Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gardening with Children

Crystal Rose of Skillin's Falmouth checks in with this great article about why we should garden with children and some helpful tips on how to garden with them. Crystal Rose has taught many gardening classes for children here at Skillin's and also on behalf of the Maine Cooperative Extension Service as a Master Gardener.

"Gardening with children is a great opportunity to share your love of something with someone you love. Teaching them the traditions and knowledge you have learned about gardening can be a great experience. When you show kids your love of the earth and the garden, and are able to surround them with plants and flowers, you start to notice that your passion can rub off onto them.

Involving children in the garden can start at an early age. Simple tasks, like starting seeds, pulling weeds, or even spreading mulch is a good first start. Once a little older, they are able to read seed packets and write out plant markers to help identify their new seedlings, and how to care for them. Gardening makes it easy to incorporate science, math, and art into everyday fun. A trip to your local garden store can prove to be entertaining. With all the sizes, shapes, colors, and fragrances of plants, children’s imaginations can run wild. You can use these ideas in creating a garden just for them. Before heading to the garden store, take the kids out in the yard with a compass and figure out what direction the sunshine’s on your newly plotted garden. With this new knowledge, do a little clue hunting in garden magazines or plant catalogs, and help figure out what plants will do best. It is fun to find plants that butterflies, bees, and birds enjoy as food. Let your children be in charge of choosing the varieties of plants. This will give them a good feeling, knowing they picked out and grew these plants themselves.

There is a flower for every child. Snap dragons; for example, can be made to “roar” by opening the flower and exposing its “teeth”. Mimosa pudica, the sensitive plant, is another exciting one. When you touch the leaves they close up and a minute later, they open back up.
Gardens can bring out a child’s senses. They are able to see all the colors a garden has to offer, hear birds sing; smell all the fragrant plants; touch the textured leaves and flowers; and taste the many flavors of fruits, herbs, and vegetables.

Safety is a big factor in gardening. Be sure to keep all fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides, organic or chemical, stored away from children. Some plants can be harmful too. Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica, is a common weed that has tiny spines. It can be very painful. Using gloves in the garden can help prevent skin irritations that other plants may cause. It is also a good idea to help your children in identifying plants. There are plants out there, pretty or not, that can be poisonous.

Some of us may live in an apartment and traditional outdoor gardening my not be possible. Nowadays, a whole community maintains many gardens. Your local co- operative extension is a great place to get information on local community gardens and other horticultural related questions. The office always has a bundle of informational handouts to take home and learn about too. Growing houseplants is another way to bring plants into a child’s life. Just as there are many varieties of plants for outside, there is another large selection for inside. The garden store is usually full of beautiful green plants. There is always someone there to help you figure out the right plant for the right light.

Sharing the world of gardening proves to be beneficial for everyone. Whether it is your children or someone else’s, they are the next generation of gardeners. Make it one of the best experiences of their life, which they will never forget."

Crystal Rose
Skillin's Greenhouses
April 9, 2008


Russell said...

Your readers may wish to know:
You can get (Mimosa pudica) most commonly known as TickleMe Plant seeds and complete growing kits from Free experiments and growing tips are available at the website.
My school children loves these. We grew 300 this year!
Thanks for the blog

Anonymous said...

Great suggestions, Crystal!

I have an almost three-year old who has been "helping" me in the garden in many of the ways you suggested. For me, the most important thing in designing my garden is to make it fit her size and temperament. She's a kid, and I have to let her trample on a lovely tulip now and then (she knows not to, and does a great job avoiding them, but still, she's a kid.) To her, it's her garden as much as mine, so letting her be a kid in it is where she makes it her own. She loves the smell of mint, the smoothness of lamb's ear, the bumpiness of grape hyacinths, but especially loves the plants she's named after, Sage.

This year, we're starting fruits and vegetables (check your soil or replace it if you're worried about toxics like lead), and also starting a little "room" for her, a tripod of bamboo stakes sashed together with twine up which we'll grow sweet peas, nasturtiums, and sugar snap peas, all for about ten bucks. It was the cheapest room I'll ever build!