How Does Your Garden Grow? (Continued)
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A garden brings a family together. From the planning stages to the planting and the blossoming and even to eating what you’ve grown, creating a garden gives you countless ways to interact with your children—no matter what their ages.
“Kids love to get down and dirty,” says Monika Hanneman, Discovery Program coordinator at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in New York. “But gardening also gives your children a sense of accomplishment, the opportunity to feel proud of their work.” For about 50 cents—the cost of a packet of seeds—they also get a hobby for a lifetime.
But how do you start? And how do you inspire your kids to feel as enthusiastic about your garden as you? Don’t be intimidated by either prospect.
Choose what to grow. Let your children grow what they like. For inspiration, visit a community garden. Allow your kids to explore and discover what they want to grow.
Tasty veggies. “Plant vegetables that your child likes to eat, says Judy Sedbrook, master gardener at Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. Plan the menu you’ll be able to make in the fall with the vegetables you’ll grow now.
Growing your own vegetables also gives you an opportunity to teach your child about nutrition. “Plus, fresh vegetables taste so much better than store-bought vegetables,” says Hanneman, “so you might get your kids to eat, and like, broccoli.”
Smelly herbs. Kids love to run herbs between their fingers and then sniff! Of course, they are also useful in the kitchen. When children see their hard work pay off—as the herbs go from the soil to their own dinner plate—they feel a sense of pride and purpose.
Best blooms. Fun flowers can captivate your kids. Choose flowers that are brightly colored, such as marigolds and nasturtiums, or that have an exotic flare, such as passion flowers. Kids love lamb’s ear for its texture and snapdragons because they can snap their jaws shut. Don’t forget flowers that come out only at night. Your child will race out to the garden after nightfall to watch moonflowers bloom. (They smell good, too.) “Just remember,” reminds Sedbrook, “don’t plant anything poisonous!”
Gather information. Suggesting your kids pick what to grow doesn’t mean that conducting a bit of research won’t help to ensure that your garden will flourish. With a quick trip to the library or some surfing online, you’ll find the plants that grow best in your climate—and learn exactly when to plant them. For example, if you live in California, you might plant your tomatoes in April, but in New York, you’ll have to wait until late May.
Make a plan. Once your family knows what it wants, draw a picture of your perfect garden. Make a map or a graph showing exactly how you will lay it out. Draw the diagram to scale. “Your child’s math skills may come in useful here,” says Hanneman.
Pick plots. Give each child his or her own plot. Divide your garden by square feet, square yards, or by circles! “With circular plots, you can make a pizza garden,” says Sedbrook. “Each child gets to grow their own plants in their own pizza slice.”
The right fit for small hands. For younger children, encourage them to plant beans and squash, which have relatively large beans. These are easier for young gardeners to handle.
Richer soil. Amend your soil with compost. Try to get your compost locally, says Hanneman, at a garden center or from your community garden, so that it’s filled with organic nutrients from local sources. Ideally, once you’ve planted your garden, create your own compost pile with leaves, grass clippings, and vegetable scraps. No room for one? Sedbrook suggests bagging your leaves at the end of fall in black trash bags. Let them sit all winter in the sun so that they decompose. When spring comes, chop them up and add them to the soil.
Jacqueline Heinze is a contributing editor at Scholastic Administr@tor.