Plants kids can play with #3 A Seuss plant

This week’s plant was chosen by my 7 year old daughter. In her words, “Mummy, you should write about Marigolds. They always look sunny, sometimes funny and I like eating them too.” As that sounded Seuss-like to me, how could I argue? So here’s our tribute to the humble French Marigold (Tagetes patula) and some tips and ideas on how kids can have fun with this sweet plant.

With only a little bit of love and lots of sun, French Marigolds will reward you with a splash of colour from mid-spring through to late autumn and sometimes beyond. In Sydney, we’ve had success growing them during our mild (generally frost-free) winters. Virtually foolproof they can be grown from both seed and seedling.

Given the rapidity with which they grow and the fact that they are also so quick to flower, they are a very rewarding choice for the often impatient young gardener. They can be grown in containers, pots, old toys and the garden itself (mass plant for a stunning effect). We’ve even grown them in a pair of old shoes.

So where’s the play to be had with this plant?

Go hunting in the toy cupboard and find a toy that has seen better days. Old tonka trucks are ideal. Encourage your child to fill the truck with potting mix, plant the seedlings, water gently and voila, instant Marigold patch.

If your child already tends a vegetable plot, suggest that they plant some Marigold seedlings throughout the area. Known as a companion plant, they’ll send insects such as White Fly packing from your fruit and veggies.

Marigolds come in a range of sizes and colours (warm-hot on the colour wheel) so grab some colouring in pencils, pick a few blooms and let your kids explore the concept of mixing primary colours to create some (secondary and tertiary) masterpieces.

Pick individual petals for use as hair or a skirt in a “nature drawing”.

Pick the blooms and make a flower salad (combine with other flowers such as Nasturtium, Basil, Rocket, Viola, Rose, edible Sages and Lavenders). The taste of Marigolds is a bit peppery, with the petals themselves having the mildest flavour.

Encourage your child to pick the petals to sprinkle over their meal to add a bit of zing! They look fantastic sprinkled over rice and pasta dishes or dips such as hummous. (The leaves can also be added to salads or steamed for use as a green vegetable).

Play “the smelling game“. Along with some Marigolds, pick a couple of other plants with noticeable scents (eg. rosemary, roses, chocolate mint, basil -basically anything “smelly” you can find) and place them all in a box with a lid – a shoebox is ideal. Blindfold your child and have them pick out the plants one by one and try to identify the plant by smell (and/or feel). Marigolds have a pungent, earthy scent. My daughter describes it as smelling “like a carrot that’s just been pulled“.

Well that’s it for this week. I hope you find a little bit of #playoutdoors fun in each and every day.

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8 Comments

Filed under Australia, Cooking, Food, Gardening, Health, Imagination, Kids, Outdoors

8 responses to “Plants kids can play with #3 A Seuss plant

  1. Lovely Post Caro.

    We love nature art – petals add great texture and colour. We also love to press a few petals, providing more nature material for when all the flowers in the garden have wilted.
    There’s always a spot for Marigolds in our garden.

    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Marghanita

  2. Absolutely smashing – I love marigolds and the delicious peppery petals in salads, although the companion planting hasn’t worked out too well. Maybe I need more marigolds.
    X

  3. What great ideas. And I love the flower fairy, she’s beautiful. 🙂

  4. francesjones

    Whenever I see Marigolds, I think of strings of them wrapped around Indian yogis or Hindi celebrations, lots of vibrant orange, yellows and burnt reds.

  5. Deb

    I love the flower art, that’s something we’ll do this week. And we’ve decided to stay here for the Easter holiday and the garden is on the agenda, so thanks for reminding me of one of the plants I might actually be able to grow!

  6. I’m totally stealing the idea of planting marigolds into the back of tonka trucks. That’s genius! What a great way to get boys growing flowers…

  7. It is great to know that Marigolds are good companion plants. I also like the idea of using old toys as potting plants, having two boys that would be much more appealing than using conventional pots.

  8. I found you through yvettevignando on twitter. And here I see we are two minds that think alike! So great to find you.

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