“It’s by studying the little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible” — Samuel Johnson
Well Christmas is almost here. The time seems to fly by the older you get. If you have children and are on a budget, I have a few inexpensive gift ideas that also introduce children to the wonders of plants and nature.
Small children are so excited this time of the year. To give a great gift without spending a lot, give them a clay pot to decorate on their own. Then help them fill the pots with sterile soil and give them a package of marigold or coleus seeds to plant in the containers. Show them how to water the pots and explain why the plants need a sunny window. If they see their plants grow, they may become your new garden helper next spring.
I have a few plants that I brought indoors for the winter. When they were out on the deck, my marigolds dropped seeds in those pots. Guess what? With not much care, I have many baby marigolds growing indoors. I will have some nice transplants in the spring.
You could also get some crocus bulbs and have the children plant the bulbs in pots. Place the pots in a cold garage, a sheltered area outside or even in the back of your refrigerator. Explain to the children that most spring bulbs need to be kept cold at 43-34 degrees Fahrenheit, and dark so that the bulbs will grow and flower in April. Crocus need 15 weeks to put down a strong root system and to set the blossoms. Have the children bring the crocus pots into the house in late March and place in a sunny, warm spot. They will have a lovely pot of flowers to give to grandma or mom to celebrate spring.
If children understand how nature works, it will stay with them all their lives. When I was young my dad bought me a very inexpensive microscope. It was such fun looking at insects, dust, seeds, water and even spit. To this day, insects fascinate me and it’s because of that gift long ago from my dad.
All gardeners know not to use salt to de-ice walks and driveways. There are a few ecofriendly ways to protect yourself and others from falling on ice. If you have leftover fertilizer, you can spread it in the same quantities recommended for salt. The potassium, or potash, will melt ice and the phosphorus will provide a slip-proof surface.
You can also use sand. The best thing about sand is that it is safe for your pets. Of course you need to keep it from freezing. Another product you can use is urea fertilizer mixed with sand. The application rate is 10 pounds of urea per 100 square feet. The sand is for traction.
If you have potted herbs growing indoors and would like to give a little gift to an unexpected guest, try cuttings of rosemary. Use tender new growth and not woody stems. The trick to propagating rosemary in water is to use a green jar or glass. The rosemary should not touch the bottom of the jar. So I cover the top of the jar with aluminum foil and poke a hole for the cutting. Rosemary will root in about a week to 10 days. Once you see the root hairs growing you can then transplant the cutting into a small pot.