2014-04-25 / Community

Home & Garden

Get kids excited about gardening

Many adults understand the joy of gardening, but gardening can be equally fun for children as well. While some adults may feel that certain children do not have the patience or perseverance to see plants grow from seeds to adulthood, selecting plants that are hardy and sprout quickly may be the key to igniting a love of gardening in children. Choosing seeds that sprout quickly can hold the attention of children who are new to gardening. Many different plants fit this bill. Beans, peas, sunflower seeds, and bell pepper seeds are easy to start and germinate quickly. In addition, many leafy vegetables, such as chard, lettuce, spinach, and mustard, germinate in three to five days. Herbs, such as basil and parsley, also sprout fast. All of these plants are good options for introducing children to gardening, as each provides quick gratification. To further interest children, it is a good idea to plant seeds in a way that allows youngsters to monitor the progress of growth. Use a transparent container, such as rinsed-out glass jars and canisters, to house the plant. Such containers give kids an unobstructed view of the process, during which children can plot the progress of seed germination and easily spot root and stem development. Once the seedlings grow larger, they can be transplanted into different containers. Many seedlings can sprout with water alone. Children can easily grow new plants from clippings of a mature plant left resting in a shallow cup of water, and seeds may not even need soil to germinate. Kids may have luck sprinkling seeds on a dampened, crumpledup piece of paper towel. Cotton balls also make a good place to nestle seeds. Either material will hold on to water, keeping the seeds moist until they sprout. Afterward, the seedlings can be carefully moved into a soil-andcompost mix. The paper towel and the cotton balls will decompose and add to the organic matter already in the soil. Edible plants often make good choices for children because kids can reap the rewards of their efforts. Herbs can be sprinkled onto food, or fruits and vegetables can be grown in containers and then served at mealtime. Kids can show pride in their accomplishments, especially if they have tangible results on the dinner plate. Children who want to try something different can explore other types of plants. Aquatic plants, or those found at the pet store to grow in aquariums, can be easy to grow. They need little more than a container, fresh water and sunlight. Cacti and other succulents are also fun to explore. These plants are quite hardy in that they can stand up to moderate abuse, such as failure to water frequently enough. The unique appearance of cacti make them interesting focal points for an indoor garden. A love of gardening that's fostered inside can also be explored outdoors. Set aside a plot of dirt where kids can sow their own seeds and tend to their own gardens. This hobby can help children learn patience and hard work while fostering an appreciation of nature.

How open windows benefit the environment

Warm days full of sunshine give homeowners good reason to open windows and let fresh air into their homes. Not only can open windows boost mood and create an inviting living space, but open windows also can be good for the environment.

* Open windows improve indoor air quality. Indoor air pollution has been described by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a primary environmental health problem. Indoor air quality can be up to five times worse than outdoor air. In addition, the American College of Allergists states that 50 percent of all illnesses are caused by polluted indoor air. Because many homes are built to be airtight to conserve energy and money, unhealthy levels of air pollutants can build up inside homes when windows remain closed. These pollutants may include radon gas, cigarette smoke, chemical fumes from paints and solvents and leached chemicals from modern building and furnishing materials. Opening windows for extended periods of time allows fresh air to spread throughout the home. Houseplants can also filter indoor air and make it healthier to breathe.

* Open windows reduce energy consumption. A cool breeze entering a home through open windows can reduce the temperature inside of a home without having to turn on fans or air conditioners. This not only helps individuals save money, but also it reduces reliance on electricity and fossil fuels. Opening several windows on opposite sides of the home can create a cross-breeze that will keep the home cool without the help of energy-guzzling appliances. Open attic vents can release hot air trapped inside the house as well.

* Open windows reduce reliance on chemical air fresheners. Fresh air can quickly remove odors from a home. These can include old cooking smells, cigarette smoke, pet odors, or simply stale air. By opening windows, homeowners can clean the air in their homes naturally without covering it up with chemical air fresheners or other cleaners. The fresh air itself may simply smell good, or this pleasant aroma can be enhanced by blooming flowers or other natural scents from outdoors. * Open windows cut down on use of cleaning products. A home that never gets any fresh air can quickly succumb to allergens such as dust, dander and soot, necessitating the use of vacuums and other cleaning tools and products. But open windows can greatly reduce the buildup of such allergens, and therefore reduce reliance on appliances that guzzle energy or products that release harmful chemicals into the air. Open windows allow fresh air to flow throughout a home, improving personal health and benefitting the environment at the same time.

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