Spring is officially here and the cold days of this past winter’s polar vortex are well behind us. By now, your group is probably feeling antsy to get outdoors, enjoy warmer weather, and witness the rebirth of all things green. Fortunately, April is National Lawn and Garden Month and we have a slew of ideas that we hope will inspire you and your group to “Dig Into April.”
GARDEN MEMORIES – Most people can recall a time when they planted a garden. Reminisce about gardening throughout the month. Elicit memories by taking walks through the garden, smelling flowers or herbs, or arranging flowers in vases. Share memories of planting and harvesting vegetables, or of favorite gardens that participants visited when traveling.
SPROUT SWEET POTATOES – Sweet potato vines add rich color and texture to any garden. Sprout sweet potatoes with your group, then plant them in your container or spring garden later on. You’ll need firm sweet potatoes, toothpicks, clear glass jars, such as a Mason jar, and fresh water. Simply insert three to four toothpicks evenly around the center circumference of each sweet potato, pushing the toothpicks in about an inch. Then, place the potato in the jar so that the toothpicks rest on the edge of the far. Fill the jars with fresh water, place in a sunny windowsill, and change the water every few days. It may take a few weeks or a month before you see sprouts, so don’t give up if you don’t notice anything right away.
GIANT OUTDOOR LAWN GAMES – If you don’t already have a supply of outdoor lawn games, use April to craft your own with your group. Make large bean bag toss, tic tac toe, dice, or a set of dominoes with your group. Most hardware stores can cut the boards to your desired size. Once you have your material, invite participants to help sand, paint or stain, and seal with a topcoat. In addition to using as group activities, these giant lawn games are great to set out when families are visiting or on the weekends for members to play a pick-up-game. Here is a link to instructions for dominoes: https://www.dreamalittlebigger.com/post/giant-lawn-dominoes.html
GARDEN CLUB – If you aren’t already planning your spring and summer garden, gather your group and form a Garden Club. Appoint a Garden Club president and vice president. Discuss flowers or vegetables members would like to plant this season. Draw up garden plans and enlist your maintenance or facilities team to help create raised garden beds for easier garden access. Start seedlings for your vegetable garden or plant an indoor herb garden with the club.
PLANT MARKERS – Invite members to create garden markers using wooden spoons or flat river rocks found at a craft store. Use bright colorful acrylic paint to paint the spoons or rocks. Once the paint is dry, use Sharpie or paint pens to write the names of the plants you intend to label. Seal them with a clear outdoor sealer. Members can make garden markers for their individual gardens, or for your community garden.
DIRT CUPS – You’ll need a package of Oreo cookies, instant vanilla pudding mix (and the ingredients to make the pudding, found on the package), whipped cream, and gummy worms to make these delicious, edible treats. Start by making the vanilla pudding according to the instructions on the package. While that’s setting, place the Oreos in a strong Ziplock bag and instruct participants to crush the cookies to fine crumbs. Once the pudding has set, instruct participants to layer the crushed Oreos, vanilla pudding, and whipped cream in clear, plastic cups (5 oz size works best). Then, top with gummy worms and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
MEDITATION GARDEN – There’s something meditative and soothing about working in the dirt. Consider adding elements that will encourage members to pause or meditate throughout the outdoor season. Wind chimes, a fountain feature, and delicately-stacked stones can create an instant zen-feel to any outdoor space. Once the meditation garden is complete, lead your group in a quiet, garden meditation. Try deep breathing exercises or sing familiar hymns or ballads.
INVITE AN ARBORIST – In honor of Earth Day (April 22) or Arbor Day (April 26), arrange for an arborist to visit your group and give a brief lecture on trees native to your area. Collect leaves from local trees and challenge group members to identify the trees they came from.
ON THE GREEN – Set up a mini-golf course in your activity room. There are companies that provide this service – do a quick internet search to locate one in your area. If you don’t have the budget for the professionals, create your own. You can tape Solo cups to the floor in a sideways position, creating different “holes” for participants to target. If you don’t have a mini-golf club, use a small broom for a putter. You can also make your own putter: Cut a triangular wedge from craft Styrofoam and insert a two-inch dowel rod into the Styrofoam. Trim down the dowel rod to an appropriate putter length.
TERRA COTTA POT WIND CHIMES – Add some music to your garden by creating your own wind chimes, using four miniature terra cotta pots, leather cord, and beads large enough to bring the leather cord through. Instruct members to cut the length of the cord about two feet long. Make a loop and knot at the end of the cord larger than the hole in the pot. String it through and then string a bead onto it, on the inside of the pot. Tie another knot to secure the bead, so that the pot doesn’t slip down. Next, string a larger bead onto the cord. This bead will make the noise inside the pot, when the wind blows the chime. Tie a knot at the end of this bead to secure it. Continue on down with the other three pots. Members can decorate the chimes with paint, add beads to the end of the cord for embellishments, or leave them plain.
GROW YOUR OWN EASTER GRASS – Another fun activity to do with your group is to grow your own Easter grass baskets for Easter, (April 21). Give each participant a small metal or plastic basket. Fill with dirt and mix in a little water. Once the dirt is slightly moistened, sprinkle grass seeds on the top of the dirt, and give the seeds a little more water. Be careful not to oversaturate the seeds. Label the baskets and set in a sunny location. Water as needed, when the dirt feels dry. On Easter, place a few plastic eggs filled with treats for participants and give them their Easter baskets.
CONTAINER GARDENING – Create container gardens with your group to add colorful pots throughout your outdoor garden spaces, or so participants can place them on their outdoor spaces. There are so many ways to do container gardening, such as potted herbs, annual flowers, fairy gardens, or terrariums. Choose what works best for your group and purchase the necessary materials. Then, dig in with participants and help them create their beautiful gardens.
TAKE A TRIP – This month wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a garden or local nursery. Take your Garden Club to a local nursery for inspiration. Arrange for a master gardener to meet your group and give a private tour. Plan an additional trip for other members to explore the great outdoors. Bring back a pot of flowers as a souvenir.
GARDEN OPEN HOUSE – Mark the reopening of your community’s outdoor space by planning a garden open house. Decorate with members’ container gardens. Show case your group’s terra cotta wind chimes. Display the Garden Club’s plans for the gardens this season. Serve the dirt cups you made with members. Invite guests to play giant lawn games.
APRIL SING-ALONG – Here are a few songs to sing throughout the month, at your Garden Open House, or in a sing-along program: “Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow,” “When You Wore a Tulip,” “Goober Peas,” “April Showers,” “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.”
DIG INTO APRIL TRIVIA
- In the popular nursery rhyme, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, what’s growing in her garden? Silver bells and cockle shells
- What is the term used to describe the art or practice of garden cultivation and management? Horticulture
- Which flowers change color from blue to pink according to the amount of acid in the soil? Hydrangeas
- What is the name of a structure made of glass that is used to encourage the growth of plants, especially in colder climates? Greenhouse
- Which country is best known for its beautiful tulip fields? The Netherlands (Holland)
- According to the Bible, what was the name of the very first garden? Eden
- Which flower is named after a Greek goddess who carries messages of love from heaven to earth using a rainbow as her bridge? (Hint: This flower is named after her because it blooms in nearly all the colors of the rainbow) Iris
- During WWII, many Americans planted vegetable gardens to help increase food production. What were these gardens called? Victory Gardens
- If you have a knack for growing plants and keeping them healthy, you might be described as having what? A green thumb
- What is the difference between an annual and perennial flower or plant? Annuals bloom each year and then the plant dies. Perennials bloom every year for a short time, but the plant survives to bloom again the following year.
DIG INTO APRIL THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” ~ Audrey Hepburn
“Dig Into April” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2019 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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