One of the gardening blogs (Garden Rant) that I read regularly had a guest post this morning about getting rid of your lawn to facilitate children getting outside to play. Here’s a little excerpt:

The good news is that means the yard is yours! Even you young parents can feel justified in ripping out the lawn and remaking your yard to your gardener’s heart’s content.

The really good news is that doing so can actually make your yard more enticing to your kids than a lawn ever could.

Here’s why. Kids like big rocks to climb on. They like bushes to hide under. They like trees to climb. They like water to splash in. They love trying to catch lizards and holding out a sweaty hand to see if a passing butterfly will land for a moment. They love riding trikes and scooters on circuitous routes through a garden, the junglier the better. They like digging in dirt.

You should absolutely go read the whole thing. I think part of it is our mentality as adults. We think that if we put so much time and effort into a non-lawn garden, then it needs to be kept pristine and we can’t let the kids “ruin” it. We also do default to the “space to play ball” mentality, but there are lots of parks for that. Thinking about it, we had a huge “lawn” area south of the house (actually it was mowed weeds – farm, you know.) Yes, we occasionally went out and played kickball or baseball, but more often than not we were playing in the windbreak, in the vegetable garden where there was lots of mud, or in the tall weeds behind the barn.

What do you think? Would having something other than just lawn actually facilitate more outdoor play?

(P.S. – The guest post I linked to above is written by a woman who actually wrote a book on the subject and is promoting it in the post. I haven’t read the book and so I am not recommending it or otherwise. It looks interesting, but who knows how applicable it is to Kansas?!?)


Long time, no posting! Please continue to bear with us as we deal with reducing staffing to support the g2g Outside program. We are still working on getting the first few events for 2013 scheduled, so those will be posted once they are finalized. In the meantime, check out one of our plans for our Demonstration Garden this year:

Kids Snacking GardenTo read all about the detailed plans, visit the Demo Garden Blog. I will try to post pictures throughout the year on this blog, but you can always check in at the Demo Garden Blog as well!

There’s A LOT going on Saturday May 19.  Before or after you go to OK Kids Day at the Great Plain Nature Center & Watson Park (see post from May 16), swing by Botanica for the Teddy Bear Picnic.

If you have never been, the Teddy Bear Picnic is one of Botanica’s oldest and most beloved events. Children bring their teddy bears and explore the Downing Children’s Garden and watch the grounds come alive with teddy bear vignettes and other “beary” fun activities.

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Beverages and popcorn will be available for purchase.


Admission Information:

  • Members – FREE
  • Seniors – (62+)/Military – $6
  • Adults – $7
  • Youth (3-12) – $5
  • Children 2 & Under – FREE

A lot of times when we start talking with kids about bugs, we automatically default to caterpillars and butterflies. When I’m giving tours to school-age children through our garden and we stop to look at plants that have holes in the leaves, their first guess for what ate them is a caterpillar. Of course that is often right, but they don’t always think about all the other kinds of insects that might be out there.

If you are looking for some insects to show your kids outdoors right now, it is still too early for lots of caterpillars and butterflies to be out and going through metamorphosis. However, if you have some lush, green growing plants in your yard right now, you might look them over for signs of aphids and ladybugs!

We happened to notice last week that our roses don’t just have a few aphids, but they are COATED with aphids! Each one of those oval greenish while bumps on the stem is a single aphid. You probably won’t find this many aphids on a plant most of the time, but you might!

Another sign of aphids is these white flecks on the leaves of your plants. The white flecks are actually the molted skins of the aphids, so when you’ve got a bunch of them, you’ll see these on the leaves. Sometimes they are easier to spot than the aphids themselves, since white on green generally stands out better than green on green!

So why did we change from a discussion of ladybugs to a discussion of aphids? The reason is that while butterfly caterpillars eat plants, ladybugs eat aphids! Those cute little ladybugs are carnivores! So if you find a bunch of aphids in your yard, there’s a good chance you’ll find ladybugs too. Usually you’ll find not just the adult ladybugs, but the whole life cycle!

The first life cycle you are likely to see is the larval stage. These ladybug larva are mostly black with for orange spots on their backs. With the long tails and the bumpy backs, they can almost look like tiny crocodiles. They look much more harmful to the plants than the aphids, but they are really eating the aphids!

As these larvae grow, they have to shed their skins just like the aphids do. I found several of these moltings on the rose bushes.

When the larvae are well-fed and ready, they will pupate, or turn into ladybug pupa. You can tell a little easier now that they are ladybugs (although if you are familiar with Colorado Potato Beetles, they look a lot like that too!). At this stage they usually find a likely looking leaf and attach themselves to it. They will hang out on that leaf for several days while undergoing metamorphosis (just like butterflies)!

In a few days, there will be lots of adult ladybugs roaming around, feeding on aphids, and laying eggs for the next generation. Last week we had lots of larvae around, this week there are lots of pupae (and a lot fewer aphids).  Next week I bet we’ll see a lot more of the adults!

Although nothing is as exciting as exploring the real, live world of insect-eat-insect, there are lots of art & craft projects about ladybugs that you can find from doing a quick internet search if you want to reinforce the concept with your kids again.

Today is “Plant a Flower Day.” Because we are in Kansas and the weather is definitely warm and spring-like today, you have several options if you want to celebrate and plant a flower!

If you are ready to plant something outside to brighten up your yard, pansies and violas are great choices for the early spring!

There are so many different sizes, shapes and colors to choose from and they all have those adorable faces! Pansies are great fun for kids to plant and grow because they bloom easily and can be used in many ways. They are great for picking and putting in small vases. They are also one of the easiest flowers to press and  use for crafts. I remember pressing dozens of pansies as a child and then making cards, bookmarks, and other decorations with the dried flowers. (Don’t forget to press some of the leaves too, for greenery!)

Another flower that does well in the spring here in Kansas is Dianthus. They are cousins of carnations, but with single whorls of petals and much smaller flowers. They also can be good for pressing, although they are a little trickier.

If you aren’t ready to plant outside yet, you can still celebrate “Plant a Flower Day” by starting some seeds indoors for planting later in the spring. If you’ve never tried starting seeds inside before, I recommend marigolds to start with. They grow very quickly and are pretty tough. If you need a little help getting started with indoor seed starting, here’s a quick “how-to” I wrote for tomatoes and peppers. (Just use the flower seeds instead!)

Tomato Day

Saturday, July 23, 2011 7am-12pm

Sedgwick County Extension Education Center

7001 W 21st N, Wichita, KS

Sponsored by Sedgwick County Extension Master Gardeners

 The 22nd Annual Tomato Day is coming up Saturday! The event will be held at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center at 21st and Ridge in Wichita on Saturday, July 23rd from 7:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. This event features information on selecting, planting, maintaining, cooking with tomatoes.  Admission is free.

Bring your home grown tomatoes and enter them in a contest for Ugliest, Largest, Best Heirloom Specimen, Best Plate of 3 Standard tomatoes, Best Plate of 6 Cherry Tomatoes and more! The cooks in the family can enter Fresh or Preserved Salsa. Preserved salsa must meet USDA approved processing methods; this information is available at the Extension Office. For more information on contests, please visit

**If you came to g2g Gardens in April, you can enter 6 cherry tomatoes from your plant in the Tomato Contests! The prizes are gift certificates to the Farmers’ Market!**

In 4-H Hall:

  • Enter Tomato & Salsa Contests
  • Get Plant Problem Diagnosis
  • Taste Fried Green Tomatoes & Salsa
  • Make Tomato Critters and Learn about Plants & Pizza with the Kids
  • Buy Garden Magazines
  • Buy Iris from the Wichita Iris Society
  • Eat a Tomato Brunch by La Familia Senior Community Center

Shop the Kansas Grown! Farmer’s Market in the parking lot for great local products. Donate your extra garden produce to Plant A Row for the Hungry for the Kansas Food Bank to help those in need.

Seminars in Demonstration Garden:

8:00   Composting Demonstration

8:30   Tomato Tour

9:00   Growing a Vertical Vegetable Garden

9:15   Tour of the Arboretum

9:30    Organic Pest Control for Vegetable Gardens – Mel Epp

10:00   Growing a Variety of Peppers

10:30   The Family of 4 Garden – Bounty in 100 Square Feet

11:00   Grafting Heirloom Tomatoes – Dr. Cary Rivard

11:30   Demystifying Local Food – Natalie Fullerton

Seminars in the Sunflower Room:

9:00   Making and Canning Salsa

10:30   Cooking with Tomatoes – Damian Lehman, executive chef of Wichita Country Club
See Contest Details and Rules at

I read a great article in Outside Magazine this month.  It’s all about how important it is for parents to model outdoor play & recreation for their children. 

You’ve seen kids copy their parents by pretending to mow the lawn, cook, and talk on the phone.  These are all expamples of work, which is a great thing to teach children.  However, shouldn’t parents also teach kids to play? 

If you are active in outdoor recreation your kids will want to be outside and create outdoor habits and hobbies too.  

Check out the “Father Plays Best” article for more details about how you as a dad (or mom) can incorporate your kids into your outdoor hobbies, exercise and adventures.  Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you have to stay inside!   

Here is a quick summary of my favorite parts of the article:

  1. Take them with you – If you are hiking, biking, hunting or running, toting kids along will make you stronger.  Bringing your kids along will build habits of exercise and outdoor appreciation.  Last fall we hiked in the mountains with a 3 and 1 & 1/2  year old.  Forget the fancy kidcarriers, those Kansas kiddos hiked up and down those hills the whole way, we took a few extra breaks but they did awesome!  (Safety Tip:  bring those babies along, but make sure that their neck muscles are strong enough for the type of activity you’re doing.) 
  2. Think outside the sandbox – What fun unstructured adventures can you create with your kids?   Treehouse?  Fort?  Made-up games?  A kids garden?  Give them opportunities right outside the back door.  Go play with them often.  “Show them how to have fun out there.”
  3. Hit the road –  Take you kids on outdoor adventures; camping, biking, canoeing, hiking, etc. Prepare them for the types of activities they will be doing, but also be flexible in your schedule so that you can stop to do things that just come along.  Teach them the packing and the clean up skills as well.  You want them to be able to do these things on their own or with their own kids someday.  This leads into the last one… 
  4. Set them free – slowly, bit by bit, begin to let your kids go off on their own.  If you are kayaking, fishing, biking, hiking or whatever with them from a young age, when they are older you will be confident when they are ready to be on their own.  Sometimes it takes more bravery from the parent, rather than the child, to let the kids off on their own.  Start with just a few minutes on their own and build up to full independence.  Ahh, this is what parenting is all about!

What activities to you like to do with your kids outside?  What adventure are you going to take your kids on next?


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