We’re happy to welcome you to the first in a series of summer blog posts called “Little Green Thumb” that will help you get out in the garden to start growing with the kids. Special thanks to Deirdre Evans, for these great tips for getting started.
Gardens are an amazing way to grow food that is safe healthy and delicious. Here are five easy tips to get you started growing great food with your family.
Kids’ size. Kids love to get their hands in the dirt. Make it easy for kids to get involved by making sure you have lightweight, kid-sized tool available for them to use. Many local stores carry kids garden gloves and tools. Also be sure to give younger children specific spots to dig, well away from any delicate plants, and help guide them with their progress. In a safe digging spot, they will have lots of fun, be delighted by any worms they may find, and happy to be helping out in the garden.
Ownership. Give your child a garden of their own. Kids like to take ownership of a garden, so if they know it is all theirs they will look after their plants throughout the growing process. Kids love to choose their seeds, dig in the dirt to plant, as well as water and weed until the harvest. This process and care creates a real sense of pride in the vegetables that are harvested from their garden.
Ease & Speed. You want to have a few plants with a short “seed to plate” time and plants that don’t need a lot of maintenance. Plants like radishes, chives, peas and lettuce can be harvested in under a month, these are definite plants to include as it is very easy for a three year old to look after and see the daily progress. Yes chives-I was surprised that chives are a favourite for most kids. They can regularly go out into the garden, eat a chive, even give one to a friend, and there will still be lots left for tomorrow.
Magic. Use flowers and plants to create a magical garden. Children have wonderful imaginations and love magic; seeing blossoms appear overnight and a rainbow of colours in a garden brings a smile and delight. Edible flowers like nasturtiums, chives, marigolds and sunflowers can all create a sense of wonder and amazement. A three year old might look for fairies in a bank of flowers, hopeful for even the slightest glimpse. Waiting for the fairies, they are sure to spot a colourful butterfly or bee looking for sweet nectar.
Fun. Create a structure out of plants. Have older children help design and use their imagination to create fun, colourful structures with plants. A lattice house can have cucumbers growing up the walls and through the gaps in the ceiling. Scarlet runner beans can make an incredible tunnel to walk through. Corn can be a fun maze if you have space. Sunflowers planted in a circle can make a hide and seek area. Plants can create very fun play structures which encourage imaginative play. You’ll be amazed by what your children will come up with in the design process!
Deirdre Evans is founder of www.urbangardener.ca, a garden coach and mother to two young boys. Deirdre helps people grow fresher, healthier, tastier food in urban garden boxes here in HRM.