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Writer  /  Nancy Craig

When it is so cold here and I miss being outside gardening, I call my sister Judy in Florida to see what is blooming in her garden. This time, she had a surprise: little blue flowers growing in the mulch just off her patio. Judy had tossed out some chia seeds into her yard, thinking maybe the birds would eat them, but instead, they sprouted into a bright green mass of chia plants, Salvia hispanica. She was surprised by the plants, but the bigger surprise was the flowers.

Yes, this is the chia plant that was made popular in the 1980s as the “Ch-ch-ch-Chia Pets!” We are not going to make Chia Pets, although you can probably still buy the kits in stores. My great nieces and nephews are going to make Grass People and Grassy Garden Gnomes. The gnome’s idea is in the garden book we used all last year, “Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments” by Renata Fossen Brown. My great nephews, Max and Eli, will particularly like the googly eyes we will use in making the faces for the gnomes. The steps to making the garden gnomes are very easy and use knee high nylons to hold the soil and grass seed. We will use Burpee cat grass seeds and not the chia seeds.

The twins, Lindsey and Lauren, will like the Grass People idea in the book, “The Gardening Book” by Jane Bull. This project uses sawdust instead of soil and leaves more space to make the faces, plus even shows how to make a nose. Lindsey can make purple glasses out of pipe cleaners for hers, and Lauren will like being able to “cut” the grass into different “hair” styles. The grass seeds sprout in about a week, so they won’t have to wait long for fun.

The chia plant is in the mint family, so my sister will want to contain it, or it will spread and take over her garden! Next time Judy is not sure if her chia seeds are good to eat, she may want to recycle them in a different way. Use your chia seeds in your smoothies instead of planting them. And don’t blame me if you are now singing the “Ch-ch-ch-Chia Pets!” song!

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