My good friend, Jen, from Eco Women is guest posting today with some great ideas for gardening with children. You can never be too young to appreciate what the ground has to offer!
I live in Virginia, where we are coming out of the hardest winter in decades. From mid-December to the beginning of March, we got almost 60″ of snow, which is about 54″ more than we normally get. Now that it’s spring, you can probably imagine just how giddy everyone is to be outside and enjoying the warm air. (And not having to wear snow boots!)
For me, this time of year is particularly exciting, because I am an avid urban gardener and have a large kitchen garden in my city back yard. For the past decade or so, I’ve gardened with my daughters, who are 9 and 11 and well on the way to becoming avid gardeners like their mother. Gardening with children is really easy and a fun way to teach them where their food comes from.
For example, my family loves edamame. I’m pretty sure that most kids couldn’t tell you anything about growing edamame, but mine sure can. The first year we planted it, I handed my then-six-year-old daughter a single pack of seeds and told her to go to town. She dropped the seeds willy-nilly into a 3′ X 3′ raised bed and then forgot about them — for weeks. In June, I showed her the growing plants and her interest was renewed. She checked on her plants daily and was rewarded with her first harvest in July. She picked a bowl of the furry pods and brought them inside, where we promptly cooked them and popped open the pods at the dinner table. She was hooked and now is my right-hand girl every year when I plant and harvest our family’s edamame.
In fact, I’ve found that the mere presence of foods just steps from our back door is enough to get my girls interested in what’s going on outside in the garden and what’s going on in the kitchen.
I recently made spaghetti sauce and, when the time came to add herbs, I sent my older daughter out to our herb garden to pick oregano. I told her where to find it and that everything was clearly labeled. She came back five minutes later with a nice bunch and I showed her how to remove the leaves from the stems and add them to the sauce.
There are lots of ways to get your children involved in gardening, regardless of their ages and how much yard space you have (or don’t have). Here are some of my ideas:
- Container gardening — Planting in pots is so easy with toddlers, because the pots are just the right height for little hands to reach. This is perfect for cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers (on a teepee or trellis) herbs, strawberries, and even blueberries. Don’t forget to plant flowers too, because they’ll attract bees to pollinate your veggies. (Plus it looks pretty.)
- Theme gardening — What about planting a Pizza Garden? Plant tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic, and even red peppers and you’ll have the fixings for fresh pizza toppings. Try a Salsa Garden — tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, black beans, and/or corn.
- Fruit salad gardening — Watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are all easy to grow and fun to harvest. (If you’re container gardening, however, you’ll only be able to grow blueberries and strawberries.)
- His ‘n’ hers gardening — Give each of your children a designated gardening spot and encourage them to be the masters of their domains. While my younger daughter would probably fill her area with edamame only, my older daughter would likely mix things up with a variety of veggies.
- Bean teepees — Assemble bamboo poles into a teepee and then grow beans around the base. A fun place for your children to play while waiting for their veggies to grow.
As an aside, when I talk about gardening, I of course mean organic gardening. I am a big fan of Organic Gardening magazine and encourage you to check out their website, which contains a wealth of helpful articles on pretty much any topic you can imagine.
Whatever type of garden you decide to create with your children, the important thing is to get their hands in the dirt. Teach them where her food comes from and how to grow it. The lessons they will learn will be invaluable, now and forevermore.
Photo credits: Both were taken by me; the top one is of my girls at Biltmore House and Gardens and the bottom one was taken at a local orchard last fall.