Ok boys and girls, time for a pop quiz. No moaning and groaning. It won’t be that hard. I don’t want you to start forgetting all we learned this past summer. Many of the plants we grew last summer will be grown again this coming summer and many of those are still in the garden and I want you to be able to walk around and know what you are looking at. Because you were not anticipating a quiz, I will keep this one short (the quiz, not the post). Future quizzes might become more like mini-tests, so consider yourselves warned.
As part of my efforts to get the kids into the garden and learning about growing plants I started giving them pop quizzes. As we would walk around the garden I would point to a plant and if it is an herb I would crush some leaves in my fingers and let the kids smell. I would then ask them what plant it is. Their initial answers, if there was one more than a smirking stare, were often wrong. They had more and more correct answers as the season progressed.
Now that the kids are getting to know more of the plants I try to mix the plants I quiz them on between plants I know they know and some I suspect they do not. The plants they know the best, other than the tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, and plants like that, are rosemary, lemon balm, and the grape-vine. During one quiz I pointed to the grape-vine and asked Ava what plant it is. She said “that’s easy Mark, that’s the grape.” She said this as she rolled her eyes and dismissed me and the question with a flip of her hand as she moved on to the next plant. I guess I don’t need to ask her what the grape is anymore; but, we will see if she remembers next summer.
When we were all up by the garden over Thanksgiving the kids and I were walking around reminiscing about what we grew last summer and talking about what we could grow next summer. Part way through our walk Ava asked “what about the questions.” I asked her if she meant one of the pop quizzes and she said yes. Most of the garden had been pulled out or gone dormant by Thanksgiving but many of the herbs were still growing. I started with rosemary because I know she knows that herb. Then I asked her about lemon balm, which I know she knows but since she was last at the garden we moved the pot it is in (it grows like mint and we want to try to contain it) to a different part of the garden and trimmed it back for winter, so she couldn’t base her answer on remembering the location or the look. We smelled a couple of leaves and she knew what it was; Jake, who hadn’t spent as much time in the garden, took a little longer, but he is getting there. Then I asked about a plant we planted in the beginning of summer that was subsequently hidden by some of the rogue tomatoes. I crushed a few dry leaves and let the kids smell them. I could see Ava’s eyes widen and a little smile develop as she somewhat recognized the smell. She thought it smelled like lemon balm, which it does, but said “lemon cake,” all things lemony smell like lemon cake to her. I thought that answer was pretty good – it showed she recognizes the smell and was trying to logic or extrapolate her way to an answer. What was the plant? Lemon verbena.
As the kids know the plants better I will have to devise new ways to keep them interested. I think I have at least a year before they know what all is in the garden. Maybe I will be able to incorporate specific variety names instead of just overall type of plant, like tomato or pepper.
Here are the plants for this week’s quiz. I thought I should start easy. Just be aware that the kids are ready and will likely be the ones to throw off the curve. Don’t worry, the quiz is more to see what we need to work on and doesn’t count towards your grade.