Gardening with Children

I may be biased, but in my opinion there is nothing better than giving children a love for gardening.  They will grow up to be more self-sufficient, more healthy, and perhaps even more appreciative of spending time with their parents.  Considering that my eldest daughter corrected her preschool teacher, explaining that what they were walking through was mulch, I think I’m well on my way.

So how can you get out in the garden with your kids? (Grandkids?)

1.  Grow food!  There is nothing more amazing to a child than seeing that tiny seed grow until it becomes a snack.  Start with easy and rewarding plants, like lettuce, or quick growing ones like radishes.  (A radish can be ready to eat in a little over a month!)  When you’re feeling more confident, go for the unusual veggies: Rainbow Swiss Chard has stems from bright yellow to hot pink and red, Thumbelina Carrots are tiny little pumpkin shaped carrots, and Patty Pan squash are shaped like flying saucers.  Bring your kids with you when you choose seeds and let them choose some of their own.  Seeds are an inexpensive way to practice gardening.  (Don’t forget to get some compost to enrich your soil).

Spaghetti squash

A happy child harvests her first spaghetti squash!

2.  Let it Go!  (OK, I shamelessly borrowed from the song you may have heard one too many times.)  Give your children a patch of dirt or a container to mess around in.  My daughters had 3 flats of seeds one year, and they dug them up and moved the dirt around from one to the other all spring.  They still managed to grow a few beets, chard and spinach. It also helps keep them out of your garden.

Planting vegetable seeds with children

A child plants vegetable seeds indoors

3.  Grow a Rainbow!  There’s a great children’s book by Lois Ehlert called “Planting a Rainbow” that was the inspiration for us.  This year will mark the fourth year we have taken part of my front rock garden and made a fabulous rainbow of annual plants.  Hint: for green, use an herb, like parsley, and you will be happy to keep it trimmed into shape.

gardening with children, rainbow garden, fun garden ideas

A rainbow garden: Geraniums, Zinnia, Marigolds, Parsley, Lobelia, Pansies, Petunias

4.  Challenge them!  For older kids, you can really kick things up a notch by practicing trickier garden skills like grafting.  Imagine having a tree that grows 5 kinds of apples!  (Lee Valley tools sells grafting kits)  Or get them started on a big project, like a pond.  One of the best entries I’ve ever seen in the Calgary Horticultural Society’s Gardening Competition was gardened by a high school student.  He created a tiny creek that flowed throughout much of the garden and then over a 4 foot water wall behind the seating area.  Amazing!

5.  Educate them!  Gardening can be the gateway to conversations from food scarcity to organic growing to climate change, to soil diversity.  Plus, I’ve heard from parents of teens that when parent and teen are out shoveling or raking, the conversations just seem to flow naturally.  My oldest is very proud of her Grade One Learning Fair entry, where she learned all about seeds, including drawing a graph of the height of the mature plant compared to the size of its seed.  Learn a new gardening fact and impress your kids!

 

 

Sprouting chickpeas, and examining them daily for growth.

6.  Plant a Fairy Garden!  These are all the rage right now, and for good reason.  Anyone can find the space for a small fairy garden, inside or out.  For a temporary green carpet, try sprouting seeds!

 

 

A beautiful fairy garden

Plant a beautiful fairy garden with your children.

I hope I’ve inspired you to get out in the garden with your kids!

Note: Have a group of kids eager to learn more about gardening?  The Passionate Gardener can customize a class for groups of 15 or more children.

Posted Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 under Events and Classes, Gardening ideas, Quick tips.

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