Wednesday, March 20

A TO Z...gardening with kids

There are few things I enjoy more than gardening with my three children. I was delighted when Fairmont added gardening to the early childhood curriculum.  If you've ever spent a few minutes gardening with kids, you'll soon discover that it's an incredible activity for supporting any number of learning objectives (from science and math to literature and creative writing) as well as a great way to teach children to work together.  

In my experience, children who may be shy and reluctant to speak out in class "blossom" in the garden. Kids love being out in the fresh air and sunshine.  They enjoy the physical work that goes along with watering, weeding, planting and cultivating a garden. And it's so rewarding for them to experience the progression of the garden...seed, sprout, plant, flower, fruit.

I grew up in and around a garden, but you don't have to have gardening genes to be successful at creating a family-friendly garden.  It's surprisingly simple, inexpensive and you don't need lots of space.  In fact, a container garden is a great way to get started if you've never planted a garden before.

Here are some of my favorite tips and resources for gardening with kids--happy planting!

  • Start small--It's easy to get carried away when you visit the garden center and see all of the amazing flowers, veggies, trees, shrubs and seeds for sale.  Temper your enthusiasm to do too much, especially if you want to get your kids involved.
  • Take conditions into consideration--Plants are living things and they need the right conditions (light, water, soil) to thrive.  I'd suggest purchasing a Sunset Western Garden Guide to serve as your basic guide for selecting and caring for plants that work given your garden's conditions. Veggies need lots of sun and water, but there are other plants that love shade and many that are water-wise after a year of becoming established in the soil.
  • Buy kid-sized tools--Children will enjoy working in the garden more when they have the right tools, plus they're super cute!  I like the picks from Life on the Balcony.
  • Use seeds and seedlings--Many plants are fun and easy for kids to start as seeds. I like working with larger seeds when kids are involved (sunflower, squash, pumpkin, melons, beans, peas and nasturtium) since they are easier for children to hold.  Radish and carrot seeds are small, but kids can sprinkle them directly into garden soil.  Tomato and pepper plants may be easier to purchase and plant as seedlings since their seeds are teeny tiny.  For help picking plants that play nice together, refer to this handy companion planting chart.
  • Get creative with containers--Container gardening is often less intimidating for new gardeners. Containers require less space and you don't need a lot of prep before you can get started planting.  There are so many clever container garden ideas.  One of my favorites is a vertical garden you create by recycling a shipping pallet.
  • Have fun with critters--You may find your garden attracts ladybugs, butterflies, birds, worms and more. Make learning about the creatures in your garden part of the fun.  You can encourage beneficial insects by planting plants that attract them.
  • Eat what you grow--It's a proven fact that kids are more likely to eat their veggies when they've been involved in growing them.  Watch the Edible Schoolyard segment from Growing a Greener World for inspiration--these school kids are really getting a hands-on lesson on where their food comes from.
  • Start a garden reading list--There are some wonderful children's books about seasons, seeds, gardening, etc. that will help educate and excite your children about their garden.  I love The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. 
Image from Hearthsong
Contributed by Danyelle, Fairmont Private Schools


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