guest post by Kristi McCabe
In today’s digital age, it is more common to find children playing video games and texting friends rather than planting seeds, cultivating young plants, and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Many children no longer know where their food comes from, and they rarely consume enough fresh fruits and vegetables as part of their daily diets. That's why we need to keep growing more gardeners.
Some vegetables are easier to cultivate than others, and for those with a desire to teach the basics to children, it helps to have an idea where to begin.
Keep Growing: Tips for Getting Started
1. Think small. A large garden can be overwhelming for any gardener, particularly the younger ones who will tire quickly from pulling weeds and watering a large plot.
2. Try container gardening. Allow the children to select a container, then add soil, fertilizer and other organic materials.
3. Give them a choice. Take your young gardener to shop for seeds, and let the experience be one of agreement on what to grow. The more kids are involved in the decision-making process, the more engaged they will remain from beginning to end.
4. Equip them well. Fun gardening tools made kid-sized are a good idea. Most chain stores and garden supply stores sell brightly-colored watering cans, child-sized garden gloves and trowels.
Keep Growing: Easy-to-Grow Veggies
Bell peppers are great starter plants and are available in a stunning array of colors, from apple red to lemon yellow to bright orange. The longer the peppers stay on the plant, the sweeter they become. These plants need well-drained soil, plenty of nitrogen and ample space to grow.
Radishes mature quickly, require very little care, and are conducive to cold weather growing. For toddlers or preschoolers, you will not find a more perfect starter crop. Radishes come in many varieties, from cherry belle to white icicle to French breakfast. The colors alone with thrill young children, although they may not particularly enjoy the taste!
As the Garden Grows, So Grows the Gardener
• Allow children to create a graph of their plants’ growth.It’s fascinating to observe the many stages plants experience from seed to fully-mature plant.
• Even very young children can assist in daily gardening tasks. Toddlers can help water plants. Older children can apply mulch, pull weeds and apply fertilizer.
• Donate surplus vegetables to your local food bank. This teaches children the value of food and not wasting a bumper crop.As well, it helps them to understand the importance of helping the less fortunate.
• Encourage your young gardener to enter their prized vegetables in a local fair. Kids love to win recognition for their efforts. Contact your local extension office for details.
Working with your children or grandchildren in the garden is a rewarding bonding experience and can foster lifelong habits. Eating healthy, learning the value of hard work and disconnecting from electronic devices to enjoy fresh air are important life lessons.
Enjoy this time with the young ones. Take photos and make an album together, create a scrapbook or make special recipes with your fresh vegetables. Times like these are priceless, and a welcome escape from the busy world in which we live. Passing on a love of gardening will help to ensure that future generations continue to grow their own food and cultivate the earth in positive ways.