Maybe, like me, you were not born green. Perhaps you were raised in a happy, consumer-driven family where you munched on creme-filled vanilla cakes while watching Saturday morning cartoons. Maybe, like me, you want something different for your children but the idea of feeding your kids trail-mix while wandering through a Saturday morning farmer’s market seems more like a chore than a good time. There are other ways to green your family and raise a sustainable child. Consider growing a children’s garden. Feel free to neglect or nurture your garden to your heart’s content. Children’s gardens are small, non-traditional experimental places chock-full of teachable moments and learning experiences, for both of you.
Plan And Design The Garden
Take your child on a field trip to the grocery store. In the produce section you will find all the inspiration you need. Decide which vegetables you like and which ones you don’t. Stop by the flower section and generate non-edible ideas. After some discussion stop by your local hardware store, nursery or garden center to see what’s available. Hold off buying anything quite yet, this was simply the field trip portion. Let your child decide what he or she wants to grow and give them a day or two to think it over.
Build The Garden
Remember that an area which is small to you can be big for your child. Walk through your proposed garden site. Gardens don’t have to be planted in rows and don’t have to occupy vast areas. Play with the idea of circular gardens. Consider planting near fences for vertical gardens. If you live in an apartment or small house without gardening space find an area where you can place containers. Gardens can grow anywhere.
Once you have established the site pay attention to how much sun the area receives, how much water can be carried to or sprayed onto the area and whether or not the soil is sandy, clay or loam. Again, have your child pay attention to these growing conditions.
Return to the garden center, hardware store or local nursery and begin looking for seeds or starts. Choose vegetables and plants suited for your child’s tastes and for your garden’s growing conditions.
Sow Seed And Plant Starts
When working the soil let your child use your tools. Saw down handles to make hoes, spades and rakes more manageable. You may also wish to look for children’s gardening tools but avoid plastic and other play-like materials. This is a serious garden.
Some plants suited for children’s gardens are bush beans, pumpkins and sunflowers. These big seeded plants are perfect for small hands. Bush beans are fast growing so a child won’t lose interest before germination.
Remember that this is your child’s garden. It is his or her choice to let weeds grow or plants to dry out. This is part of the learning experience. Take a walk through the garden at least once a week with your child, answering any questions or concerns.
When it comes time to harvest the crop set some aside for donation to a local food bank. Extra pumpkins can be donated to a local women and children’s center for Halloween. Show your child that sustainability is a community experience, not just an individual one.
Children are inquisitive little scientists. Try to nurture those qualities while transforming your lifestyle into something a little more green and alot more sustainable.
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension: Planning a Garden With Your Child