There are many fun and rewarding ways you and your children can participate in Earth Day (April 22) activities this year!
This Earth Day my family planted a garden, planted a tree, and talked about water conservation. It may not sound like much, but these three little projects were hard work that got our family excited about protecting our natural resources.
Plant a Vegetable Garden
A vegetable garden is a fun family project that’s good for the environment, too. If your family wants to plant a garden, the first two things you should consider are your garden’s size and location.
It might surprise you to learn that it can take a lot more time to maintain a garden than it does to create one. The larger the garden, the more time you’ll need to devote to harvesting and caring for it, so be sure to plan for a garden that’s a size you can manage.
As you consider your garden’s size, you’ll naturally begin to consider where your garden will go. Most vegetables need plenty of sun, so unless you live in a hot, semi-arid location like West Texas, you should choose a space for your garden that’s away from trees or the shade of your house. If your family does live in a hot, dry climate, you might want to consider planting your garden in a place that offers shade during the afternoon hours.
Preparing the Soil
Preparing your soil for planting will help your plants grow healthy and strong.
Remove any grass or weeds from the area you have designated for your garden and use brick, stone railroad tie, or other material to create a border. I recommend getting your soil tested at your local nursery or agriculture extension office to see if you need to amend your soil with additional nutrients.
Once your soil is ready, pick out some plants your family would enjoy eating. Your local nursery can help you decide what plant cultivars (types) will work best in your area.
Remember: plants often become MUCH LARGER than what you purchase, so space your plantings accordingly. For mulch, use recycled material around plants and along walkways to cover drip irrigation hoses and minimize water usage during the summer months.
Have your kids help you select the best spot for your garden, and then encourage them to help you prepare the soil, lay the garden’s borders, and plant your starter plants or seeds in the ground. Taking the with you to the local nursery is a great way to get them excited about plants, too!
Plant a Tree
The process of planting a tree is a lot like the process of preparing a garden. There are some special considerations, though. Just like vegetable plants, trees need the right soil conditions, the right amount of sunlight, and plenty of room to grow.
What type of tree do you want? How big will the tree become at maturity? What are the soil conditions in the planting area and does that jibe with your selected tree? How much sunlight is required? These are all important questions to answer.
Again, talk to your local nursery or ag extension office for the varieties of trees that will be most likely to thrive in your area. Discuss the specific planting needs (depth, watering, feeding, mulching, etc.) for the tree your family has picked.
The nursery or ag extension office can also give you information about local pests, fungi, or diseases which may impact your tree selection. Knowing these factors can reduce or eliminate the usage of chemical preventives/remedies.
Bring your kids along when you talk to the pros, and encourage them to ask questions, too. Then, when you plant your family’s new tree together, your kids will have a better understanding of all the variable that go into selecting the right tree and keeping it healthy.
Our family’s new vegetable garden and our beautiful new tree created a great teaching moment with our kids about water conservation. Virtually every process or activity in our society relates back to water in some way, so water conservation is extraordinarily important.
We talked with our kids about the importance of watering — but not over-watering — our new garden and our tree. We even put in a water timer to prevent us from wasting water. Our kids learned a little bit about conservation, and our entire family us using less water now than we did before.
Here are six more ways that we’d suggest engaging your family around the idea of water conservation:
- Visit the website of your local municipal water department and your local ag extension office for ways to deal with concerns specific to your area.
- Ensure that the water you use is used with purpose. Be conscious about how long your showers are and how much water you use brushing your teeth. All of that wasted water really adds up!
- Check your pipes and external water faucets for leaks, and be sure that faucets and hoses aren’t left running when they’re not being used.
- Don’t over-water your lawn. If there’s a stream of water running along the street or down into the sewer, it’s time to turn off the hose. Water your lawn at dusk to reduce evaporation, and only water when your lawn truly needs it!
- Choose grasses that require less water. Your local ag extension or plant nursery can help you find the best grass for your area.
- Reduce the size of your lawn’s grassy area by opting for xeriscaping (choosing drought-tolerant plants that use less water than thirsty grass). Besides conserving water, this can add beauty, texture, and variety to your property.
Planting a garden, planting a tree, and working together to conserve water are just three ways that you can engage your kids on Earth Day. Projects like these are fun ways to teach kids how important it is to protect our natural resources.
Regardless of how your family chooses to celebrate, the hard work you do has the potential to be both fun for our kids and rewarding for your whole family!
Submitted by: Brant Farrar, Assistant Professor of Sociology at South Plains College, Lubbock, Texas and edited by Melissa Gilliam Shaw.