Remember the saying "bloom where you are planted"—perfect for being cooped up inside and looking forward to the coming of spring. The seed catalogs are coming, and I hope you are going to receive some of them. They are wonderful planning tools, bringing a reminder that the cold weather will end soon, and that a whole new season of fun and growing is about to begin.
Start preparing for a fun study of gardening. Let each family member choose a vegetable and flower to grow, and have the children start listing the choices. Bundle everyone up and send them out with a tape measure to choose a site and size for their future garden. As they choose the site, remind them that the amount of sun the garden location receives is important, as well as proximity to a water resource (or a good, long hose!). Once the site and size are determined, have the children draw a plan for the garden, using graph paper to keep the sketch simple and accurate. Don't forget to order the Gardens Unit Study to get ready for learning fun in the spring!
After sketching the outline of the garden, use seed and garden sites on the Internet to order seed catalogs, read articles about planning the garden, and ask questions of gardening experts. If you don't have or want an outside, in-the-ground garden, consider planting your garden in above-ground containers, such as barrel halves or large buckets that have drain holes.
When the seed-selection process begins, either online or through the seed catalogs, have the children note how many days until each plant produces fruit, as well as the best time to plant that seed for your geographical area. Then, if you have time, plan on starting the seeds inside in a sunny spot in your house. This can be a great learning experience, even with snow on the ground. We've learned so much just through starting seeds in plastic bags with damp paper towels, watching the roots grow and the seedlings develop.
This jump-start on your family's garden will help bring some bright and fun times into the slump of winter. Also, keep an eye out for the small bulb gardens available at your local discount department store this time of year, for forcing bulbs in the midst of winter. This can provide some winter color and excitement as you all wait for the first signs of growth, and then for the flowers themselves!