5 Steps to Creating a Memorable First Garden with Kids
By Ty Schmidt
I’ll never forget my first garden. My little sister and I were so excited as we cared tirelessly for our precious plants, which were in a cherished portion of the backyard of my childhood home. We watered and weeded and enjoyed every bit of it. When the day came to harvest, we were like kids in a candy store. We couldn’t wait to pick our carrots and see what had been hiding under that green stem all those weeks.
That anticipation, as well as all of the glorious responsibility that came along with tending to a garden, are among the reasons I aspire to create a garden with my children someday. At three weeks and 17 months old, this summer may be a bit soon to follow through with that plan, but it’s certainly not too soon to start planning for it. Here are a few things I plan to keep in mind as we take to the garden when the time comes:
Make a plan. Working together to determine what plants to grow, and where they should go is a great place to start drumming up excitement about the garden in those (seemingly never-ending) winter months. Bring the garden inside by putting together maps of what the garden can look like using clippings from seed packets or magazines.
Start from scratch. Gardening with kids is an amazing way to facilitate learning about where food comes from and how it grows over time. Whether you opt to plan starter plants or grow from seeds, the process begins with preparing a space for planting the garden. A space with more than eight hours of direct sunlight will be best, and it might be a good idea to work together to turn the soil to be sure the soil is ready to accept the plants.
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Put the plan into action. Remember those maps that laid out what veggies would go where? Break them out to use as a guide when planting time arrives. It might be smart to encourage planting things the kids already enjoy eating, but also that grow well in your climate to reduce the chances for disappointment if things don’t pan out quite as planned.
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Have some fun with labels. A great rainy day activity would be to get crafty with fun labels for your plants. Paint rocks that look like the plants, decorate popsicle sticks to pop in the ground or come up with your own clever way of telling those tomatoes apart from cucumbers.
Tend to the garden. Gardening is a process, as well as a marathon (not a sprint). It takes patience and commitment to continue watering and weeding as the garden grows. Work with your kids to make a schedule that encourages them to not only stay involved with the process of tending the garden, but to take ownership of it. Find ways to make it fun, instead of letting it become another chore they don’t particularly care to do.
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I will never forget my first garden. The surprise that awaited us that day when we picked our carrots was truly a sight to be seen. Not only were there far less carrots than we planted, but the ones we picked all had a similar (not-so-pretty) appearance. They were short, stubby and round, almost more like orange radishes than carrots. But that didn’t matter to us. What mattered is we grew something. We learned what it was like to tend to and care for another living thing. So what if we don’t have green thumbs?
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