By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Some of our family’s fondest memories are of gardening together, collecting worms from under the tree pots at the nursery, picking a basket full of flowers, and bringing in the summer harvest. When my kids were really small they worked with me in the garden and instead of being paid with money, we would visit the pet shop where each helper would choose a gold fish and release it into our garden pond. This was always after the ice cream stop.
My grandson and I now hang together in the same way. His unofficial nickname is “Garden Guy Junior” and we love gardening together. These are experiences that can bind generations with lifelong memories.
Kids naturally are curious about nature, and love to get outside and get their hands dirty! Spend time with your children/grandchildren in your backyard. Teach them to appreciate caring for and nurturing plants and the value of growing your own food. With fun early gardening experiences, there’s a greater chance they will develop their own green thumbs and enjoy gardening for years to come.
Here are my foolproof ideas that get kids involved with nature and gardening.
Vegetables – Beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Lettuce, Sprouts, Squash, Pumpkins
Flowers – Sunflowers, Nasturtiums, Zinnias, Marigolds, Wildflower seed mix
More plants that are fun to grow. Plant color packs and 4 inch pots of Geraniums, Dahlias, Petunias, Impatiens, Salvia, Lantana, Eggplant, Corn, Peppers Whichever peaks your child’s interest is the one to try. A springtime trip to the garden center is so much fun for young and old gardeners.
Keep them involved through harvest. Let them harvest the vegetables and help you prepare them for a meal that you all will share. Help them cut flowers and arrange them in a vase.
Teach Kids about Beneficial Insects. Bugs good for the garden are available here at Watters. Pick up a packet of ladybugs, praying mantises, or red worms; then go together to release them in your garden.
Plant Miniature Gardens. Air plants, terrariums, fairy gardens, and miniature train gardens are all popular with kids. Choose a wide shallow container and plants with small foliage, or small ground cover plants. Arrange the plants into miniature landscapes complete with gravel paths, mini benches, and arbors. Let your children help pick out the tiny accessories or choose from their own toys to include in the garden.
Plant places to play. Make a tee pee using bamboo sticks tied together at the top with twine. Help your child plant bean seeds at the base of each pole and watch them grow. If you have enough space you can also grow a ‘house’ of sunflowers.
Plant a garden for birds and butterflies. Kids love to chase butterflies and watch birds at a feeder and/or birdbath. Teach children how to attract hummingbirds and butterflies into your landscape. Provide these winged friends with plants for shelter, a place to protect their young, food, flowers, and water.
Don’t forget to take photos of your children in the garden and share them with friends and family. These moments will be treasured for years to come.
Give them their own spot. Give them a row at the back of your vegetable garden, a small raised garden bed, or a group of containers on your deck. Teach them pride of ownership with their own spaces to plant.
Grow plants from seed. Seed germination is a fascinating thing to adults and even more so to children. Be sure to pick seeds that quickly germinate to keep their interest. Here are some easy plants children can start by seed. They are fun to watch develop and are readily available at the garden center.
Until next time, I’ll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/WattersGardenCenter .