Growing gardens is so exciting! Each spring, I cannot wait until the “snow is off second base” so I can begin the planning and ultimately the planting of the garden. I learned gardening from my parents, and I taught gardening to our daughters. So, how is it done? By making it a family affair.
Get excited about growing a garden
— Start talking about gardens the moment they can understand. Take them on walks around the neighborhood. Stop and smell the pretty flowers. Go to a farmer’s market and let them help you pick out the fruits and vegetables. Then ask them if they would like to grow some of these.
Planning the garden —
Part of the gardening process is the planning. Involve them early in the planning. Amazingly, gardening catalogs pop into our mailboxes when snow is still on the ground. But that’s a good time to sit down and say, “Let’s think about what we want to grow in our garden this year.” Then give them a big marker and have them circle the things they would like to plant.
Prepare a garden spot —
Ah, the feel of the dirt, the sound of a rototiller, or even the shovel turning over dirt. Let your children run the tiller with your help. Turning a weed patch into a perfectly ready spot to grow things is a sense of accomplishment. Let them string the line so you have straight rows.
Go to the nursery —
Taking your children to the local nursery for flowers, seeds, and potato starts can be quite intoxicating. Let them pick out some of the varieties they want. They will become excited about choosing from the many flowers and seeds.
Take pictures —
Take pictures or videos along the way — when you begin tilling, when you plant, when the first seeds take flight, during weeding and watering time, when the plants begin mature, when the harvest comes, and during other fun times growing the garden.
Create work opportunities that seem like play —
The work thing has to come in somewhere here. Teaching children that you must weed and water the garden can be a difficult yet encouraging task. My father taught us how to make boats out of pea pods. While we watered the long rows of our garden, we also had pea pod boat races. Plus, we competed to see who could get the biggest pile of weeds to feed to the pigs. Soon, it didn’t seem like work.
Harvest the garden —
One of the culminating activities is the harvest. If you plan carefully, you could begin eating peas, strawberries, and swish chard early. Then come the other fruits and vegetables. With each new item comes a sense of accomplishment. When you enjoy the cucumbers, new potatoes and peas, and tomatoes for dinner, thank them for helping. They will feel successful.
When our girls were young, we grew hydrangeas. They grew very large and light blue. Our girls each took some to the local county fair. They won first prize and best of show. Now, that excited them to grow even more things next year. It’s that competition thing.
Remember: Often we grow gardens with our families not to reap the benefits of the fruits and vegetables although that’s a nice outcome; rather, the true benefit is growing children, establishing work habits, and becoming closer as a family. Now, when my daughter calls and tells me how her garden is going, I glow with satisfaction.
Darrel Hammon likes being outdoors, growing things and seeing things the way they could be. You can read more of his musings at darrelhammon.blogspot.com. He and his wife worked as welfare volunteers in the Caribbean.