Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gardening With Children by Nancy Brant

Photo CSU Extension
One of the main reasons that children enjoy gardening is to spend time with someone they love.   It is a good time to experience the outdoors, talk over problems and bond.  If you love gardening, your children will probably enjoy it too.  Another reason children like gardening is that they love being outside and playing in the dirt.
You can plan the garden with very young children by talking about what you might plant, going to the garden store and picking out some fun seeds.  Choose seeds that are easy to handle, germinate quickly, and are tasty to eat.  Radishes are great because they germinate quickly.  Choose a mild variety if your children do not like spicy foods.  Radishes come in white red, pink, purple and black varieties.  There is even an Easter egg seed blend which is a blend of seeds in shades of purple, lavender, pink, scarlet and white radishes in one seed packet.  
Some interesting bean varieties are “purple queen,” which is a purple bean that turns green when cooked; “Cherokee Trail of Tears”, beans that were carried in the pockets of the Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears (a good history lesson); “Orient Wonder Yard Long Bean,” a foot long bean; “Scarlet Runner Bean,” a pole bean with beautiful red flowers.  Small children love to see pumpkins in the garden in the fall.  My children loved bumpy pumpkins such as “Red Warty Thing Pumpkin.”  Other pumpkin varieties are fun: “Baby Boo,” white flesh and white skin miniature pumpkin; “Baby Bear,” a child-sized pumpkin; “Lumina,” ghostly white skin for painting and carving.  Peas come in varieties in which you eat the pod or do not, but children love to pick and eat either one.  Children also love to pick and eat almost any variety of very small tomatoes.  Clover Buddies (a program of the Jefferson County CSU Extension) love to eat raspberries off the vine.
Older children plan the garden differently.  Some might like to read about birds, bugs, plants and other outdoor adventures before setting foot in the garden.  While some might draw the garden plan with a general plan in mind, others may use graph paper, measurement and math to draw it to scale. Some like to discuss a plan with you.  Still others will go to a plan your garden website.  Older children can also choose seeds from garden sites, local stores, or seed catalogs.  As children get more involved in other activities, it is important that the desire comes from them.    Gardening should not be seen as a obligation, but as something fun to do with a parent/grandparent. 
Since children love being outside and playing in the dirt, the planting and maintenance are usually not significant problems.  They are very hands on, so avoid using pesticides or other products you would not like them to get on their hands.  They also love to water the garden.
The best part about gardening with children: harvesting.  I sometimes did not get out to the garden at the optimal time to pick vegetables, but my children did.  They loved to pick and eat, and they were eating healthy!  The downside was that in the winter, the vegetables from the store weren’t nearly as good, so they didn’t eat nearly as many.