This year I’ve written a few things about how to engage your older kids in the garden. Definitely not as easy as when they were young! It takes a little more craftiness than having their own ‘big kid shovel’ to lure some of these kids (my daughter being a perfect example) back into the garden, so I’m always trying to get creative.
One foolproof method is if you can find anything the slightest bit icky – such as my mushroom experiment. One of my biggest successes to date has been bringing a few praying mantis nests home from the nursery.
You can usually find packages of praying mantis nests at your local nursery (about $7.00 for a package of 2). We’ve purchased them in the past, always hoping they hatch and providing us with at least one praying mantis we can watch throughout the Summer. They’re somewhat territorial insects so they tend to hang out in one location in the garden, and it’s always fun to have an ‘easter egg hunt’ of sorts to try and find him (or her).
We keep these little nests in a warm location in the house (in a plastic terrarium – not loose)! It seems some years they hatch, others they don’t.
Lucky for us, this one decided to hatch and I was fortunate enough to find it just as they were emerging from their cocoon! I quickly put them outside as they’re absolutely VORACIOUS when they emerge, and will start eating eachother – ICK! If you can find an aphid-covered rosebush, or some other such ‘buffet’, they will start feasting immediately! Be careful, though, because as soon as the little birds in your garden get wind that you’re setting out their next meal, they’ll swoop down and start their own feast (this is a little traumatic, even for those hardened teenagers). Also, make sure there’s no little spider webs around as the babies are clueless and will wander right in.
Yesterday I found one of these little guys, who’s now about one month old. He’s only about 1″ long, but if he survives the birds and spiders he’ll get to be as long as 6 – 7″.
And don’t forget, they’re wonderful as pest management!
Depending on where you live, it’s still not too late to run out and get your own babies – but hurry!