Kids' Gardening Primer
Tammy Everts
Jun 10, 2009

Whether you garden in your backyard or on your windowsill, chances are that you want to pass along your love of gardening to your kids. There are lots of tutorials out there on what to grow and how to plan, but we love this extensive primer created by the National Gardening Association because, in addition to covering logistics, it also gives invaluable age-specific tips on how to instill a passion for growing in children, from preschoolers to tweens. Keep reading for some of our favorites...

Our four-year-old has been really into helping out in the garden this year, and this passage on gardening with preschoolers really rang true for us:

As long as I don't expect us to accomplish something in the adult sense of the phrase, gardening is great fun. We move mulch. We catch toads. We pull a few weeds. We blow the fuzz off dandelions. If a child wants to plant last night's dessert - watermelon seeds - we do just that... And while you're together, you have a chance to explain the life cycle of a seed or the history of evolution in an ancient fern. Let kids take the lead while you supply the background information. It's in the storytelling that kids learn about gardening and the world. Don't know all the answers? No one does. Library trips are part of the journey.

On a more pragmatic note, this is one of our favorite ideas from the section on designing a kid-friendly garden:

One easy design is to divide one-foot-squares with paths, adding as many as you'd like in whatever pattern suits your spot. The paths can be made of stones, bark mulch, newspaper covered with straw, or even boards. Kids plant something different in each square. The design is tidy and manageable.

And from the section on what plants are most satisfying to young children:

"Performing plants" always top our list. We grow Mimosa pudica sensitive ferns because they close to the touch; snap dragons to make the flowers "talk"; and bleeding hearts, whose flowers reveal treasures when dissected. We've also tried Chinese lanterns (invasive), balloon flowers, love-in-a-puff, and money plants (Lunaria).

Most important, the primer reminds us that we need to do three things to ensure that our children view gardening as a reward rather than a chore:

  1. Show them how much you love gardening just by reveling in your own garden every day.
  2. Surround them with great gardens. That doesn't mean a show place. It may mean a messy, riotously colored cottage garden; decorative little getaway; or profuse potsful. (Remember that everything is bigger through kids' eyes.)
  3. Give them good gardening experiences. These will be great memories in years to come.

For much, much more excellent information, visit the Kids Gardening! website.

Photo by Flickr member Extension Horticulture licensed for use under Creative Commons.

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