For The Youngest Beginner

His response to the sight of "BOB" or "HI" suddenly appearing in the bare ground of his plot will be worth the trouble. He will learn how to weed out the aliens, too, in order to keep his sign legible.

Scratching a child's name on a pumpkin, watermelon, squash or gourd while it is quite small, so he can watch the letters get bigger and bigger as the vegetable grows, is another bit of entertaining nonsense to make a garden seem an exciting place.

So is the wick-fed watermelon trick with which gardening pranksters sometimes dumbfound their friends. This is done by introducing a wick into a melon when it is approaching maturity, through a small slit carefully cut near its junction with the stem. The other end of the wick is put through a cork and down into a gallon jug full of water. Given this "intra­venous" feeding a watermelon swells up to abnormal propor­tions and, with the guilty paraphernalia removed from sight, it becomes a puzzling curiosity.

As mysterious as the question of how the ship got into the bottle is some hocus-pocus that can be done with a cucumber to amuse a child. If a tiny cucumber is inserted in a small-necked bottle it will grow there to maturity. Choose a bottle that a full-grown cucumber can fill. If the container is small enough the cucumber will contort itself and adjust more or less to the confining shape. Protect the bottle from the hot sun by tucking it well under the leaves. When the cucumber has filled the bottle sever the stem and pour in pickling brine to preserve it for exhibition.

When a budding young gardener has planted his first seeds in pots on an inside windowsill, set up a demonstration project for him to enliven the dull waiting period. Just fill a glass with soil and press down into it, right next to the glass, seeds such as peas, beans or nasturtiums. Keep the soil well watered. Long before anything happens on the surface of his other pots activity will start in this little underground theater, where he can watch it through the glass. Seeds will swell, burst open, put down roots and begin to push leaves upward. Thus he can see exactly how a seed comes to life, and will understand why he has to wait so long for plants to appear above-ground.

Catering to childhood's love of bright colors, you might plan to dazzle your young beginner with a rainbow garden (or a reasonable facsimile). A whole arc, or just a segment, could be planted with the clearest and truest of rainbow hues in proper juxtaposition. Plants of similar heights should be used, of course.



      (c)2003-2008, gardening-with-kids.com