I’m an avid gardener and currently planning for spring. I’d like to get my spirited grandkid gardening with me as I think it would be good for him. Any ideas? — Great-Granny Alba
It’s October and time to throw down those gardening gloves and pick up the pen as you start planning next year’s garden. But, rather than planning alone this year, why not involve your spirited kids?
Whether you’re a master gardener or just like to plant a few annuals each spring, I’m sure you’ll agree that gardening is therapeutic. Spending time outside, planting, growing and harvesting is grounding, good exercise and creates a connection to the natural world (the birds, insects, the flora and fauna) that can uplift and inspire. For kids, too, the benefits of developing a green thumb extend far beyond the garden fence.
Says gardener Yvonne Walsh, “Kids love to garden. It means precious one-on-one time with the adults in their lives; they love getting their hands dirty, and it’s educational.”
Certainly, a compendium of studies collated by the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center supports Walsh’s assertion, and it reveals that children who grow their own food tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, display an improved knowledge of nutrition, score more highly on science-based projects and are more likely to be stewards of the environment. In a society that’s overwhelmed by childhood obesity and underwhelmed by the numbers of teenagers following a science path at university, gardening is good news.
So, how do you get your kids involved in the planning of your garden this fall? By making hay while the autumn sun shines, of course!
Winter Indoor Herb Garden
Begin to stake out next year’s gardening project with your spirited kid by deciding whether you want to grow indoor or outdoor plants, vegetable or flowering. Kids will thrill at all of the leafy possibilities, but consider starting small with an herb garden.
Growing herbs is a great idea for the beginning gardener. They can even be started during the winter months, if your kids are eager to get growing! Indoor winter herb gardens will come up roses if your kids use grow lights and ensure that the temperature and moisture levels are well monitored. Consider growing Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Parsley and Thyme, and your spirited kids will enjoy the fruits of their labor with an array of Italian Herbs they can throw on their pizza or spaghetti. They’ll have enough to share with the neighbors this Thanksgiving, too!
If you do decide to open your child’s heart and mind to their very own vegetable patch this spring, send your kid online this fall.
Since most kids are computer savvy, they’ll enjoy researching what veggies are easy to grow and why. They’ll also enjoy reporting back that pumpkins and squash, sunflowers, strawberries, cherry tomatoes are kid-friendly growers and get the fastest results.
Listen carefully to your kid’s input, give your own and then make a “joint” decision on what you’ll grow. As teenage gardener Anna Jeska says, “Getting your kid involved in the planning of the garden is the best way to get them interested in gardening, and they’ll stick with the project through weeding, seeding and harvesting, too.”
Once you’ve decided what you’ll plant, it’s time to plot. Have your spirited kids take a 1/4-inch graph paper (allowing each square to represent a foot) to plan out their beds. Gardener Lyn Ocone recommends that a 12×16-foot plot is sufficient for a garden sampler with a variety of vegetables, some herbs and a few flowers. Have your kids fill in the plant names for each bed and then post the plan in a place they can review it often. It will keep their interest high and their (fruit) juices flowing all the way through spring!
Bird feeder and Project FeederWatch
Last but not least, no garden is complete without a bird feeder or two. Watching wild birds brings joy throughout the year — especially in winter when Mother Nature wraps the world in white.
Get your spirited kids hooked on our feathered friends by building a winter bird feeder. They’re easy to make (bake a pine cone, attach some string or yarn to hang it from, and then cover it in a mix of peanut butter, suet and wild bird seed) and once complete, you can sign your kids up for Project FeederWatch at www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/ on November 1.
Project FeederWatch unites families and individuals across the U.S. and Canada as they track and report the numbers and types of birds that flock to feeders during winter. The data is used by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in its study of birds. It’s a great way to keep your spirited kids responsibly re-filling the feeders throughout winter. They’ll learn how data is collected and used and they’ll certainly learn a whole lot about your neighborhood birds — and that might just open their eyes to a whole new feathered world. What’s not to love?
Green is the color
A garden takes time, effort, resources, patience and planning, but it’s worth it! Sharing the gift of gardening with your children or your children’s children also takes time, effort, patience and planning — and is doubly worth it. After all, “the love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”– Gertrude Jekyll