Contributed by Lindsay Shugerman, Catalogs.com Top 10 Guru
Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies in the world.
But have you ever thought about turning your ordinary home garden into way to teach your children? Or as a way for you or your friends to learn something new? The idea of a garden as a teaching tool is nothing new. Schools and historical societies have been creating learning gardens – gardens that teach — for decades.
But if you’re new to the idea, here are the top 10 ways to create a learning garden at home.
10. Gardening skills
The most basic type of learning garden would be one that teaches children (or adults) about basic gardening skills. Learning how to improve garden soil, plant, weed, care for and harvest food plants or flowers is a great introduction to the art of gardening.
9. Butterfly gardens
A butterfly garden gives you the chance to learn about the types of butterflies that live in your area, or that travel through your area as they migrate. By selecting the kinds of plants they enjoy for food, egg-laying or that all important season in a cocoon, you and your family can learn about gardening and about these beautiful insects.
8. Healing garden
While it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to stock your medicine cabinet from a home garden, a medicinal garden is a wonderful type of learning garden. Start by reading about the kinds of plants people in your area traditionally used to heal, then create a garden based on those ancient practices.
A word of caution, though. If you plan to use your healing garden to treat real illnesses or injuries, make sure you work with an expert. Even home-grown herbal cures can be harmful if misused.
7. Recipe garden
A fun kind of garden is one based on a favorite recipe or type of food. This learning is great for small children, who will be delighted to see the ingredients for pizza, tacos, or other favorite dishes growing right before their eyes.
Just be sure you plant each ingredient at the right time, so everything is ready to pick at once.
6. Historical garden
Gardens have been an important part of history, with different designs and plant choices in different eras. Consider creating a historical garden based on the history of your region. These kinds of gardens also open the door to learning about architecture, lifestyles, food choices and medicines used by long-ago residents of your city or state.
5. Canning garden
A learning garden created for home canning can also be a way to save money on food bills. This type of learning garden would start with research on the kinds of food that work well for home canning, and then planting based on what you decide to “put up” for the winter.
While you’re waiting for your plants to grow, spend time learning when to harvest your garden for canning and how to process the fruits, vegetables and herbs so they’re tasty and safe.
4. Ecology or ecosystem
Another popular type of learning garden is an ecology-themed design. Learning about the local ecosystem, including native plants, microclimates, water use, soil, insects and wildlife is a wonderful way to build a garden that supports local ecology.
3. Natural pest control
A garden based on natural pest control can be a great way to replace toxic chemicals with good planning. Often called “companion planting”, natural pest control involves learning about the types of insects, spiders and other pests that attack plants in your area, and then finding out what other plants keep them away.
2. Organic garden
An organic garden is very popular type of learning garden, where the soil, fertilizers and ideally even the seeds you plant are organic.
A great way to make your garden 100% organic is to use compost to enrich the soil and fertilize your plants. Consider buying or building a compost bin a few months before you start planting, so you’ll have enough rich, organic soil to add to your existing soil.
1. Chemistry garden
To a chemist, all the world is a lab, and a garden is no exception. But few people realize how much chemistry is involved in good gardening. From the pH of the soil, to the types of nutrients, minerals and other chemicals in the soil and water, a chemistry-based learning garden is a way to learn about all the not-so-obvious, but oh-so-important aspects of gardening.
All gardening is learning
No matter what kind of garden you decide to plant, there will always be a chance to learn. But if you know how to create a learning garden, you and your family will reap the benefits.