It’s said that gardens grow children and this is particularly true when a child’s first experiences with gardening are fun and successful. Nurturing plants and sharing the bounty are great confidence builders for budding green thumbs. Indulge your child’s curiosity in bugs, worms and sprouting seeds and offer plants that mature quickly with surprising results.
1. Give your child his or her own small plot or a well-defined section of the larger family garden to encourage a sense of ownership without being overwhelming. A square-yard is a good size for a young child.
2. Talk to your child about where to put the garden. It’s an opportunity to share ideas about what plants need to thrive: plenty of sunshine, water and healthy soil. Together, choose a site that is accessible to your child (and the hose).
3. Create a child’s garden in just about any shape as long as it includes paths or stepping stones for easy access to plants. A plot composed of squares surrounded by stones are practical, but wagon wheel shapes, with the rocks as spokes, work well, too.
4. Plant vegetables that your child loves to eat and are easy to grow from seed sown directly in the garden. Large seeds, such as beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchinis are easiest to plant and sprout quickly. Radishes are the quickest to grow, though the seeds are small.
5. Grow dramatic flowers such as sunflowers and zinnias, which have large, fast growing seeds and produces magnificent flower heads loaded with edible seeds.
6. Appeal to all the senses. Include herbs, such as basil and parsley, for garden grazing. Add fragrant plants, such as lemon verbena, rose-scented geraniums and pineapple salvia. Some plants are just for touching, like lamb’s ears with its soft, fuzzy leaves and silvery green color.
7. Go to the nursery together to get ideas and choose plants. Include some seedlings, which provide instant gratification and great opportunities to dig holes when transplanting. Sweet cherry tomatoes are a popular choice because they produce loads of bite-sized treats that children can pick and eat straight from the garden. In the flower department, snapdragons are favorites because of the flexible dragon’s jaw that invites pinching. Let your child choose something new to you too.
Purchase high quality, children sized garden tools and teach your child how to use and care for them. Small tools make gardening safer and easier.
Seed catalog companies offer the best selection of seeds for unusual vegetable and flower varieties.
Choose varieties in unusual colors and sizes. “Easter egg” radish seeds produce roots in a mix of red, purple and white. “Purple Queen” beans ripen to purple and turn green when cooked.
WARNING: Keep pesticides locked up, out of sight and reach of children! Safer still, don’t use them in the garden at all, Check out this Companion Planting chart for natural pest control.
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