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Dads: Teach Your Children to Garden

It’s a lesson for life

Children learn so much about life from working in the garden. Watching a seed germinate and develop into a plant, then watching that plant develop and produce flowers, fruits and more seeds teaches them the cycle of life. Sowing seeds of different crops and watching them develop into different shapes, flowers, fruits and vegetables teaches them that variability is as common in plants as it is in humans.
    Proper nutrition is as important for growing plants as it is for good health. That’s a lesson children learn when you teach them to establish gardens in well-drained soil, in full sun with proper soil nutrients, pH and organic matter.

You Can’t Make a Spruce Thrive in Shade

Q: Several years ago, I decided to try a live Christmas tree. We planted it in the back yard without much thought about soil, light and air. My lot is an infill lot heavily shaded and surrounded by old-growth trees. The tree is about 12 feet tall now, maybe three feet in diameter, but it appears to be slowly dying. It has bluish needles that are no more than a half-inch long, and they grow all around the branch. I can roll the needles in my fingers, meaning they are not flat.
–Phil Dales, Annapolis

Based on your description and symptoms, I suspect you have a blue spruce, especially if the needles are prickly. Spruce trees cannot tolerate growing in shade. Either cut down surrounding trees or move the tree to a sunny location. Your other choice is to watch the tree die.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected].
All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

    Involving children in gardening — with tasks such as weeding, irrigating and harvesting — not only assigns them responsibilities but gives them a sense of pride. I will always remember when my dad told me to take over the vegetable garden after helping him for several years. The pride I had from harvesting tomatoes, lettuce, radishes and snap beans is part of my fond memories of childhood.
    The two daughters Clara and I raised had early exposure to gardening. In my small garden in College Park, the girls helped harvest snow peas, tomatoes, peppers and blueberries.
    When they were not in school they were often helping dad’s research. They became involved in research in rooting cuttings, transplanting, watering, applying fertilizers and preparing plants for winter protection. Their assistance enabled me to conduct extensive research with a very limited budget. Their reward for helping me was lunch at McDonald’s and a little bit more in their weekly allowance. I even hired my oldest daughter to transcribe temperature data so that it could be plotted into graphs.
    My oldest daughter became a citrus virologist, while my youngest daughter, a bank teller, maintains an interest in gardening.
    In 1972, I became involved in developing a statewide 4-H horticulture program and plant-science program. Within five years, the programs had been adopted in all 28 Maryland counties and Baltimore City. We taught about fruits, vegetables, flowers, ornamentals, weeds, insects, diseases and seeds of plants in Maryland. 4-H-ers of all ages participated in a statewide contest, and many of the winners attended national contests and became national winners.
    You’re preparing children for careers, self-sufficiency and life by teaching them to garden.