Summer Gardening with Your Kids
With enough sun and the right seeds, a garden planted and tended by a child can even provide a secret hideaway made of vines and flowers. The right tools make it a snap to develop skills and memories to last a lifetime.
Grow a fairytale sunflower house by planting seedlings or mixed sunflower seeds in an 8-by-8-foot plot. Place four tall stakes, one at each corner, and criss-cross the top with string or twine. Giant and midheight sunflowers go in a trench all along the perimeter. Flowering vines run up the stakes and are trained over the top. A carpet of clover is the "floor" and a break in the sunflower walls is the "door."
Plant giant pumpkins in your patch. After the fruit appears, let each child lightly carve her name in a pumpkin. As the pumpkin grows, the name changes with it, but the monogrammed pumpkin retains its charm right up until harvest.
Plant a Pizza
Divide a round plot into pie slices. Plant each slice with plum tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, onions, bell peppers, eggplant and zucchini. The children can tend and harvest this plot and make fresh pizza with a prepared or homemade crust, some added cheese and the vegetables from their own pizza patch.
Anything with a hole in it for drainage can be a garden container. A pansy will grow in an old shoe. Zinnias and marigolds will blossom brightly in an outgrown doll carriage. A wheelbarrow can hold an entire garden of wildflowers. Turn the abandoned sandbox into a raised bed where your children can nurture peas, green beans, carrots, radishes, black-eyed Susans and a butterfly bush. Plant milkweed around the outside and watch for Monarchs and other butterflies while you're waiting for those vegetables to grow.
Don't buy your child cheap plastic kid tools for gardening. Gardening is reflective and important work It involves stewardship of the planet and provides beauty and food. Honor the activity and the child by hunting for a few really good, child-sized tools. A small hoe, hand rake, spade and pair of gloves will get things started. Balanced, solid tools that fit well in the hand and don't bend or break make a world of difference. If child-sized real tools are unavailable or too expensive, cut down some adult tools by sawing off the long handles and sanding the edges until they are smooth. Alternatively, just let him borrow your tools, under supervision, if he is big enough to heft them. Set aside a place for tools. Mark it with a picture or the name of the tool. Make sure your child always cleans and put away tools after gardening.
Fun with the Kids
The key is to involve the kids and to make it fun for all. Children LOVE playing in the dirt, so asking them to dig holes should be no chore to them. They love playing in the water and spraying the hose, so watering the garden becomes fun for them too. And there is nothing like picking their own veggies and eating them right off the plant.