Spring garden cleanup is a family affair

April 29, 2020 Cranberry Living

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Lisa Marie Bernardo

Staying at home puts a crimp in everyone’s lifestyle. The coming warm weather and spring blooming bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees give us many reasons to go outside and get a jump start on spring garden clean-up.

And, with children and adolescents home from school, their extra hands and abounding energy make clean-up a breeze!

On a warm day, take a walk together around your property, surveying seasonal needs.

Note the location of leaf piles, downed branches, and garden debris. Check on the viability of the compost pile. Prioritize your clean up schedule, assign the tasks and begin the clean-up process.

Prioritizing garden tasks lightens the work load, making the process less daunting. Task assignment is based on your families’ capabilities.

Young children require close supervision when completing outdoor gardening tasks.

Give these “workers” manageable assignments under the supervision of an adult or responsible order sibling, such as picking up sticks and placing them into a pile or bag, or helping to rake leaves.

Older children can help with tasks that require strength and coordination, such as hauling leaves or branches in a wheelbarrow, light pruning and turning the compost pile.

Prior to working outdoors, assure that everyone is well dressed and properly equipped. Everyone should wear clothing appropriate for the weather, such as a raincoat or long sleeved shirt. Use sunglasses if needed, as well as a hat.

Gardening gloves protect the hands of young and old alike.

Sturdy footwear assures the ability to walk with confidence across all terrains.

Child and adult-sized gardening tools, such as rakes, shovels, hand-held pruners and wheelbarrows, make for efficiency and safety.

Set a time limit for each day’s activities to promote the desire to return to the activity on another day.

Younger children may be able to stay focused for 30 minutes to one hour, while older children may be able to work for one hour or more.

After the clean-up session, assure that clothes, shoes and garden tools are cleaned and put away.

Reward your helpers with a healthy snack and a rest period.

Before or after the garden clean up, teach children age-appropriate lessons about the clean-up process, such as how compost works and when to use compost.

While outdoors, look for and marvel at the signs of spring.

Observe returning birds, and set up bird and suet feeders. Fill bird baths.

Look for worms in the compost pile.

Name the spring bulb flowers. Cut pussy willow and forsythia branches and arrange them in vases.

Look for buds on shrubs, trees and perennials.

Use online resources from Penn State Extension to supplement hands-on garden clean-up learning activities.

Garden clean-up affords families the opportunity to be outdoors, accomplish a task together, and learn about nature.

Use this stay at home time to commune with nature.

If you have questions about gardening with children, call the Master Gardener Garden Hotline at 724-287-4761, Ext. 7, or email the Master Gardeners at butlermg@psu.edu.

Lisa Marie Bernardo, PhD, RN, is a Penn State Master Gardener of Butler County.

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