Children And Vegetable Gardens
By: Nikki Phipps
Children love nearly anything pertaining to the great outdoors. They love digging in the dirt, creating yummy treats, and playing in trees. Children are curious by nature, and there is no greater joy than that from a child who has cultivated plants from his or her own garden. Kids enjoy planting seeds, watching them sprout, and eventually harvesting what they have grown. Allowing children to become involved in the planning, caring, and harvesting of a garden not only gives parents a unique opportunity to spend time with their children, but it helps the kids develop an understanding of that which they are curious about - nature. Children also develop a sense of responsibility and pride in themselves which can ultimately improve self-esteem.
One of the best ways to encourage enthusiasm for gardening is appealing to a childís senses by adding plants not only for the eyes but those with which they can taste, smell, and touch. Vegetables are always a good choice for young children. They not only germinate quickly but can be eaten once they have matured. Vegetables that are easy to grow such as beets, carrots, radishes, and tomatoes are good choices to include in the garden.
Of course, children love to snack; include favorites like cherry tomatoes, strawberries, or peas. You might consider implementing a fence or trellis for vine-growing vegetables or even a small sitting area where children can snack on their favorite treats. Kids also enjoy plants that offer unique shapes such as eggplant or gourds. After harvesting, gourds can be decorated and used as birdhouses. To add interest and color to the vegetable garden, you might want to add some flowers such as marigolds and nasturtiums.
Herbs are another option; try adding mint or dill. Keep away from any plant that may be poisonous, however, and teach kids to eat from only those they know are safe. Flowers and herbs not only add spectacular colors and interest in the vegetable garden but can appeal to a childís sense of smell as well. Sunflowers, zinnias, and numerous other flowers may also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Children love to touch soft, fuzzy plants. Appeal to these needs with plants such as lambís ear or cotton. Donít forget sounds; adding unique features such as water fountains, windmills, and chimes will often spark additional interest in a child.
When you are planning a vegetable garden for children, allow them to be involved in deciding where and what to put in the garden. Let them help with soil preparation, seed planting, and routine maintenance. Locate the garden where it will be easily accessible to the child but in an area that can be viewed by others as well. Also, make sure that the chosen site gets plenty of sunlight and an ample supply of water.
As for the layout, allow the child to freely use his or her imagination. Gardens do not have to be planted in a traditional rectangular plot. Some kids might enjoy a having a container garden. Nearly anything that holds soil and has good drainage can be used; let the child pick out interesting pots and encourage him or her to decorate them. Other children may desire only a small bed. This works fine, too. You may even consider growing your childís garden in a raised bed. For something a little different, try a circle with divided sections for various plants. Many children love to hide; incorporate sunflowers all around the edges of the circle to give the garden a sense of seclusion.
When it comes to encouraging gardening tasks, it often helps to include a special area for storing childrenís garden tools. Allow them to have their own child-sized rakes, hoes, spades, and gloves. Other ideas may include large spoons for digging and old measuring cups, bowls, and bushel baskets or even a wagon for harvesting. Be sure to relate the importance of watering, weeding, and harvesting to your child. These tasks, however, do not have to be considered chores; allow children to have fun while completing them. For instance, incorporate a sprinkler for children to play in while they water the garden. Be imaginative; in a childís vegetable garden, anything goes.
Gardening Know How
57 Wandle Ave
Bedford, OH 44146