By Nina Wu
Gardening seems like a natural hit for keiki — get your hands dirty, hold earthworms and learn how plants grow. I spend more time writing about gardens than actually gardening myself (I need more time - that's my excuse). My four-year-old likes to tag along, help water the few native plants and pots of herbs in our yard and pick lemons from our tree.
So when The Green House held it's hands-on Keiki Garden Adventure workshop on a recent Saturday in Pauoa Valley, I decided to sign up. It made for a fun Saturday morning. My son was shy, at first, but when I asked if he had fun later that afternoon, he said: "Yah!"
Here are a few tips I learned:
>> When planning an edible garden, think about what will grow based on sunlight, soil composition and moisture. Observe what's growing well in your neighborhood to get an idea — bananas, papayas, citrus, avocados, sweet potatoes all do well in a tropical climate.
>> You can create healthy soil through composting and sheet mulching. No matter what type of soil you have, adding compost and vermicast to poor soil will improve overall soil quality.
>> When taking a plant out of a pot, using your fingers to fluff out the end roots is helpful before planting in the ground. You want to plant it just right, not too low, not too high, to make it happy
>> Ecoscraps, an all-organic compost mix, is available at Home Depot. This mix is made from a variety of composted fruits and veggies, with no chemicals. It was started by two college students, Daniel Blake and Craig Martineau, who noticed how much food was being wasted at an all-you-can buffet –what began as a dorm room project grew into a business venture.
Betty Gearen, the teacher, started the morning by having the kids shape "wormies" out of a chocolate-cinnamon dough that she later baked up as a yummy treat.
She brought out a few examples of seeds and explained how they grew. Then the kids got to get their hands dirty making "seed balls" — a mix of soil, compost, and a little clay — sprinkled with various flower seeds. Add water and shape into small balls. A reused paper egg carton makes the perfect container.
Drill three holes into a plastic gallon container and you've got a watering can.
The Green House is now offering the new EcoExplorer Learning Center for two to five-year-olds from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"With the Aina as our playground and Mother Nature as our guide we have created an innovative place where keiki will blossom in a fun, safe, nurturing eco-environment that has been created just for them to imagine, wonder and explore.
Keiki will learn creative arts, literature, math, cooking, gardening and yoga through the center, which embraces Montessori and Waldorf philosophies. To learn more, contact program director Karla Meek, firstname.lastname@example.org.