For too long, kids have had a dim view of gardening. Where grown-ups see fresh vegetables all season long, kids see lots of turnips and broccoli for dinner. Where we delight in the satisfaction of working in the garden, they dread weeding and other chores that fill their summer hours. This season, plant new ideas in those young minds. Here are some fresh ways to get children excited about gardening in their own backyard.
With a packet of seeds, you and the kids can give birth to a whole range of interesting flowers and veggies.
- Sunflowers: Your kids will be wowed by how quickly they catch up to them in height. Keep track with a measuring tape.
- Beans: These fast growers can climb ladders, poles, or just about anything else in your garden. Great for picking and eating right off the vine too.
- Nasturtium: Pretty and edible, flowers and all. They also attract hummingbirds to your garden, a sure delight.
- Potato: These buried treasures make harvest time and digging in the dirt all the more fun.
Kids may want a place to call their own. Give them a spot in the garden, or even just a container, to plant as they please. Take them to a nursery to choose plants in their favorite color or named for their favorite animal, such as elephant ear plant or bunny tail grass.
Almost as much fun as planting a seed and watching it grow is collecting seeds at the end of the season. Store them in a cool, dry place and you'll have seeds for next year. Or save a seedhead -- sunflowers are a favorite -- to feed hungry birds over the winter.
Let kids plant a theme garden for the foods they love, such as pizza and salsa. Many of the makings for pizza -- tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley -- call for similar growing conditions, so you can plant them in the same patch of dirt and make pizza to your heart's content. Plant tomatoes, tomatillos, jalapenos, onions, and cilantro in the same bed for the ingredients for a chips-and-salsa party.
Several universities offer a Junior Master Gardener program for grade-school kids. JMG groups use what they've learned to serve on local beautification projects. Other groups -- 4-H or local botanical gardens -- host gardening camps and workshops. Learn more at jmgkids.us or 4husa.org.