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The wonders of gardening ... in a saucer.

The wonders of gardening . . . in a saucer

How do rocks fit into the landscape? Will bulbs pop up through a ground cover? Are leaves fragrant and always green? How long must you wait to see change? These are some of the questions that faced kindergarten landscape designers at Seattle's Martin Luther King Early Childhood Education Center.

Instructor Steve Hansen wanted a project that would help the children learn to create something beautiful from natural objects, teach them simple gardening techniques, and give them the responsibility of caring for living things. His class's day-long saucer-garden project met these goals--and also sent each child home for the holidays with a gift charged with wow-value.

Materials were simple: 6-inch-diameter terra cotta saucers; commercial planting mix (with 1 part coarse builder's sand added to 3 parts soil); charcoal briquets; crocus bulbs (in mild-winter climates, buy prechilled bulbs for forcing); several flats of Corsican mint, assorted sempervivums (such as houseleeks and hen and chickens), and crawling sedums; and rocks that the children collected and brought to school before the garden project began. Two parent volunteers supplied help.

First, each child scooped some soil into a saucer. Since the gardens were to be set outdoors in covered areas and brought indoors for bloom time and special occasions, saucers without drain holes were used. Next, small chunks of hammered charcoal briquets were added to the soil to keep it from souring or compacting. Rock features came next. Crocus bulbs were set in place, flat ends down, with more soil added to cover them.

Then the children began designing with plants. Sempervivums and sedums went in first, often followed by pinches of Corsican mint. Filler soil was gingerly sprinkled in place where necessary.

After final watering, room cleanup, and a look at the assembled work, the children marked their gardens with their names and moved them to the classroom's outside window ledge. For the next two months, everyone took a turn on the watering crew. Plants filled out; ground covers spread. When vacation time came, the gardens went home to be enjoyed indoors. And in most cases the crocus bulbs performed on schedule.

Photo: 1. Gingerly scooping bottom layer of soil into saucer, Feyi completes first step in rock-garden assembly line

Photo: 2. Smashed charcoal will loosen soil and prevent souring if drainless pot gets overwatered

Photo: 3. After gardens get layer of soil mixed with charcoal, major rocks get set in place. Principal Searetha Smith helps them put down a layer of crocus bulbs. Next comes more soil, then the final planting

Photo: 4. Tanya chooses Corsican mint to tuck around sedums, rocks. Tufts will quickly form fragrant cover

Photo: 5. The dramatic results: Gabriel chose few elements, placed them in orderly design. In a mounded garden, Becky used a rather large rock and scrambling sedums, with houseleeks askew. Jelani planted bulbs in a ring of rocks; mint sets off the sempervivum bull's eye

Photo: Indoors in wintertime, Sekou and Dad enjoy a terra cotta saucer filled with an angular rock and several small crocus. Frequent (but not excessive) watering is important now to extend bloom period
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1987
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