Here's a way to occupy your kids or grandkids on a hot August afternoon. If you don't have kids, borrow some from your neighbor - she'll be forever in your debt. The kids'll learn wonderful things without realizing they'd just had a science class. All kids might enjoy this activity, but I find that pre-adolescent girls seem to be made especially for this job.Send the kids out to the garden on a dry afternoon, supplied with a yogurt cup or other clean, dry plastic container. Have them pick dry seedpods from one variety of flower (I'll use portulaca as an example). Have them bring in their results and pour them onto a smooth surface such as the kitchen table. They can then break open any seedpods that aren't already open, using their two thumbnails, and empty whatever seeds they can, placing the empty pods in another pile. They'll be amazed at how tiny portulaca seeds are.They'll learn a little genetics if you point out that you prefer certain colors - say the bright ones - and that they should harvest pods only from your favorites, but that this doesn't necessarily mean that using these seeds won't yield some flowers of a color you don't prefer. Explain that each new plant had a "mother" and a "father" and the new plant's color will depend partly on whiat color flower the pollinating bees visited before. You can simplify your explanation as much as you need to depending on the child.They'll learn a little thrift if you demonstrate that they can go over to the pile of "empty" seed pods, rub them between their fingers, and release a whole lot more seeds that they didn't know were there.They can learn a little math if you explain or demonstrate that a packet of portulaca seeds costs $1.98, or whatever, and contains, say, 50 seeds, and they realize that with just 1/2 hour of effort, they've gathered many hundreds of seeds.They can learn the names of flowers, which flowers have seeds that are easy to gather, how to store the seeds for next year (I use labeled paper envelopes, and store them in a drawer in my basement.) Next year they can garden with the seeds they "produced" themselves.Impatiens seeds are fun to harvest - the pods literally burst opn when you pick them, and it takes a little manual dexterity to keep the seeds from flying into the air instead of landing in your cupped hand.All kinds of lessons to learn here.Trini
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