Did you know that trees can help make many different kinds of gardens grow? Help the Treetures and Little Bloomers explore their friendship as they teach us about the benefits of Gardening with Trees.
1. Wind Breaks: Trees planted in just the right places protect gardens from strong winds.
Create a classroom experiment to test this benefit. Plant grass seed or any fast growing plants/flowers in two different plastic tubs. Once the plants have grown at least 3 inches tall, you may begin your experiment. Have students come up with ideas to create "trees" around the perimeter of one of the mini gardens (idea might include trees made from popsicle sticks and construction paper leaves). The other mini garden will have no trees. Set up a fan to blow on each of the gardens for at least 20 minutes. Discuss the results and impacts on each of the gardens.
2. Erosion Control: Trees help hillside gardens keep their soil in place. They protect the garden's precious topsoil from eroding or washing away.
Not many people have the luxury of having the ideal conditions for planting a garden. Sometimes we must contend with the natural terrain that can include slopes. Talk with local arborists and landscape architects to see where trees could be planted to assist with preventing soil erosion around your hillside gardens.
3. Food For Birds and Animals: Trees near gardens attract the hungry animals and birds that might snack on your flowers and veggies. The trees protect the garden from being eaten before you have a chance to enjoy the gifts you have planted.
Investigate the types of trees that would provide food to local birds and animals. Create a large wall mural of a tree you might use in or near a school garden and fill it with the local birds and animals that would benefit from it.
4. Attraction of Helpful Insects: Trees help bring good insects to gardens.
Make a class book of insects that would be helpful to your garden. Include a picture of the insect, its name, the foods it eats, its predators, and any interesting facts you can find.
5. Mulch and Weed Control: Fallen tree leaves, twigs, and bark help feed the soil around gardens by turning into free mulch. Fall leaves can also help keep weeds away.
Create mulch for a school garden by utilizing fallen leaves, twigs, and bark from nearby trees. Visit the Humus section of the Treeture web site to see how to start your own classroom composting bin.
6. Shade: Trees give shade to flowers that grow best in shady places.
Investigate shade loving flowers and plants that grow in your climate/region of the country. Sources might include seed/plant catalogs and plant and flower reference guides.
Make a recipe using some of the shade loving vegetables and fruits that you discover.
Incorporate math skills with a graphing exercise. Have a taste test with some of the shade-loving vegetables and fruits that you have investigated (or maybe even grown) and graph the results of those who liked them vs. didn’t like them.
7. Water: Trees help keep the air and soil near gardens moist by releasing water through their stomata in a process called transpiration. This is especially helpful in dry climates. Flowers help trees too, especially in cities. Flowers planted around trees, in "tree pits", can tell us if the tree needs water. When their leaves and petals look droopy, they probably need a drink and so does the tree.
Transpiration can be easily demonstrated by placing a clear plastic bag over the leaf attached to a plant and placing the plant in the sunlight for a couple of days. Plastic 2 liter soda bottles can be reused to create mini terrariums in which the transpiration process and the water cycle can be observed. An adult can cut the bottles in half about mid way down the bottle. Plants can be planted in the lower half and then watered. The top of the bottle can be reattached using clear packing tape. Place the bottle in a sunny location and watch the water cycle begin.
Have students make mini water cycle wheels with pictures and labels to show the water cycle: Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Transpiration.
8. Warmth: Trees help collect snow, which becomes walls, barriers and blankets to protect gardens from the cold.
9. Helpful Bacteria: Tree roots collect special bacteria that works with the soil to make "nitrogen", a very important part of the recipe for tree and plant food,
Work with students to create a recipe for healthy trees and gardens. Recipes might include things like 100 cups of rich topsoil, 75 worms and ladybugs, 6 oz. of sun, 5 T water. Be sure to give directions on how to mix it all together. Display your recipes with colorful pictures of the Treetures who could help put the recipe together.
10. Trees can also cause problems for some gardens. That is why we need to plant gardens and trees in the right places.
Using pictures from seed/plant catalogs or seed packets, layout and design your own school garden with trees incorporated to help it grow. Be sure to do some research so you plant the right types of plants/flowers for your region and you plant the right types of trees in the right locations.
Put your plan into action and utilize your GREEN THUMBS to create your very own school garden incorporating trees.
Need some monetary help with your garden project? Try the following sources to get you started:
- National Gardening Association http://www.kidsgardening.com/grants.asp,
- America The Beautiful Fund 202-638-1649
- Captain Planet Foundation http://www.turner.com/cpf, 404-827-5368
- Trees New York ‚ www.treesnewyork.org for information
Remember, trees, plants, animals, birds, insects and people all need each other to keep our Earth healthy for everyone.