DIY Network

Kid-Friendly Composting and Plant Sales

Learn about easy composting and a way young gardeners can give back to the community.

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learning to compost good way to teach stewardship

One practical way for children to learn about stewardship of the earth is to learn how to compost. Composting is a great way to recycle the earth's resources and also provides great lessons about science and ecology.

Teach your children to make compost by adding a carbon source, such as chopped up leaves, straw or sawdust, and a nitrogen source, such as kitchen scraps. You can collect scraps from your own kitchen, or you and your child can visit a grocery store and ask the produce manager for unsold produce that is going to be thrown away. In addition, your child may want to talk to the head of his or her school's cafeteria, to see whether any kitchen scraps can be collected and recycled for composting.

By building a compost pile and studying about the chemistry of compost, children will learn how carbons and nitrogens combine to create a rich, crumbly humus that's better than any fertilizer around. They'll learn about beneficial bacteria and the role of oxygen and moisture in a compost pile. They'll also learn about the 3 Rs of recycling: recycling, being resourceful and being respectful of the environment.

Giving Back to the Community

Kids can contribute to their community by having a plant sale and donating the proceeds to charity. By planning a sale, children are essentially creating a small business. They'll learn about money and economics at the same time they learn about horticulture and about giving to the community.

For a plant sale, children will first need to purchase seed-starting materials: sterile seed-starting mix, starting trays and seeds. They should keep all their receipts so they'll know how much money they have invested and so they'll be able to price their plants fairly and calculate their profit later on. They will need to start their seeds in trays and keep the soil moist and warm until the seeds germinate. Once the seeds germinate, the children can move the seedlings to an area where they'll get plenty of bright light.

When the seedlings are several inches high, the children can transplant them into larger pots to get them ready to sell. Your children may want to plant some common vegetable varieties, as well as some "gourmet" varieties. The gourmet varieties may sell for more money and produce a higher profit margin.

Before the sale, your children will need to home in on marketing by putting flyers on (not in) neighbors' mailboxes and placing signs around the neighborhood. On the morning of the sale, they'll need to price the plants and display them attractively. They should also post a sign stating that their profits will go a local charity: perhaps a nature center or a local food bank. With any luck at all, they'll make a great profit, meet new folks, learn about running a business and contribute to their community all at the same time.