What better way to start off Spring Break than getting out in the sun, turning over the dirt, and planting a garden? I’ve always wanted to plant & tend a garden with the children. Gardening has so many benefits – it teaches patience, caring for the earth, attention to detail, nurturing, and helps boost spirits! Gardening is therapeutic for me. Who doesn’t just feel better outside in the sun, earth in their toes, the sound of wind through the trees? I just can’t be grumpy out in my flower beds; and I’ve found, neither can my children.
Over the years, my children have helped me create and tend our perennial flower beds, but, due to our locale, never yet have attempted a vegetable/fruit garden. This is due to the fact that we live in a condo which hires a landscaping company that sprays the common areas regularly with pesticides and fertilizers (Grrrrrr…). That being the unfortunate case, I’m really not comfortable with planting anything edible here, due to the potential run-off from the grass area. However, out beyond our backyard and the heavily-treated common area, right at the edge of the woods, there’s a perfectly sunny spot – just right for planting non-edibles!
First, we had to clear a space out there. So… out we went with rakes, shovels, and my new gardening best friend, the hound dog and spent the better part of two hours pulling weeds, cutting vines, raking and tilling. The vegetation, dead leaves, roots, and downed branches that reside on the edge of the woods made clearing a daunting task, but we hung in there (my children are gardening naturals, I tell you).
Two hours, and two very dirty kids (yes, they did actually lie down in the dirt) later, we had our very first garden! I was able to scavenge 4 pieces of lumber from the woods (don’t even get me started on people dumping trash in the woods), to surround our space, and felt quite satisfied with the results! My 5-year old tells me we need a sign that says, “Welcome to my Garden”, and I agree.
Next, after a lunch break and much-needed shower, came the seeds. Now, a couple of years ago, my daughter & I tried to plant some sunflower seeds out on the edge of the woods, and they were immediately dug up & eaten by the local squirrels. So, this year, we decided to try using a seed starter and let our seeds germinate indoors first, and then transplant out to the garden. We bought an “eco-friendly” seed starter kit made from biodegradable plant material. It was super-easy to put together and plant with the kids. We chose some easy-to-grow non-edibles: pumpkins and three varieties of sunflowers. My 2-year old enjoyed watering the pellets, and my 5-year old loved being in charge of labeling the rows. We finished the seed starting part in about an hour, and added it to our nature table. Now we just have to wait for the seeds to germinate & tiny plants to grow! We’re all excited to watch the magic of nature! Once the plants are strong enough & big enough, we’ll move them outside to the garden, and make tending our pumpkins and sunflowers part of our daily summer routine.
Please share your gardening with kids experiences! I'd love to know which crops work best for you; and how you help your children learn to enjoy gardening!