turn into a scorpion, maybe because it was named after the basilisk − a half-lizard, half-dragon creature. Have the kids try this and surprise them with a toy under the cup in the morning.

4. Mint leaves are great for curing indigestion. Have the kids taste a leaf. We use peppermint mixed with a teaspoon of sugar and hot water to soothe upset tummies – a cure passed down from my Nana.

5. Patches of thyme were planted as playgrounds for fairies. This old English tradition may be a great start for your own fairy garden.

6. Garlic is a herb and a vegetable and is best known to children for warding off vampires. Why? Garlic is a powerful herb used to cure infections. It is thought to cure the blood disease vampires suffer from, thereby killing the vampire itself.

7. Parsley was thought to protect against evil spirits. The leaves also taste really good, especially on garlic bread – now that should keep all the bad guys away.

8. Lavender is often prescribed to soothe headaches and promote relaxation and sleep. It is also added to many baby lotions. Do your children like the smell? Did you know it is also an antidote for some snake venoms and that you can use it in cookies? Cool!

9. Catnip can be made into tea and is best known for its odd effect on cats. Some become aggressive, others ignore it, but most cats just act goofy when they smell it. Cats may be fickle but all rats hate it, huh!

10. Dandelions are herbs! Called “dents de lion,” French for teeth of the lion, dandelions were also called “pis-en-lit” or pee the bed. Why? Dandelions are diuretics; they remove fluid from your body so don’t eat them before bed.

By Tania Moffat

We all miss the feel of dirt between our fingers in the winter.

During the frozen winter months my hands just itch to be in dirt. I satisfy this need by drooling over the garden catalogues, picking out plants and planning the layout of my gardens. I used to set up an area in my living room to start my plants for the upcoming season; little flower and vegetable seedlings would see me through until I could actually get outdoors.

For the last several years I have put a kibosh on growing anything from seed. It is not that I don’t want my kids to play in the dirt, I just don’t love having to clean it up on a daily basis. The kids are older now and may leave the seedlings alone, but to be honest I can see things from their eyes. Planting one plant and watching it grow is amazing; watching a hundred grow in little mounds of dirt just begs the question. When? When will their will power to leave the dirt alone disappear? How long before Lego figures start appearing in my pods of dirt?

Planting is serious business!

While I may not plant as many seeds indoors anymore, I still find ways to satisfy our family’s need to play in the dirt. Repotting houseplants, visiting garden centres to adopt new green-leafed friends, or planting a few plants from seed like herbs or flowers are all great ways for kids to learn more about plants and how they grow.

The key to gardening with kids indoors is to (a) remember they are kids, and (b) remember you are indoors.

Dirty hands!

I had the boys planting some herbs this month mainly because I wanted more fresh herbs in the house. We stopped by the garden store and they picked out an assortment of seeds. I have a thousand pots in the garage but there is something fun about using egg cartons that just makes the project feel more “crafty” and fun. Plus, the built in cover is perfect for seed incubation.

We began by writing their names on the cartons and filling them with dirt. Then they poked little holes in the middle of each section to plant their lavender, basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme and parsley seeds.

The boys were so excited to start and dug in. We talked while we planted but had to move somewhat quickly to keep up with Desmond. Although I marked the top of the cartons with the location of each herb, I suspect that Desmond’s creation will vary somewhat to his original plan.

Once the seeds were safely tucked into the dirt and sprayed down with water we chatted some more about the project. The boys shared their ideas about how fast the seeds would grow, which one would grow first. Concerned about where their adult plants would go once they outgrew the cartons we discussed how we would need to repot them as they got bigger and continue to care for them as they grew.

Spraying their seeds with water to give them a healthy start.

Children love indoor projects like this, and it is so easy to share your love and knowledge with them. I love listening to them tell me how their herbs will grow over the roof of our house and the joy on their faces as they play in the dirt. Taeven was so happy to have dirty hands again and even made me take a picture.

If you are worried because you aren’t exactly the Encylopeadia Brittanica, don’t. Look up some basic information online or just share your knowledge. Whatever you choose to do make it casual and fun! Ask them silly questions like if they would prefer mint or rosemary with fried crickets? Which herb might taste nice in a tea? Which plant do they like the best and why? What herb don’t they like the smell of? How long do they think it will take their seed to sprout? Talk about what you can do with the different herbs or plants.

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