A boy and his gar­den

Here’s a fun pro­ject to get kids out­doors and do some plant­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By CATHER­INE NEW­MAN

IT STARTED the way so many child­hood pas­sions do: by watch­ing.

Bos­ton pho­tog­ra­pher Kim Lowe was work­ing in her gar­den, and two- year- old Oliver wanted to be where she was. More specif­i­cally, he was mad that he wasn’t, and banged on the win­dow un­til she re­alised.

So out he came: “I have a pic­ture of him – barely walk­ing then – in a lit­tle chair, sit­ting while I’m gar­den­ing.” Time with his mum may have lured him out­side, but it’s the gar­den it­self that’s kept him there.

Oliver, now six, has rev­elled in some of the more ob­vi­ous lessons gar­dens have to of­fer – about sea­sons and plants, about shoots and soil – but many less ex­pected ones too: about free­dom and in­de­pen­dence, wait­ing and won­der­ing, tri­umph and fail­ure.

They’re gar­den­ing still, Kim and Oliver, and last year we were lucky enough to have them doc­u­ment their la­bor of love for us all to en­joy. Whether you have a whole plot or just a few pots, their sim­ple and touch­ing story might in­spire your fam­ily to get plant­ing too.

“When we first started, I let Oliver loose,” re­calls Kim. “I didn’t dis­cour­age him from en­joy­ing the gar­den in his own way, which meant ac­cept­ing some chaos.”

So, yes, he de­cap­i­tated her tulips, kicked a pump­kin around like a ball, and used Kim’s prized Ele­phant Ear as an um­brella. But he also har­vested the pump­kin’s seeds when it cracked open, and learned that plants are wa­ter­proof. “That’s how he fell in love with gar­den­ing.”

There may be no more pro­found les­son a gar­den teaches than pa­tience. Seeds ger­mi­nated in the early spring might not bear fruit un­til the fall. You plant tulips in the fall, and they sleep all win­ter, like bears. Or con­sider car­rots, which take for­ever to do their thing un­der­ground – still, that’s what makes them one of Oliver’s fa­vorites: “You can’t see them grow­ing. You just have to wait. But then you get to dig them up!”

The gar­den is a full- sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence for Oliver. He touches and smells ev­ery­thing. Kim had to teach him that you don’t eat the tomato plants – just the toma­toes – even though the plant smelled so much like some­thing you would want to eat.

“He makes me see the gar­den in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent way. I see him touch­ing and smelling ev­ery­thing, and I get down to his height and do it too.”

Push one tiny seed into the soil, wait a cou­ple of months, and har­vest dozens, maybe even hun­dreds, of cherry toma­toes. A sun­flower seed the size of your pinkie fin­ger­nail turns into a crazily huge plant you can – you must – look up to.

“Plant­ing a seed is mag­i­cal,” Kim ex­plains. “You don’t re­alise un­til you do it.”

Oliver tastes ev­ery­thing right away. He picks beets and eats them raw. He nib­bles whole, sun- warmed zuc­chini. He de­vours bit­ter arugula by the hand­ful.

Kim and Oliver even did a taste test to see how much sweeter car­rots get af­ter a frost.

He’s learn­ing to cook too: His beloved basil plant is turned into pesto, which has its own re­quire­ments. “We planted gar­lic this year be­cause he needed it for his pesto,” says Kim.

For Kim and Oliver, mak­ing row mark­ers from old blinds is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of the pi­o­neer­ing spirit of the gar­den. The whole ex­pe­ri­ence, re­ally, teaches the im­por­tance of con­serv­ing the earth’s lim­ited re­sources.

But the most im­por­tant thing Oliver’s learn­ing might be about learn­ing it­self. As Kim puts it, “Ours is not a per­fect gar­den! It’s a space for Oliver to ex­plore, to say ‘ Let’s see what hap­pens.’ “Right along­side his plants, he’s grow­ing, and grow­ing up. – Fam­ily Fun mag­a­zine/ Tribune News Ser­vice

The most pro­found les­son a gar­den teaches is pa­tience.

ll sen­sory e eri­ence In gar­den­ing, the child sees, touches and smells ev­ery­thing. — Pho­tos:

TNS

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