It’s spring! There are few ways more effective to shake off a bad case of cabin fever than to get outside to breathe in the fresh air and see what colors are pushing up from the dirt. April is Lawn and Garden Month, and we’re diving into all things garden. Our theme this month – How Does Your Garden Grow – will encompass all senses and all dimensions of wellness, giving community members a beautiful celebration throughout April. Don’t worry if your thumb isn’t green, we’ve got even novice gardeners covered with activity ideas this month. Grab your gardening gloves, seed packets, and a few resources to get started for a blooming fun month.
MUSIC – Gardening and music are both types of art, which may explain why they go so well together. This month, add some musical elements for residents, family, and visitors to enjoy while they sit or stroll around the garden. The easiest way to do this is to invest in different sizes and tones of wind chimes to hang outside. Hold a drum circle in the garden, or ask a music group to perform, with the garden as the backdrop. Sit and listen to the natural music in the garden – birds chirping, wind blowing, and squirrels chattering.
COGNITIVE – Host a Name That Seed session. Pour different seed packets into containers before participants arrive. Choose seeds of different shapes and sizes, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, tomato seeds, wildflower seeds, and eggplant seeds – simply head to your local garden store and grab what is available. During the group sessions, pass containers around, one at a time, and encourage participants to touch and smell the seeds before passing to the next person. After everyone has had a chance to investigate the seeds, ask for guesses of what the seeds are. If no one is able to guess correctly, give clues until someone gives the right answer. Then, move on to the next container of seeds. Caution: If anyone in your group is liable to eat the seeds, use only seeds that are easy to digest and not harmful, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, or flax seeds.
FAMILY – Celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday with family members by inviting them to an Easter Bonnet Social. Ask them to bring in a hat that they would like to decorate, or look in thrift stores for old hats. Set up different tables with decoration supplies (sequins, ribbons, artificial flowers, etc.). Encourage everyone to go to the different tables, decorating their own Easter Bonnet hat. Ask “celebrity” judges to give out awards to favorite bonnets; these judges can be your nursing director, town mayor, or even fire chief. Serve spring petit fours and offer a lemonade and iced tea bar full of different mix-ins like berries or sugarcane sticks.
FOOD – Farm-to-Table dining is trendy now, and you can put your own spin on this dining experience at your own community. Start simple by planning and then planting an herb garden that the community chef can use for meal preparation. Herbs like basil, rosemary, and dill are easy to care for and do well planted in the ground or in small pots on your patio. If you don’t think that an herb garden will work with your community, plan field trips to the local farmer’s market. Buy a few fresh items that can be turned into a delicious appetizer or treat in your cooking class or by your community chef.
SPIRITUAL – For an interactive spiritual exercise, add meditation stops throughout each of your outdoor gardening areas. Paint garden stones with scripture verses or Buddha quotes and add them to quiet spots in the garden. Or, add a gratitude wall to an area of the garden: paint a large board with chalkboard paint and keep a container of sidewalk chalk nearby, encouraging everyone to add their own drawings or words of gratitude to the garden. Host a Bible study or prayer group in the garden once or twice per month this season as well.
CRAFTS – Pipe cleaner flowers are pretty, easy to make, and easy to care for, even if you don’t have a green thumb. Your craft group is sure to enjoy making these creations, and once they get the hang of it, you can keep mason jars full of pipe cleaners in your craft room or living room areas for people to work on independently throughout the month. While a quick internet search can get you a variety of options for making these fuzzy flowers, you can make a simple daisy shape by using one green pipe cleaner for the stem, three yellow pipe cleaners in figure 8 shape for the petals, and a white pipe cleaner to swirl around itself as the flower middle. These are lovely on their own, in a vase, or even as a grouping in a window box for your craft room.
SENSORY KIT – This month, make your sensory kit an activity. Bring soil, a watering can full of water, seeds (or a starter plant), and a pot. Slowly and carefully, work together with the participant to put soil in the pot, then plant the seeds in the soil. Listen to music or nature sounds while you do so or, if possible, participate in this sensory experience outside on the patio. Take care to be sure the participant gets plenty of time to squish their hands in the soil, using garden or plastic gloves if they prefer. (Bring a cloth for hand washing afterwards.) Finally, after your plant has been watered and put in a sunny spot, enjoy a glass of lemonade or iced tea together to cap off your sensory experience.
INTERGENERATIONAL – Host an event for grandchildren at your community and build fairy gardens. First, gather your supplies. Each fairy garden will need a large pot or container (preferably one that is wheelchair height), plus soil, small plants, moss, and fun decorations to set the scene. You can head to your local garden supply shop or online marketplace to grab fairy garden items, such as small chairs, hammocks, and tiny houses. Use small rocks, sticks and other natural materials to further set the scene. Pairs or small groups will work together to add soil to the pot and plant the live items before adding whimsical items that prove that fairies live there (that’s the fun part). Another option is to make a tiny dinosaur garden by grabbing some small plastic dinosaurs on your next trip to the dollar store. You can add to the event by reading The Secret Fairy Garden together before you build your gardens. Finally, celebrate your completed gardens with some lemonade and fruit kabobs.
GIVING BACK – Many local food pantries often only have canned or processed food available for people who use their services. However, fresh food is an important addition to a healthy diet. Consider working with your community members to start a fresh produce drive for local food pantries or homeless shelters. Get the word out that you are collecting fresh produce on one certain day of the month. Residents can accept the donations and then take a trip to donate the produce to local organizations. You can make this a regular effort throughout the summer months.
CELEBRATION – Kick off your garden season with a Welcome Spring social, highlighting the main garden area in your community. Have a craft table set up for participants to make small bird clips: set up paint, clothespins, ribbons, and artificial birds that you can pick up from your local craft store. Have a staff member at the table to direct participants, and to serve as the hot glue gun user. Glue a bird and embellishments on a clothespin. Once it quickly dries, clip the spring birds to dresses or lapels. Serve fresh lemonade or sweet tea, with fresh fruit and macaroons. Add some live music and a butterfly release to kick off a commitment to your garden that will last for years to come.
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW TRIVIA
- In the saying, who is asked, “how does your garden grow”? Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
- Which eight-legged sea creature did Ringo Starr sing about in his undersea garden song? Octopus
- In the popular nursery rhyme, around what type of bush was the monkey chasing the weasel? Mulberry
- According to the rhyming song for kids, what color is lavender, dilly dilly? Blue
- In the nursery rhyme, what was the last name of Peter, who had a wife and couldn’t keep her? Pumpkin eater
- In the rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosie,” what is in your pocket? Posies
- Adam and Eve lived in which famous garden? Eden
- If you are an excellent gardener, what color is your thumb? Green
- What were gardens called during World War II? Victory gardens
- When preparing a garden in the spring, why do you use a roto-tiller? To break up the soil and get it ready for planting
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
“How Does Your Garden Grow” was written by Haley Burress. Copyright 2017 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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