Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome back to the garden. In this discussion, children are the primary topic. We will be talking about ways to make the garden a happy family project as well as an incredible instrument for teaching your kids the amazing ways that nature works. So let’s take a walk in the garden and bring the kids along.
Over the years, I have heard a thousand stories of how particular gardeners got started and why gardening is the most popular hobby in this country for both men and women. Most of these testimonials begin with mom, dad, or grandparents that were avid gardeners who shared their passion. Some grew up on farms or had family members involved in farming (like me). No matter how many of these stories I hear, I am thrilled to share these tales of inspiration.
The one common thread is that when these gardeners were children, someone they looked up to or loved shared the gifts of nature with them. It makes no difference whether these people grow vegetables, flowers, exotic plants, or cactus. They all share a keen desire to learn and understand how plants grow and have a deep appreciation for their relationship with nature.
Children will happily participate in any project they can share with their parents. The key to keeping them interested is to have special garden projects that are theirs. It is always best to give them the projects in the garden that are faster and more interesting to a developing sense of self-awareness. One of my favorite vegetable garden plants to share with kids is a radish. These plants go from seed to table in less than one month.
Lettuce is also a fast growing plant that will keep them interested. It is important for them to experience plant growth in a time they understand. These plants grow very fast and each time your child sees them they will be different in ways that are not too subtle. It is also a good idea to share their insights when they attempt to explain their increasing understanding of how they feel this whole plant growth thing works. Listen to them, you may learn something. To quote Mr. Art Linkletter “Kids say the darndest things”. No fancy psychological ploys are necessary, your children will naturally share with you what they perceive to be true about how the garden is doing. They may be right on!
Other plants that really interest children are ones that climb or vine. Pole beans and peas are very intriguing to kids because they grow very fast, have interesting flowers, and can be trained onto a number of structures that can actually provide your kids with “forts”. Tipis are a favorite structure to train these plants onto. These tipis provide the plants with excellent support while they give your kids a very cool place to hide and play.
It is a good idea to put a couple of these tipis around the garden to give them places to do the make believe stuff that makes childhood so great. Make a big one if you have room in the garden so you can get inside one with them on occasion. Play a little hide and go seek with mom or dad to keep them interested in spending time in the garden. These times in the garden will be something they remember as family time and will seek out opportunities to have more of them.
My favorite way to share in the garden is something that can only be done in a naturally tended organic garden plot. I love to have a small pail of water with me while I am in the vegetable garden. When certain plants are ready to harvest, I like to rinse them right there in the garden and munch away. This is one thing that gardening really does well. It gets your kids interested in eating their veggies. Don’t go overboard here; let the kids come to you for the sharing.
They may even bring you some to eat. Eat them eagerly but don’t try to force them to eat any. If they see you munching away paying no attention to them, their natural curiosity will want to see what is so damn tasty. Then you’ve got them hooked. This kind of bond cannot be shared in a garden where pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used because the produce from these gardens need to be washed, scrubbed, and have pesticide residues washed off of them with soap and water. Watch your kids, soon they will be eating snow peas right off of the plant, it’s incredible.
Got questions? Email the Doc at Curly@mill.net Don Trotter’s Natural Gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications. Look for Don’s books Natural Gardening A-Z on sale now, and his new release The Complete Natural Gardener, both from Hay House Publishing, www.HayHouse.com