Vegetable Gardening With Kids: How To Involve Different Types Of Children In The Growing Plot.

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Have you ever wondered if your kids share your passion for gardening? It would only seem natural that they might inherit an interest in gardening, or better yet, your green thumb! And yet we know that kids can differ so much, even within one family. Some of them may love digging in the dirt, while others may be squeamish about insects, or even just getting soil on their hands. A carefully crafted approach to vegetable gardening with kids can open the door to a world we know is wonderfully rich with learning opportunities (and hopefully some edibles, too).

Spending time with their parents in the garden is probably the best part of vegetable gardening for children. But they also love a little bit of responsibility, especially if it’s not too delicate a task and within their range of abilities. An excellent place to start is to put them in charge of digging compost into the garden beds, or mixing together potting mixes for container growing. During the growing season, kids love to harvest food that will become part of meals in the home. Being in charge of the harvest also gives them a chance to contribute to the preparation of dinner or lunch. Somehow those meals always get gobbled up enthusiastically, more than usual! Deadheading, the removal of spent flowers is another great task for children. Let them remove the flowers that are done, without having to worry about be cautious around fresh buds or blossoming beauties.

The fascinating world of insects will come alive in the garden. Children can be put on the lookout for both good and bad insects that might affect their vegetable crop. Discover insects that crawl, fly, decompose, slither but also what they look like in their egg and larvae stages. Finding a patch of slug eggs under the surface of the soil is a much faster way to eradicate unwanted pests than having to catch individual adult slugs one at a time.

There’s something special about digging in the dirt, having soil under your fingernails and the feeling of squishing a ball of garden soil in your palm that is both dirty and fun. Not all kids will like this, but most do like to work with their hands in the garden. But for the sake of their safety and comfort, all kids should have their own garden gloves to wear, some boots and child sized tools. Gloves will help reduce scratches, stings and the need to scrub with a nailbrush after every visit to the veggie patch.

One of life’s great lessons is aptly learned in the garden: “All good things come to those who wait”. Choose carefully what is planted, and aim to have fast growing vegetables for the first couple of seasons of gardening with your children. Peas and radishes come out of the ground quickly, and some radishes are even less spicy than the regular ones, just for kids! Kids may want immediate results in the garden, and their enthusiasm can quickly turn to discouragement if their patience is pushed to the limits. Edible flowers are both tasty and mind blowing, “What, you can eat flowers?!?” Gardens that attract butterflies are also encouraging.

Great plants to grow that are suited to children’s temperaments include: sweet peas, runner beans, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, nasturtiums (edible flowers), sunflowers, blueberries, lettuce. Lettuce is a great plant for successive plantings. Sowing seeds every couple of weeks keeps the crops coming, and creates activity in the garden throughout the growing season. Big, fat seeds that are easily handled by kids include beans, peas, corn, sunflowers, cucumber and pumpkin.

Another great benefit to vegetable gardening with kids is that children can make gifts out of their efforts. Saving seeds, canning extra tomatoes or blending potpourri all make welcome gifts. This in turn allows us to tune in to the cycles of life as our plants go from seed to plant to fruit back to seed again. Sharing this gift with others gives children immense pleasure and a real sense of accomplishment.

The compost heap is a great place to play out the cycles of life and death. Worms embody this cycle, turning green waste into nutrient rich soil.

Who would have thought we would have gone from dirty hands to an exploration of the life cycles in this quick exploration of vegetable gardening with kids? We hope you enjoy your time spent together growing food and flowers. Remember that with some adaptation of gardening chores mixed with these parenting tools for the garden, the whole family can grow together in many ways in the vegetable garden.

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