The holidays are here and soon family and friends will be gathered together, a blend of different ages and different interests. Involve all ages in helping you prepare for next year’s garden season!

Children love to cut and paste, so dig out some old garden catalogs, a pair of scissors and a bottle of glue or tape. Ask the kids to create a collage of some of the prettiest flowers. They may spy a flower you had never considered growing but that would look lovely in your garden. Older children could even create a photo quiz designed to be a game for the entire clan such as “what flower is this?” or “what vegetable is this and how do you eat it?” Make markers from catalog photos and seed packets, using weatherproof tape or laminate a few of your favorites for permanent use. Create weather-proof plant markers using attractive flat stones and colorful paints.

Will there be a computer-addicted teen or young adult visiting? Ask for help researching potential plants, garden designs, etc. The researcher doesn’t have to have an interest in gardening, but this can allow a relative to demonstrate computer skills. Ask for a list of garden blogs or information on a topic of special interest to you.

Artistic types can help with garden design. With an eye for color and structure, an artistic interpretation might be just what your garden needs to go from great to grand. If a guest is handy with a needle, ask for help making a harvest apron or bag. Quilting relatives can offer expertise in planning a flowerbed designed with a classic quilt pattern in mind.

Crafty or not, everyone can help make paper pots for starting seeds. The easiest method is to cut paper towel or gift-wrap cardboard tubes into appropriate sizes. If making a large quantity, try pots made of newspaper. Although there are wooden molds sold for just this purpose, you can use any cylindrical item. See https://tinyurl.com/y54apkb6. Using paper towels and a paste of flour and water, make seed mats or strips of seeds, using a dot of water-soluble glue and one seed, spaced appropriately for the flower or veggie you will plant in the spring. Remember to label clearly including planting instructions.

For outdoor exercise, take a group hike in the park, looking for trees and shrubs that look good in the winter. Take pictures and try to identify them. Decorate outdoor evergreens with “bird treat ornaments” made of berries, nuts or suet mixed with seeds. Stuff pine cones with peanut butter or suet and hang decoratively.

If your soil is not yet frozen, conduct soil tests using a purchased soil test kit or doing easy soil composition tests to determine soil types. To conduct a composition test, stir 1/2 cup of loose dirt into a clear glass jar. Cover and shake until ingredients are well mixed. Shake often for best results. Once the soil and water are well mixed, let the dirt settle out of the water. Compare the various layers that develop. The bottom layer will be gravel or sand, the top layer will be clay and the middle consists of silt.

Involving friends and family in your gardening life may even inspire a new gardener, and that’s always a good thing. Set aside a small area of your garden to grow plants suggested by this group. Keep them involved year-round by sending photo updates and sharing the harvest whether fresh, dried or canned. And remember that old cliche, “A family that grows together stays together.”

Beverly Carney can be reached at cultivatingcountry@gmail.com.