Lenten grass is an old Finnish tradition and a lovely way to mark the season of Lent with children. If you're looking for ideas for observing Lent, planting grass is easy to do, fun for the whole family.
For adult observers, the Christian season of Lent is often a time of quiet contemplation. For kids, however, Lent seems little more than preamble to Easter’s bonnets and bunnies and baskets.
To help children observe Lent, consider adopting the old Finnish custom of planting grass seed in small dishes on Ash Wednesday.
For children, it is fun to plant and carefully tend the seeds. Soon delicate blades burst forth from the earth, stretching toward the light. With good care, the grass will grow thick and strong and lush, symbolizing the resurrection and the certainty of spring.
Here's how to mark the Lenten Season with Lenten Grass. It's easy, it's fun! Consider starting several trays and giving them to family and friends.
Plant the seeds for Lenten Grass on Ash Wednesday. But if you happen to miss Ash Wednesday, I don't think God will mind. :-) Starting a few days later will work too.
Start with a pretty bowl or tray about three inches high. For drainage, first lay down an even layer of small rocks – aquarium rocks are perfect. Add a layer of potting soil, the loose stuff works better than dense dirt. Don't fill up the bowl or tray, however, leave room for another layer.
For grass seed, I use rye grass from the local feed store, it costs all of $.40. Sprinkle the seed on top of the soil. Be generous! We want thick grass!
One year, I planted wheat grass but was unhappy with the results; others have good luck, however, so in 2010 I experimented with it again (more information about wheat grass below).
Add more potting soil. If it's dry and airy, use quite a bit because it'll pack down once wet.
For visual interest, especially before germination, arrange a few rocks or perhaps pieces of colorful broken china. Be creative!
A bear, perhaps?
Or a regal cat?
Hey wait! Where'd he come from?!
Me, I'm a minimalist and a naturalist so I start with simple stones from my garden.
Water the seeds, but not too much, we don't want to drown these little guys!
Now. Place the container in a sunny spot, someplace where it's easy to see, often. I put mine right in the middle of the kitchen table.
Moisten the soil every day. Use something with a small spout to control the flow. If you're doing this with kids, a spray mister may prevent over-watering. The soil shouldn't be soaked but it should be moist. And because the soil is shallow, it'll dry out quickly.
And then, about Day 6 ...
... start looking for itsy signs of grass!
In fact, leave for a couple of days and you'll miss the first growth and come home to this! This was taken on Day 8.
After that, the growth will be fascinating to watch. On sunny days, you'll be positive you can see new growth every couple of hours.
At first, the grass will come up in clumps and seem a little sparse.
But don't worry. Soon enough, with sun and water, there will be a thick tray of lush Lenten Grass, green and bright and fresh-smelling, for everyone to enjoy, by Day 10, say.
See the clump of dirt? The sheer power of the thrusting grass is impressive!
When the grass gets unruly, ‘mow’ it with scissors. From now til Easter, you'll need to 'mow' every week or so.
After each mow, the Lenten Grass will grow back thick and lush. (Day 14.)
If you have a cat, the grass might be a curiosity, unless you have a Finnish cat, like mine, who feigns indifference. Meet Toivo: she's learned that grass doesn't agree with her tummy and leaves the Lenten Grass alone.
In 2009 and 2010, I also planted wheat grass. It requires a deeper dish and grows more slowly.
But by Day 15, the wheat grass is tall and thick and quite pretty.
Can you see how much fun it is to hide things in the grass?
I love the tradition of planting and tending Lenten Grass and hope that others will adopt and enjoy it too!
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