Giving your Kids an Excuse to Play in the Dirt.
By Liz Brown.
Developing a strong relationship with good, wholesome, whole foods and a healthy, thriving, beautiful ecosystem is the key to a lifetime of health and happiness. Giving your children the opportunity to grow their own food and flowers is an experience that will continue to nurture them throughout their lives. Even if it’s just one plant, or only one zucchini—you’re off to a great start!
Sun, dirt, hard work, sweat, community, bugs, eating fresh food, learning how nature works—how do you get kids to enjoy the garden anyway? Actually, that seems to be pretty easy. It turns out, kids really like these things! Here are a few tips on how to lure your little ones—and yourself—into the garden this summer, while creating a magical and healthy experience for everyone.
To get kids in the mood, many parent gardeners offer this advice: Make up a gardening song. My friend, Anita, who grew up on a self-sufficient homestead in Alaska, explained, “My grandpa used to make me sing to the seeds before I planted them, while I was planting, and every morning after we put them in the ground … I sang a little ditty, and it went like this: ‘Oh glorious little seed, we love you, we love you, grow, grow, grow to the sky, the sun wants to kiss you!'”
You can also teach children to bring their own little bits of magic to the garden. My friend, Laura, has her kids help with the garden, and they love it! “Sam felt it important to put rocks and crystals in all the beds, and we hung prayer flags all over the garden. I also built a sandbox next to the raised beds so they can take breaks from helping me and play.”
The garden doesn’t have to only be about gardening. Bring in whatever your children like—music, art, toys, whatever!
Prepare The Plot
Once kids are in the mood, the next step is your job. Choose the garden site and make sure the soil is properly prepared. With just a little bit of preparation, you will find the whole process of bringing kids into the garden much easier. Begin with the soil. Most garden plants grow best in dark, fluffy, humus-rich, organic material-rich soil. If your soil is more sandy or sticky like clay, add organic soil amendments, like plenty of compost or manure. For water conservation, add mulch on top of the soil. This can be added before or after planting, and consist of wood chips, or any garden materials (leaves, seedless hay, weed clippings, etc.).
My sister has a large yard, but for edible gardening with the kids she swears by the local community garden experience. Not only will the soil be prepared already, but children can learn from more experienced gardeners. People love to show off their wares! Her kids, Wade and Daisy, ” … love gardening with other people of ALL ages. They like having their own little spot within a bigger garden, seeing what other people are doing and planting—it’s really fun for them.” Kids also enjoy having their own kid-sized garden tools. Get them a little bucket, a small rake and shovel, and a planting fork or trowel.
For a little extra hand holding, go to a local garden store or greenhouse and ask for help. You will probably find a very knowledgeable staff, so don’t be shy with questions! You can even bring in a sample of your soil and ask what soil amendments they recommend, or what plants you will be successful with. Most areas also have a number of local farms and compost or composted manure hauling services, as well.
Spring Into Action
Now the fun begins! Choose the seeds or started plants that you want to plant this year. Depending on the age of your children, it might be fun to bring them to the seed store, or show them a seed catalog and let them help pick out the plants.
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