Activities,  Cottage School

Gardening With Children

As Mary in “The Secret Garden” knows, there is something to having a “bit of earth” to tend to and see what you can coax to grow.  

Growing up, one of the lessons I (Amelia) absorbed without even knowing was being taught was the joy that comes from gardening. My memories of visits to my grandparents house are highlighted with the activity of what was going on in the garden. One summer, the lesson was helping my Grandpa pick blackberries and learning first hand about the defense system of thorns with which the blackberry bush is equipped. Another summer was spent learning how to work hard and pick baskets and baskets of tomatoes, only to learn that the effort was well worth it because there is nothing better than a homegrown tomato! Also, many memories of time spent with my mom are linked with gardening. We moved several times while I was growing up, and at every new house, it was not long before we were helping my parents tear out a portion of grass, construct a border for the garden and haul dirt and manure to the new garden. This desire to have a garden has carried over into my adult life as I have enjoyed having something growing, even if it’s one pot with a small herb growing in it.

Having a garden and letting your kids help in the process can be one way to spend some productive time together! It’s also a great way to observe and reiterate lessons you may have taught related to botany, insects, and ecosystems. You may be thinking, “But I’m not a gardener, and I kill everything that I touch!” Here are a few ideas to get you and your kids started:

  1. Start small! You and your children could get a large pot and start with something like herbs or a cherry tomato plant. My kids love to cover the roots with dirt and water the plant, and it’s an easy chore for them to continue to do. If you are forgetful (like me), you can even set a reminder to water your plants and then have your kids do this with you! 
  2. Ask your friends what they know about gardening. I moved to a completely new climate a few years ago, and it took me about 3 seasons to figure out what to plant and how to grow a garden in this new planting zone. I learned so much from asking friends that have been gardening for several years here. Most gardeners want to share their knowledge with others, and this is a great opportunity for you to model to your kids how to learn a new skill.  
  3. If you have older kids, you could enlist their help in researching what grows best in your area. Your local Cooperative Extension will have a wealth of information about what kinds of plants grow best in your area, when to plant, and how to attract pollinators to your garden. Many sites even include recipes for you to use your homegrown produce!  

In the words of the wise woman, Ms. Frizzle, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” I don’t know if you are like me, but sometimes I want  the opposite of what Ms Frizzle suggests, but I’m glad that my parents and grandparents followed her advice (even though they probably weren’t thinking of Ms Frizzle at all). They involved me in their gardening, let me learn alongside them, and got messy with me, and I am thankful they did. I bet your kids will enjoy tending a bit of earth with you, too!

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