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Alphabet Garden

A favorite theme for young children is an ABC garden. Here's a list that will work in most locations, provided you have enough space. Or you and the children can look through seed catalogs, garden reference books, or take a field trip to a garden centers to choose what you'll plant.

Except for tomato plants, which require about four square feet and a cage or tower in which to grow, most plants can flourish in one square foot of garden space. That means you will probably need about 30 square feet for an alphabet garden. Plan a planting day in mid-May and give students and their families plenty of lead time. In fact, it might be wise to have them bring in the plants by the day before so that you can see any "holes" that you can fill with a quick run to the garden store, or asking friends for perennial divisions or seeds.

Prepare the bed and mark the square feet for planting day by pouring a thin stream of flour on the soil - preferably on a day with little or no wind!

If you're short on space, you can plant one flower for every letter in the name of your school, neighborhood association, child-care center, etc.

Or you can have each child bring a flower that starts with the first letter of the child's first name.

You can ask each family to bring in the flower or bulb individually, and keep the rest to plant at home. You can assign one or more alphabet letters to each family, with some suggested plants, or ask them to sign up for the plants they wish to bring.

If they wish to bring in the entire four-pack, you can create a nice entryway garden with the excess flower donations for your alphabet garden.

All you need is one variety for each letter of the alphabet, and stakes to identify each plant. It's really fun to plant them in alphabetical order, too.

There are several options for the plant stakes or name labels:

n      You can buy plastic plant name stakes in bulk at garden centers or online - remember, you'll need 26! If the children are too young to write legibly, write each plant's name using a permanent marker, such as a Sharpie pen.

n      Small children might enjoy painting each alphabet letter on a clean stone in enamel paint to mark each flower. Be careful, for enamel paint might stain! But poster paints will fade almost immediately in the sun. You can type up the whole list on a sheet of paper, have it laminated, and hot-glue it to a stake to place in the garden for full identification of each plant.

n      Older children might enjoy painting wooden stakes in patterns and pretty colors, and writing the plant's name on top of the color. If your city has a recycling center for toxic chemicals such as exterior paints, you can call ahead to see if they have any exterior paint to give away, and that's a good source of paint that will stand up to the sun and rain.

A         Alyssum

B         Begonia

C         Cosmos

D         Dahlia

E         Elephant Ears

F          Flax

G         Gallardia

H         Hosta

I           Iris

J          Johnny Jump-Up (viola tricolor)

K         Lale

L          Lily

M         Marigold

N         Nasturtium

O         Oregano

P         Petunia

Q         Queen Anne's Lace

R         Radishes (several seeds)

S         Shasta Daisy

T          Tomato

U         Umbrella sedge (tropical plant in a pot; bring inside in winter)

V         Vinca minor

W        Wormwood

X         Xeriscape plants that can withstand drought, such as hens 'n' chicks or yucca

Y         Yarrow

Z          Zinnia

Try to have a few extra plants on hand for children whose families forget or can't afford to donate plants.

When plants start to flower, try to make a bouquet with flowers or plant parts that start with the letters of a student's name.

By Susan Darst Williams • www.KidsGardenClub.org • Themes 03 © 2010

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