Kids at Play: All Season Long

When I received an invitation to participate in the All About Parenting Blog Carnival, I knew just what to do. There needed to be an entry about Kids at Play in the yard and garden. What kid doesn’t like to play outside and explore the yard? Here are a few ideas to make the most of the time your kids spend playing in the yard and garden:

Toys for the Yard and Garden

bubble-mower.jpgThere are several different toys available for play in the yard and the garden. These can range from inexpensive to moderately expensive. Kids like to pretend they are working along-side you, so why not find some kid-friendly tools? There are many different options available for plastic gardening tools and wheelbarrows to even lawnmowers. Remember the bubble mower? It was a fun way for the kids to pretend that they were mowing the lawn just like mom and dad.

Perhaps you want your kids to have gardening tools which are a little sturdier than the plastic ones. You will find several smaller tools such as spades and rakes at your local garden center. They will have several options to choose from to outfit your kids and encourage play in the garden.

Bugs and Butterflies

bug-catchers.jpgMaybe you have a budding entomologist on your hands. These kids will enjoy playing with the many different bug catchers and bug houses that are available for purchase. You can also make a simplified home with an old fashioned canning jar and a lid with holes punched in the top. This will provide hours of fun and excitement as they catch, observe and then release the many different bugs they will be able to find right in their own backyard.

If you have fireflies, show your kids how to catch them at dusk during the summer. This will provide a fun experience for the family.

Don’t forget to have a butterfly net on hand. Your kids will love chasing the bright butterflies and trying to catch them.

You may want to visit your local garden center and buy a container of ladybugs or a praying mantis sack. This will provide hours of fun as the kids let the ladybugs crawl on their hands and they sing the “ladybug, ladybug, fly away home” song. They will enjoy watching for the baby praying mantis’s to hatch. Not only is this a fun activity, but it will be beneficial for the plants in your garden as these bugs get rid of the bad bugs.

Feed the Birds

birdhouse.jpgWhen it comes to birdfeeders, it doesn’t need to be expensive. While you can purchase a ready-made bird feeder, why not have your kids make one instead? It can be as simple as making one out of a milk carton to taking a pinecone, spreading peanut butter on it and then rolling it in birdseed. Attach a string to hang it from a tree branch and then watch the enjoyment that it brings to both the birds and your kids. Your kids will like feeding the birds and watching them flock around the feeder.

Stepping Stones

stepping-stone-kit.jpgOne of the best presents I ever received from my son was a stepping stone he made for my garden. He had fun making it and I enjoyed placing it in my garden path. These can be as simple or as fancy as you like. The kids will enjoy making them and then seeing them in the garden. It is a great way to display some creative artwork.

Plant a Kids Garden

What kid doesn’t enjoy playing in the dirt? There are many different things you can plant in a kids garden that will bring lots of joy and excitement all season long. Here are a few things your kids may enjoy planting in their garden:

  • Easter Egg Radishes—While they may not enjoy eating them, it is fun to see the many different colors that these radishes grow in.

  • Thumbelina Carrots—These carrots grow much shorter and your kids will think they have grown their very own baby carrots to enjoy.

  • Bright Lights Swiss Chard—This chard grows in a rainbow of colors that your kids will enjoy seeing.

  • Beans—Try Scarlet Runners and Royal Burgandy. These beans will provide lots of color and flowers for your kids to enjoy. There are also many varieties of bush beans that they will enjoy growing and some of them even grow in colors such as purple, but change to green when they are cooked. Kids will enjoy the color-changing magic that these beans possess.

  • Potatoes—There are many different varieties available from the standard Russet to the Yukon Gold, Banana Fingerling or for colored fun, try the Blue potato or the Huckleberry variety which is purple.

  • Squash/Pumpkins/Gourds—Squash plants are fun and make a big statement in the garden. Pumpkins are fun and provide excitement in October. Try Baby Boo pumpkins, which are small, or Autumn Gold which starts out growing in a yellow-orange color from the very beginning.

  • Flowers—Plant annual flowers such as zinnias and marigolds. The kids will enjoy having their own garden from which to pick flowers from and give to mom. They will also enjoy the bright colors.

There are several other things that you can do to promote play in the yard and garden. What are some of the things you can think of that I haven’t mentioned? Please share a comment below!

How to Start Gardening

imaginamorguefilecom.JPGNow that the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the leaves are growing back on the trees, we all know that spring is here! One of the many pleasures of spring is that we can enjoy our garden. Here are some tips that anyone can use for their garden this spring.

Starting the Garden
The first step in starting your garden is to plan it. Many people sketch a layout and plan their gardens on paper before doing anything else, so that they can get a grasp of what they need to purchase, what they need to do, and how the garden will look when finished. There are plenty of resources for this online, to help you out. When planning your garden, be sure you factor in the environmental conditions surrounding your area, to help you choose the right plants. Once you have planned the look of your garden, you can move on with preparing for planting.

Preparing for Planting
Here is where things start to get interesting. You will need to take your Spring Gardening plan with you when you shop for soils, plant bulbs, seeds, and other gardening equipment. This will help you make sure you have everything you need in one trip, and that you have all the tools for growing a healthy garden. After you have everything you need, it is time to prepare the land for the plants. Clear out any dead foliage. Improve your soil with fertilizers and compost heaps, and make sure the ground is ready for planting. When you are sure that you are ready to begin planting the garden, then you can move on the next step.

Planting the Garden
Here comes the fun part. Following the plan that you drew up earlier, and the instructions that came with the bulbs and seeds you purchased, plant your garden accordingly. Be prepared to spend a hefty amount of time on this step, as this should be done with the utmost care. When you have finished planting all your bulbs and seeds, water the garden if necessary, and wait for the blooms to start appearing.

Caring for the Garden
To help keep the weeds out of the garden, and the water in it, you should cover your seedlings with a few inches of mulch. This will ensure that the garden stays healthy when you cannot tend to it, and help you along. The most important thing about caring for a garden is to make sure you keep up with it. Water the plants whenever necessary, pull the weeds before they get so big they try to take over, and always remember to stop and smell the flowers!

Nothing says you have to have a green thumb to be successful when it comes to spring gardening. All it takes is a little planning, tender love, and care, and you will soon be able to bask in the beautiful glory of your own garden. Following these steps will make you a gardening pro in no time!

Submitted by: Cindy Watrous

Photo Provided by Imagina

Choosing a Lawn Mower

Mowing your lawn is a tradition as well as a chore. When you select the right lawn mower, it can become a chore that is perhaps a little more enjoyable. There are several things you will want to consider when you are choosing a new lawn mower. With the many options that are available, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that matches your needs and wants.

Where Should You Purchase Your Mower?

According to All About Lawns, the best place to make your purchase is through a dealer.

Buy your lawn mower from a dealer or retail store that offers equipment options for your mower. Service dealerships are best for people who have neither the time nor inclination to tune up their own mowers, but non-servicing dealerships usually offer the best prices. Dealerships tend to carry more brands at a better range of prices than major chain stores. Buying a used mower may be the cheap way to go, but it also may mean that you can’t get replacement parts later. Finally, check any model with a current recall list before you buy–mowers often get recalled.–All About Lawns

Cutting Size

When choosing your lawn mower, you will need to determine the size of your lawn. This will help you to choose a mower in the correct cutting width.

Less than 1/2 acre —You will want to choose a mower that is 20” to 22” if your lawn is within this size range.

1/2 to 3/4 acre — When your lawn falls within this range, you will need to choose a mower that is 21″ to 22″ and has a higher horsepower.

More than 3/4 acre — If the lawn you are cutting falls into this group, you will want to consider a lawn or garden tractor.

Type of Terrain

You will want to choose a lawn mower that will work best with the type of terrain that you have in your yard.

Small Yard-If you have a small yard, then a push mower will be just fine and will help you to get a little exercise while you mow.

Large Yard or Hills-Consider using a self-propelled lawn mower in these types of yards.

Rough Terrain-Choose a high wheel mower in yards with rough terrain. This will provide you with maneuverability that is easier.

Lots of Obstacles-If you need to mow around several obstacles, then a rear bagger makes a great choice. This will allow your work to be easier and faster while allowing for greater maneuverability.

Mower Terms

When you begin looking at lawn mowers, there are many different features available to choose from. Here are some of the terms you should be familiar with:

Mulching—With this feature, no bagging of grass clippings is required. A mulching lawn mower will cut the grass clippings into fine pieces. This is a great way to add organic material back into your lawn.

Side Discharge— In this model, the grass clippings are dispersed back onto your lawn. This is a great choice if you do not have many obstacles to deal with or if you prefer to cut your grass high.

Rear Bagger—This mower will collect your grass clippings and thus provide you with an immaculate lawn. It is preferable to have a rear bag rather than a side bag as it is easier to use around trees, fences and many other obstacles.

Assembled in Carton—This simply means that you will need to just add gasoline, oil and start.

3-In-1—This lawn mower is capable of performing side discharge, mulching and bagging functions. It is a great option when you want the flexibility to change how you mow your lawn.

Other Options

There are many alternatives to the standard gasoline powered engines available. Mowers which are powered by electricity have greatly improved over the last few years. There are models which are corded and cordless that will offer you a choice when selecting one of these models.

Another great choice is a manually operated reel lawn mower. This lawn mower will work on most grasses if the grass doesn’t become too tall between cuttings. The majority of these lawn mowers have five blades and they are adjustable to different heights. The mowing function is similar to that of a pair of scissors. You will need to mow more often in order to maintain your cut, but this mower is a great choice when properly maintained. It is an efficient, quiet and lightweight tool.

What are your favorite options in a lawn mower? What things do you look for when you are choosing a lawn mower for your yard?
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Preparing Your Yard For Spring

graceymorguefilecom.jpg The sun is shining and the birds are beginning to sing their sweet songs. The flowers are pushing their heads up through the fresh soil announcing the arrival of spring. So what can you do to prepare your yard for spring? There are several things that you can do to ensure that your yard receives the proper start to a fantastic year.

Flower Beds

* Rake-Clean up the leftover debris from last year. This will include items such as leaves, twigs and any garbage that has blown in during the winter.

* Uncover any plants such as roses you have protected during the winter.

* Maintenance pruning-clean up any winter damage.

* Amend the soil-add compost to create a rich soil for this year’s plants.

* Fertilize-choose a slow release fertilizer and add it to all of your flower beds, roses and perennials for a healthy start.

* Add pre-emergent weed preventers-this ensures weed-free gardens throughout the summer.

Lawns

* Apply a humic acid based fertilizer such as Natural Guard Soil Activator. This can be found at your local garden center. Applying this at the beginning of the season aids in nutrient enhancement without stimulating premature growth.

* Mow-if you allowed your grass to grow long during the fall, an early maintenance cutting is recommended.

* Apply a pre-emergent crabgrass and weed preventer. This will cut down on or reduce the amount of weeds that will develop in your lawn throughout the season.

Trees

* If you have ornamental trees, then pruning is recommended in the spring.

* Prune-do any necessary repair pruning that might have come from winter damage. This is also a great time to thin out any excess growth in your trees.

* Apply a dormant spray-this will depend on which type of tree you have. But a dormant spray will help to control any overwintering insect eggs and funguses.

* Fertilize with a tree and shrub specific fertilizer. This will give your trees a great and healthy start for the year as they wake up from their winter slumber.

Taking these general steps in the spring will help you to have a yard you can be proud of during the summer months. Where do you begin when you are preparing your yard for spring?

Photo provided by Gracey