Earth Day: Gardening with Children
As Earth Day approaches, I want to share, with you, the joys of gardening with children. My love of gardening came from my father. He was raised on a farm in West Virginia, and although he married and became an electrical engineer, his love of the land never faded. As I was growing up, Dad and Mom always planted a garden. Sometimes it was small and other times it was huge. Digging in the dirt, playing with worms and watching the plants, start as small seedlings and grow large enough to produce the food for our table, was a treat. I will admit that the weeding and breaking bushel after bushel of green beans got a bit tedious at times; but the vegetables we grew in our garden were better than anything we bought at the store.
I don’t have the green thumb that my Dad and Mom have but I continue to try. A few years ago, because of several health issues my husband has, we decided to try our hand at organic gardening. We chose the Square Foot Gardening method, as taught by Mel Bartholomew. It can be a little expensive in the beginning but I love it because I don’t need a rototiller to break up the ground. It is always soft, loose and easy to work in. And since it’s so easy to work with, it makes gardening with children a breeze.
One of the areas I fail miserably at is having the time to take care of my garden the way it needs to be. I work full time and I live far enough from my workplace that I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to gardening. It’s mid-April and this is what my garden currently looks like:
I know, I was taught better than that. I should all ready have my onions and radishes in the ground. I was hoping to have my little helper (my great-nephew) last weekend but he and his mom were busy. Even though he wasn’t able to help me this past weekend, I can share the fun we had getting the garden ready two years ago.
Jeremiah was 21 months old, so as you can see, you can start gardening with your children when they are quite young. Here is one of the reasons that the Square Foot Gardening method works well when gardening with children; the dirt was so soft and loose that he was easily able to help me pull out weeds and old plants. He also helped me loosen the dirt by digging and raking. At first, he wasn’t too sure about getting dirt on his hands but the longer we worked the more he got into it. And I really mean he got INTO it! LOL!
There is so much learning that can happen while gardening. Realizing that vegetables grow on plants before they get to the store can be a lesson in itself. You can discuss how worms and certain bugs help the garden while other bugs hurt it. Learning about weather, and how the garden needs rain and sunshine to grow, are other lessons. You might find that your child is willing to try different vegetables when they have had a hand in growing and caring for them. One unexpected thing you might find growing, while working in the garden with your child, is the bond between the two of you. So put on some old clothes, grab some rakes and shovels and start growing your own memories.