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Cold Weather Garden Fun

by Valerie Shaw

Ice balls. Photo courtesy Flicker: Robbie Sproule.

There’s nothing like the blue sky of an autumn day. Now it’s time to bring in the garden statues, take notes on your garden successes and failures, and prepare your garden for winter. Acorns, pumpkins, and beautiful leaves invite children outside for one last romp before the snow comes. The gardening fun doesn’t have to completely end, though! Here are some activities to keep your li’l green thumbs engaged throughout the cold months ahead.

Snow Poppies—Now is a good time to grab a packet of poppy seeds and spy out a prime poppy area in your garden or yard. Tuck the seed packet in the fridge and wait until a good snowy day. Then, pull on the snow boots, hike out to your spot, and scatter your poppy seeds in the snow! With the melting snow the tiny seeds are drawn into the soil. Come spring, look out for the slightly spiky looking leaves, followed by intriguing fuzzy stems with big flower buds. Poppies are cheerful and fun, and kids will like planting in the snow! Remember, though, that poppy plants will spread. If your kids are older, they might enjoy learning about the historical nature of this beautiful flower.

Ice Gazing Balls—Easy and very fun to make, you can stick these anywhere in your yard, and enjoy them as long as the temperatures stay cold. Simply fill balloons with water and several drops of food coloring. Stick them in your freezer or outside. When they’re solid, run them quickly beneath hot water and peel off the balloons. You’ll have made beautiful round ice balls that will reflect the pale winter sunshine. If you want to stick them to a railing or other object outside, you can use water to “glue” them in place. We made a series of them and stuck them on the arm of our mailbox—the kids thought they were amazing, and they looked very pretty for several days!

Sachets—If you’ve been collecting flowers or drying herbs from your garden, a simple sewing craft that many kids enjoy is making scented sachets, or scented hot pads. They also make great presents for the holidays. Using felt and a larger needle can make the project easier for small children. Old flannel shirts or other clothing with nice fabric can be a reusable resource, or hit the store and enjoy all of the beautiful fabric designs.

Homemade potpourri is another fragrant way to enjoy plants indoors. A simple recipe we use is as follows: The peel of one orange, a stick of cinnamon (or a teaspoon of powdered), and either powdered or whole cloves. Put the ingredients into a pot with two cups of water. Cook on medium until the scent starts wafting, then turn the heat down to low. (Also, of note, don’t use clementine peels. Though the fruit is yummy to eat, the rinds don’t smell good at all.) There are other great recipes at:

Dream, Gardener, Dream—One surefire antidote to the February blahs is the arrival of seed catalogs. Now is a good time to sign up for all the catalog joy. Try some new nurseries, and don’t forget to let your kids look through them too. Our little gardeners love putting their initials next to veggies they want to eat and flowers they want to plant. Some fun nurseries that might be new to you are Baker Creek (, the Cook’s Garden, Fedco Seeds, Pinetree Garden Seeds, and Thompson & Morgan.

And lastly, don’t forget houseplants—Geraniums come in many fun scents, like pineapple and rose, and are easy to grow in a sunny window. Head out to a nursery and you’ll be sure to find childhood favorites—pink polka dot plants, strange carnivores, and easy-to-care-for succulents. Many of the herbs you love outside can come in too. Just watch out for any insect hitchhikers when bringing in garden plants. (A brief quarantine is never a bad idea.)

Remember, spring is only a few months away! Happy holidays to you all.


Valerie Shaw is a homeschool mom, YMCA youth coach, and gardener with a yard that rather ran away with her this year. She lives with her husband and two kids in West Monroe, NY, and is excitedly awaiting spring, and the new batch of little goat kids that are due in March.

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