How does your garden grow?
How does your garden grow? is one of the lines in a familiar nursery rhyme. It’s also the title of the introductory Ohio State University Extension 4-H project booklet on flower gardening. Flowers brighten the landscape of many homes in our community. Why not let your child or grandchild learn how to care for plants, while helping beautify your surroundings? In addition, your youngster can join a 4-H Club, meet new friends, go on field trips, and have the opportunity to exhibit his or her project at the Delaware County Fair.
As an adult, there are several things you can do to increase the odds of success for the aspiring gardener. The adult can help the child find a sunny spot for the garden that is near a water supply and help prepare the soil. You can also help by keeping a schedule to remind and encourage them to water, weed, and feed the plants throughout the summer months. Parents should assist young children with the application of any necessary pesticides.
Start small. Flower gardening can be as small as single houseplant or container. Space constraints shouldn’t be a hindrance. You can live in an apartment or condominium and grow flowers to exhibit at the fair. One fun way to get started is to go to the Delaware Area Rose Society’s Roses for Youth program, scheduled for Saturday, May 11 at Miller’s Country Gardens in Delaware. Two sessions will be held, 10 a.m. And 1 p.m. Children who participate are given a miniature rose bush that Rose Society members will help them pot and show them how to take care of it. Erin Barr is a 4-H member who has attended the free workshops. Two years ago she won a trophy at the fair with her miniature rose bush. If your child is interested in attending the workshop, please contact David Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740–369-8262.
Following their initial year in flower gardening, youth are encouraged to expand their knowledge base. This year, Amy Barr, the Delaware County 4-H & Youth Development Program Assistant, has developed an intermediate project for flower gardening that allows kids with a few years of basic experience to focus more on landscape design and growing perennials and bulbs.
Erin Barr is a seventh-grader who has exhibited flowers at the fair for three years. For novices, she suggests growing zinnias and celosia (cockscomb) from seed. She also recommends purchasing transplants of geraniums for a colorful centerpiece in containers.
In many ways, flowers are easier to grow than vegetables. They fit more easily into the traditional landscape. They require less room than many vegetables. Hanging baskets and container gardens require minimal weeding. However, as with vegetables, you still need to protect the plants from wildlife and give them basic care: weeding, feeding, and watering. Among the many skills that Erin has learned in gardening with 4-H are how and when to fertilize plants, how to put together a floral arrangement, and how to transplant plants and deadhead flowers.
Many, but not all, of the categories of flower exhibits at the fair use plants that the youth have grown themselves. These categories include a single specimen of an individual flower, such as a zinnia or marigold, or an arrangement of flowers grown by the exhibitor. Container gardening exhibits can range from a houseplant to a hanging basket, or a planter. Three types of container exhibits that are new to the fair in 2013 are a potted geranium, a potted herb, and a fairy garden.
The Delaware County Fair takes place in September. There is always the chance that flowers may not be in perfect form on the day of the judging. So, exhibitors have the option of entering a flower arrangement using purchased flowers. A landscape design category has also been added for computer-assisted and hand-drawn designs.
How Does Your Garden Grow? and Intermediate Flower Gardening are just two of the many projects youth can choose with 4-H once they reach third grade. Amy recommends that you call the Extension office at 740–833-2030 to find out more about local 4-H clubs near you. There are about 75 4-H clubs in Delaware County involving more than 1,000 youth. Each club has an advisor assigned to it, and clinics and field trips are offered through the club to help members learn about their projects. Erin’s club has gone on several flower gardening-related field trips, including a behind the scenes tour of a wholesale nursery and a tour of a private prize-winning dahlia garden. As a learning experience, Erin also has rented a space and sold flowers at the Delaware Farmer’s Market.
In the past few years, only about 10 youth have exhibited in the Junior Flower Display categories at the Delaware County Fair. This compares to 100 Junior Vegetable Display exhibitors.
There’s room for you at the Delaware County Fair in whatever category you choose to participate. Enjoy the outdoors this summer, grow some flowers and vegetables, have fun, and learn a few things while you’re at it. We’ll look for you at the fair.
Nancy F. Traub is an OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer.