Planting the seeds last week, I was pondering the question that arises every spring – how to label my rows? I wanted to keep it simple, cheap and cute. Bonus points, if I could involve my toddler into the process of making the garden markers because toddlers, well, like to be involved. Then I remembered painting rocks a few years ago…
We do not have space for a big garden, but we like to enjoy some homegrown vegetables every year. Our experience has been that homegrown tomatoes and carrots show the most improvement over the supermarket varieties. So, this year we are growing five different kinds of tomatoes. My current favourite are a variety of small dark tomatoes called chocolate cherry tomatoes.
We also try to grow something new each year, so this year we picked up packs of sunberry and ground cherry seeds. We tried ground cherries a year ago at a farmer’s market during our vacation in Montréal , and they were so juicy and delicious. We couldn’t quite find seeds for poutine or macaroons, so ground cherries will be our reminder of Montréal this year.
Once the seeds were planted, I needed to label them. That’s when I remembered how several years ago my little nieces and I entertained ourselves with painting rocks and later decorating paths in my mom’s garden with them. Well, we had rocks at our house as well! We collected them at the beach of Lake Erie, fully expecting Budster to paint a couple for fun some time. Painting and turning them into something useful sounded very appealing. If you remember our painted cutting board, you may have guessed that I am a fan of decorating utilitarian objects.
Materials for Making Garden Markers
– smooth big and medium-sized rocks
– gouache, tempera or acrylic paints
– outdoor varnish
I entrusted Budster with the task of painting the rocks with solid colours. We used gouache, for it is non-toxic, washes off pretty well, yet has good covering properties. For older kids, who can be careful with paints, I would recommend acrylics.
Orange for pumpkins, pink for strawberries, green for cucumbers, red and yellow for tomatoes. It is always fun to try painting on something new and see how the improvised canvas responds to the paint. Rocks have a very pleasant texture: smooth and grainy at the same time, and Budster likes holding them as well.
We did painting in a couple of sittings because Budster’s hands would get coloured quicker than the rocks he held. He used it to his advantage: he would only have to grab a new stone to make it half-painted. Of course, at times his artistic vision extended beyond the stone, and the table would get coloured as well.
After the rocks dried, Budster got very excited about them. Colourful rocks! He wanted to play with them. As they were, they actually made a nice addition to a building set. A few hours of play was enough for his possessiveness to wane, after which I collected the stones to continue working on the garden markers.
I added some lines and leaves to make the painted stones look a bit more like plants they symbolize. We are growing two varieties of pumpkins this year: one is good for carving into jack-o-lanterns, and the other is supposed to be excellent for pies. After I painted a face on the jack-o-lantern pumpkin, I could not stop myself and made a bunch of vegetable characters. Obviously, this part would be an interesting project to work on with older children. Who can come up with the silliest face?
The last step of this project should be varnishing the stones to protect them against moisture. Do it in a well-ventilated area and, depending on your varnish, give the stones two or three coats before putting outside.
I am going to put the rocks in the garden tomorrow, but I am not sure how long they will mark the rows. Budster longs to get to know Mr. Carrot better and make Ms. Strawberry feel happier. They might all end up in the sandbox, having fun with us. I suppose that’s fine, too.
What are you growing this year? What kind of vegetables would you need to paint?