DIG! PLANT! GROW! EAT!
At the Bronx-based New York Botanical Garden, some of the most popular hands-on activities for families are “drop-in” programs created as part of the Edible Academy and offered each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:30–5:30 p.m., starting in April.
Each program day, kids roll up their sleeves and get down in the dirt. Four work stations—for digging, planting, watering and harvesting—are located on a sunny hilltop inside the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden at the Edible Academy.
“The drop-in format for each activity allows families to visit whenever and as often as they can,” says director Toby Adams. “Our April theme, for example, the ‘Wake Up, Garden,’ introduces kids to soil and decomposers—the organisms that help to make soil. We recycle our kitchen scraps and garden waste into nutritious compost, so kids learn about the life cycle of worms and nuts and bolts of vermicomposting and they can take a sample of it for their own garden or houseplants at home.”
Instructors guide kids at the planting station, helping kids to sow seeds and plant seedlings.
Bright sunny days usually make the watering station an exciting stop as kids fill up colorful watering cans, scout the garden for dry soil and water the thirsty plants growing there.
Beginning as early as May, the first plants—radishes, lettuce, kohlrabi and kale—are ready to be picked and so the harvesting station becomes a popular destination as well.
For the “Salad Days” theme in April, May and June, kids sow seeds and plant seedlings, water the established crops and begin looking for mature plants ready for harvest. Says Adams, “We introduce kids to salads through a stamping activity using real plants to make a salad bowl collage. The kids make their very own salad dressing to take home.”
The Edible Academy’s “Fresh from the Garden Tastings” are family-friendly cooking demonstrations offered every Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Garden’s Pine Tree Café. Each week, using plants from the garden, the whole family can cook together. Audience volunteers help with the preparation and there are samples to taste at the conclusion of each demo.