RECYCLE A PLASTIC BOTTLE INTO A SHARK-THEMED PLANTER FOR SUCCULENTS


A few years ago, a friend inspired me to pot a succulent container garden. I discovered that trendy jade, aeonium and echeveria are the most forgiving, low-maintenance sun-loving plants I could ever grow on our deck in the summer and indoors during Minnesota’s winter chill. And they are easy to propagate. Break off an offshoot from a larger plant, stick it in the soil, and a new plant will root and grow.

No matter the season, why not encourage your young child to grow his own succulents and plant them in a container he is familiar with: a plastic soda or water bottle? It’s a fun craft project to upcycle a liter size into a planter, and decorate it to enhance bedroom or family room decor. If he’s fascinated with sea life, how about a shark?

Here’s the stuff you’ll need to make a fish-themed planter:
–1 empty liter size soda or water bottle with lid, label removed
–markers
–craft foam sheets in 3-4 colors
–non-toxic craft glue
–craft paint and brush (optional)
–fast-draining soil, like cactus potting mix
–pebbles
–3 small succulent plants

Here’s the fun:
Set the bottle on its side. Let your child measure and draw a 2-inch-by-6-inch rectangle lengthwise where the label was removed. An adult should cut out the rectangle. (Tip: use a pushpin to poke a few holes in the plastic on a line for ease in getting the cutting started.) The opening will be the top of the planter.
Use the craft foam to decorate the outside of the bottle to look like a shark. The spout with lid already looks like a fish mouth. Refer to a picture or photo of a shark in a book or online to sketch and cut out shapes resembling a shark’s mouth, eyes, gills, fins and tail. Glue cutouts to the bottle. Add details with craft paint, if you wish. Let dry.
Scoop a half-inch layer of pebbles into the bottle and about 1 1/2 inches of damp potting soil. Plant succulents, sprinkle more pebbles around them and display in a sunny spot.

Let your child care for the plants by giving them a drink of water when the soil is thoroughly dried out.

PLANT A MOBILE MINI-GARDEN IN A WAGON

My 4-year-old friend Grace Hunt waters herbs, lettuce and kale growing in a movable wagon garden.

Beautiful things can emerge when you dig right in. A natural, glorious garden that just happens to be edible is a great place to start.

So find an old wagon at a garage sale, or use one that your kids have outgrown, let the soil run through your fingers, and plant a garden on wheels together.
This is an easy project for the beginning gardeners in your family, and the results are so rewarding. Children can plant, water, weed and tend their own plants without becoming overwhelmed by a big garden plot. And since the garden on wheels is portable, they can move it around the yard or deck for maximum sun exposure throughout the day.
Here’s the stuff you need:
–an old wagon, wheelbarrow or wagonlike toy on wheels
–drill and 1/4-inch drill bit
–wire mesh screen, such as window screen (optional)
–potting soil mix
–potted edible plants, such as herbs (parsley, basil, tarragon, thyme, etc.), lettuce and kale
–kid-size gardening tools
–watering can
–Tinker Toys and waterproof pens for plant markers (optional)
Here’s the fun:
1. An adult should drill several drainage holes in the bottom of the wagon or wheelbarrow about 6 inches apart. You may wish to lay mesh screen over the bottom to keep soil from falling through the holes. Fill with potting soil mix. Leave at least 3/4 inch to the wagon edge.
2. Plant potted plants, keeping in mind their eventual size: Put taller plants in the middle, small plants along the sides. You also could plant a few lettuce seeds placed in the soil in the shape of the letter of your child’s first name. Or, choose a colorful edible flower or two.
3. Water with a watering can or slow-running hose. It’s a good idea to give it six hours of direct sun each day. Add plant food throughout the growing season, and you’ll have the loveliest garden on wheels ever.
4. If your child wishes to make small identification markers for planted seeds and plants, simply attach a Tinker Toy wheel to a stick, and draw a picture with a marker on the wheels. Poke into the dirt by the seedlings or plants.
Most importantly, enjoy your bountiful wagon harvest as summer and the wagon roll along!

MAKE A SUCCULENT PUMPKIN CENTERPIECE

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Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween. Available in green, white, blue-gray and various shades of orange, like the deeply ribbed Cinderella pumpkin, they make an eye-catching Thanksgiving Day center- piece when you glue moss and living succulents on top.

Keep the succulents misted as they root into the moss, and enjoy an attrac- tive creation in your home into the December holidays and beyond. When the pumpkin eventually begins to soften and age, toss it in the compost bin and pot the succulents indoors in soil in a flowerpot or outdoors in a frost-free gar- den bed.

Kids will enjoy making the centerpiece with you this week. Swirling the non- toxic sticky glue, handling the wiry moss and arranging the succulents and add-ins make for artful fun.

Here’s what you’ll need for one succulent pumpkin centerpiece:

—One clean pumpkin with a flat top surface and center indentation works best.

—Water-soluble white glue that dries clear, such as Mod Podge Matte finish

—Sphagnum moss available in garden centers or craft stores

—Several succulents. Use cuttings from your garden or purchase at garden centers

—Natural add-ons such as seedpods, acorns, tiny pinecones, eucalyptus

Here’s the fun:

  1. Set pumpkin on a newspaper covered work surface. Remove stem with clippers, being careful not to cut into the pumpkin.
  2. 
 Drizzle glue around the top area of the pumpkin in swirls. Cover with the moss about 1/2-inch thick, pressing firmly in place. Let dry.
  1. Remove roots and soil from the succulents from containers. Dip 1/4-inch stems into glue and poke into the moss. For balance, place a tall succulent for a focal point near the center and add remaining succulents and add-ons around it over the moss. (An adult may use a glue gun to affix the add-ons, if you prefer)

Care: Set the centerpiece on a trivet or tray. Mist succulents and moss weekly, making sure the pumpkin remains fresh and dry. The succulents will begin to root through the glue into the moss. Keep away from excessive heat, freezing temperatures and rain.

Extra idea: Make succulent pumpkin place cards for each place setting at the Thanksgiving table using single minis, such as the Munchkin pumpkin. Tuck a name card in each one and set at each plate. Guests may take it home to enjoy.

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