Get­ting kids to love gar­den­ing

Kids love see­ing their lit­tle gar­den grow be­fore their eyes and, chances are, if they grow it, they’ll eat it.

Element - - Natural Parenting - By Anissa Ljanta

Think of the best gar­dener you know. Chances are they had a men­tor – a par­ent or grand­par­ent – who showed them the ropes, taught them re­spect for the nat­u­ral world and the cy­cle of the sea­sons, and the con­se­quences of good, or not-so-good, care of plants.

Gar­den­ing with chil­dren, whether they be tod­dlers or teenagers, is an op­por­tu­nity to in­spire a life­long love of the out­doors and na­ture, and cre­ate re­silient, re­source­ful adults.

In win­ter it’s a bit trick­ier to get into the gar­den. But the cold weather doesn’t need to keep us in­side or reach­ing for the re­mote. Bun­dle up the kids and get them out­doors. Or, if the weather is re­ally grim, bring a bit of gar­den in­side.

Did you know that kids in­volved in gar­den­ing are more likely to try new veg­eta­bles? You don’t need to wait for spring. Plant a win­ter gar­den now. Di­vide off a lit­tle piece of your ex­ist­ing gar­den for the kids to claim or fill a planter box with earth.

Even tod­dlers can get in­volved in the gar­den. To start their learn­ing, set up an ac­tiv­ity be­side you to keep them busy while you’re gar­den­ing. Try this one: fill a glass dish or bowl with earth from the gar­den and ask the kids to see how many life forms they can find. Pro­vide a few spoons. You might want to sneak in a few larger spec­i­mens like earth­worms, slaters and cen­tipedes ahead of time, but there will be plenty of smaller critters in the soil to keep them busy. Buy them a pocket mi­cro­scope to bring the mi­cro life of the soil alive.

Win­dowsills or pots work just fine for ur­ban dwellers to start a win­ter gar­den. All you need is a shel­tered spot on the deck or front porch that gets lots of sun. Salad leaves, kale, spring onions, pars­ley and cab­bages are just a few win­ter veg­eta­bles you can plant now.

On a stormy day, bring the gar­den­ing in­side, or to a more shel­tered spot. Our cov­ered deck sees a lot of gar­den project ac­tion in au­tumn and win­ter.

One of my all-time favourite win­dowsill gar­dens is the ‘pantry gar­den’. The rules are sim­ple: go through the pantry, and plant any­thing that will grow. Chick­peas, lentils, rice, beans, av­o­cado stones, sun­flower seeds, car­rot tops and pumpkin seeds all work well, and it’s an ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren to re­alise much of what we eat are ac­tu­ally the seeds for new plants.

Ex­per­i­ment with grow­ing sprouts at home. Sprout­ing seeds are read­ily avail­able from nat­u­ral food stores or on­line. Al­falfa is a good mild op­tion for chil­dren’s taste­buds. You don’t need to buy spe­cial sprout­ing jars, any jar with holes poked in the lid, or a mesh top, will do. Google up a tu­to­rial and you’re away. Fresh home sprouts will en­liven your sal­ads and sand­wiches in days. Check out wright­ – which stocks 11 dif­fer­ent kinds.

Salad mi­cro­greens are an­other foodie craze which works well for chil­dren. Get the kids to sow a win­dow box of them. Sprin­kle the seeds lib­er­ally, cover with a few mil­lime­tres of soil and keep them moist and har­vest them when the first leaves ap­pear 2-3 weeks af­ter sow­ing.

One of the best lessons for chil­dren is to com­plete the cy­cle by mak­ing com­post. Show them how the nu­tri­ents from your food waste pro­vide the fuel for the next crops, and how worms and other or­gan­isms break down the food and re­turn it to the earth. The same is true of al­low­ing a plant or two to go to seed. Chil­dren will be as­ton­ished with the abun­dance of seed pro­duced from each plant and you can en­joy their dawn­ing re­al­i­sa­tion of just how much can be pro­duced next year. Anissa Ljanta is an Auck­land writer. She makes, bakes and blogs at

“One of my all-time favourite win­dowsill gar­dens is the ‘pantry gar­den’. The rules are sim­ple: go through the pantry, and plant any­thing that will grow.”

Anissa Ljanta and her son gar­den­ing at home. Pho­tos: Pho­tos: Ted Ted Baghurst Baghurst

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