FOR KIDS

Grow­ing Up Gar­den­ing

Gulf & Main - - Contents -

“Why try to ex­plain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a gar­den?” —Robert Brault

In our busy dig­i­tal age, chil­dren need mean­ing­ful fam­ily con­nec­tions. De­sign­ing a gar­den, plant­ing seeds and watch­ing the plants grow can give chil­dren a sense of pur­pose and re­spon­si­bil­ity. Gar­den­ing can also teach them team build­ing and pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Chil­dren are, of course, cu­ri­ous—and they learn best by do­ing. They also love to play in the dirt. Gar­den­ing en­sures chil­dren will gain new skills while check­ing that the plants get enough fer­til­izer, wa­ter and sun.

They will also de­velop a sense of mind­ful­ness. Con­cepts learned while gar­den­ing, such as com­post­ing food scraps for fer­til­izer or us­ing gath­ered rain­wa­ter, can show chil­dren a deep re­spect and re­spon­si­bil­ity for tak­ing care of our planet.

Fur­ther­more, a num­ber of stud­ies show that when chil­dren par­tic­i­pate in ac­tiv­i­ties such as dig­ging and plant­ing, they have im­proved moods, bet­ter learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and de­creased anx­i­ety. Most im­por­tant, the self­es­teem and ex­cite­ment chil­dren feel from eat­ing veg­eta­bles or gift­ing flow­ers that they grew are price­less.

TIPS FOR SUC­CESS: GIVE THEM SE­RI­OUS TOOLS.

Do not give your chil­dren in­ex­pen­sive kids’ gar­den­ing tools. They of­ten break, cre­at­ing frus­tra­tion. Also, find good work gloves that fit small hands. And with some gar­den tools, such as hoes and spades, you can eas­ily use a saw to shorten the han­dles. Con­sider even let­ting them use your tools to show the im­por­tance of the work they’re do­ing.

START FROM SEEDS.

While it’s a con­ve­nient short­cut to use starter kits, chil­dren learn best by see­ing the grow­ing process start from seeds. The care given to sprout­ing seeds and nur­tur­ing young seedlings are a valu­able part of the gar­den­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

CHEAT A LIT­TLE.

Depend­ing on the age of the chil­dren, you may need to help out a lit­tle “be­hind the scenes.” Not ev­ery gar­den task is pleas­ant or fun, and chil­dren may not be ready at all times for all the nec­es­sary tasks. You may need to go out in the evenings to pick a few slugs off the let­tuce, or be the one to run out and move the sprin­kler.

Most im­por­tant, the self-es­teem and ex­cite­ment chil­dren feel from eat­ing veg­eta­bles or gift­ing flow­ers that they grew are price­less.

WHAT TO PLANT

The fol­low­ing is a list of five crops that are per­fect for a child’s gar­den. They are rel­a­tively easy to grow, have short grow­ing sea­sons and are fun to har­vest.

CHERRY TOMA­TOES

Grow­ing sea­son is 50-75 days. Plant in full sun and use seedlings rather than plant from seeds. Put in a 2-foot stake along­side each seedling; they need to be tied loosely to stakes as they get taller. Add lots of com­post. Wa­ter at ground level; try to keep leaves dry. Can also be grown in containers.

LET­TUCE

Seeds ger­mi­nate in seven to 10 days; grow­ing sea­son is 40-50 days. A quick and re­li­able crop that en­ables chil­dren to see fast re­sults. Also a good way to in­ter­est them in sal­ads! Let­tuce likes par­tial shade; keep soil moist, es­pe­cially dur­ing first two weeks. Va­ri­eties in­clude “head” (space 8 inches apart) and “leaf” (space 4 inches apart). Leaf va­ri­eties ma­ture sooner, about 30-35 days.

POTA­TOES

A “never-fail” crop. Plant red or white va­ri­eties; red ma­tures faster. Cut seed pota­toes into chunks with at least two eyes per chunk. Plant in fur­rows 12-15 inches apart, with eyes point­ing up­ward. Mound soil around plant as it grows; har­vest when plant col­lapses.

SNOW PEAS

A quick-grow­ing crop that’s fun for chil­dren to eat right off the vine, in­clud­ing the pod. They take about 10 days to ger­mi­nate and ma­ture in about 60 days. Peas pre­fer cool, shady lo­ca­tions. They should be planted about 1 inch apart at the most.

SUN­FLOW­ERS

A must for a child’s gar­den. They sprout in a week, be­come small seedlings in two weeks and are about 2 feet tall in a month. In about eight weeks, they be­gin re­veal­ing hun­dreds of seed ker­nels. Sun­flow­ers dry nat­u­rally in late sum­mer sun. The seeds, which are rich in pro­tein and iron, can be roasted for snacks.

Gar­den­ing can also teach them team build­ing and pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

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