Saturday, March 09, 2013

Gardening With Children

Spring is coming, and you're ready to plant a garden with your children. Children are natural gardeners. They anticipate every new shoot. They take pleasure in sowing seeds, and keeping them watered. The key is to continue to reward their initial enthusiasm with their own equipment and spaces, quick results, and fun additions.

The anticipation will begin long before the garden soil is turned. Read gardening books together, look at seed catalogs, make an early trip to the garden center, and talk about the type of garden you would like to have and what you will plant. Let your child choose some seeds and, if you've planned ahead, begin some seeds indoors.

Before you get started on your garden, purchase some simple equipment suited to your child. A set of child-sized hand tools, gardening boots or clogs, and pint-sized watering can will engage them as workers and contributors to the family garden. Throw in some safe, natural bug repellent and sunscreen and you will avoid a less than satisfactory beginning.

Now start by creating spaces just for your child. This could be their own small plot, but it could also be a special structure within your larger garden. Consider planting a bean tepee, sunflower house, or fairy garden. Set aside a small area for them to plant a pizza garden. Let them choose native host plants for a butterfly garden. Your little ones will be happily occupied in their own space, while you care for your own.

Quick results keep children engaged. While they may not enjoy eating radishes, they will be delighted at how quickly they can harvest their first crop. If you haven't started seeds indoors, be sure to allow children to choose some seedlings at the garden center. Not only will the trip to choose delight them, the quicker returns will also foster a sense of accomplishment that will, in turn, foster a positive attitude about gardening.

Add fun, child-friendly features to your garden. Create a toad house from an old pot. Collect unique garden decorations. Paint stones together to mark vegetable rows or line the edge of the garden. Add some stump stools, a picnic table, or a small bench. Or, best of all, choose a water feature, such as a bubbler, water wall, or small fish pond. All of these choices will encourage imaginative play and result in more happy hours in the garden.

Container gardening is very child-friendly. Allow them to help you plant hanging planters full of flowers for the front porch and upside-down tomato planters for the deck. Fill a large container with seed potatoes for a great surprise when you dump them at harvest. Start a container herb garden. Plant a window box of carrots if the weather is still cool. Fill a strawberry pot. Containers are such a versatile option for families with limited yard space for a garden.

However you choose to garden, multiply your enjoyment by sharing it with your child. Take the time to do the planning and the work together, and the pleasure of watching things grow, and spending time with you, will set a precedent for them to enjoy a lifetime of gardening.

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