Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gardening with Children; a Guest Post

This is a special post for Urban Garden Hoe: a guest post on gardening with children from a good friend of mine, Sara. Sara is fairly new to gardening and had a fair number of questions this Spring, but she has really taken to square foot gardening... and she does it with far more style than I!

It’s never too early to learn to garden. And lucky for me, it’s never too late, either.

Because I’m a creative person who has a short attention span and doesn’t always fully research things before jumping in, my previous attempts at vegetable gardening were massive failures. For example, throwing broccoli seeds into red dirt in June in full sun was not the best plan, even though the seed packet recommended full sun. Oh, and I kind of forgot to water them.

Then there was the time I tried to accidentally poison myself, thinking I was eating little black tomatoes which were really something like nightshade berries. I could have sworn I had planted some cherry tomatoes in that spot!

After those embarrassments, I swore off gardening and admitted defeat. My other interests would keep me plenty busy, not to mention raising a toddler and keeping him entertained.

But this DIY craze runs deep and wide, and growing your own is worth reconsidering.

This year’s garden was a spur-of-the-moment decision, inspired by a simple Tweet from Elizabeth: something along the lines of “getting ready to plant another Square Foot Garden.” I was intrigued – it sounded simple yet fun.

A quick perusal of http://www.squarefootgardening.com/ had me thinking in grids and making lists of vegetables we love. I bought the book at Full Circle (our local bookstore) and built my own garden box with lumber and a drill, which made me feel empowered and self-sufficient. I also built a small 2’x2’ for my son, who was very interested in digging, as a way to keep him out of trouble and to share the excitement.

We started seeds indoors, and every morning he’d wake up and want to look at the baby plants. He began to understand they were delicate and growing, and learned to be careful when touching them.

Little did I know how educational this project would prove. My son has started learning about broad concepts such as patience, sustainability and farming while trying new things and spending time in the backyard.

He’s getting dirty and watching bugs crawl and working up the courage to hold worms in his hand. He’s learning about compost, about being gentle to plants and waiting for produce to ripen. He’s learning to snack on sugar snap peas and beet greens right there in the garden. This experience is one we can share and enjoy, and we are rewarded for the work we do.

Fun plants to grow with kids:
  • Sugar snap peas – sweet and ready to eat
  • Mint – great for putting in ice water
  • Onions - the tops are irresistible to my young farmer straight out of the garden
  • Beets - even if you don’t like them, they make great natural food coloring, and the greens cook up just like spinach.
  • Cherry tomatoes - fast-growing, snackable and yummy