by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
It’s my grandmother’s fault! Tomatoes warmed by the afternoon sun eaten ripe with saltshaker in hand, is how my grandmother enticed me into her gardens. Honestly, she often scolded me for leaving the kitchen saltshaker in the garden. I now share her passion for the garden with my six children and three grandchildren.
She simply roused my interest by encouraging me to help pick the harvest, shuck peas, snap beans, roast peanuts, and make a tomato sandwich fresh from the garden. She would not get to see her grandson have a nationally featured garden column, host his own radio show, a podcast, and YouTube channel with millions of downloads. But my grandmother is due full credit for having lovingly started me along this path:)
I often caution parents when they visit the garden center with their children to be aware: I loved going to garden centers when young, and now I own a garden center and digital nursery at Top10Plants.com.! Kids that discover their passion for gardening can do the same.
Now my grandsons and I hang together in the same way I did with my grandmother. Their unofficial nickname is ‘Garden Guy Junior’, and we love gardening together. A granddaughter has a flower fetish, so we collect flowers and make clover necklaces by the hour. These are the memories that will bind generations together.
Kids love to get outside and get their hands dirty! They are naturally curious about nature. It’s the reason my youngest grandson, and I can spend 15 minutes watching a bug crawl across the driveway. Spend time with your children in the garden. Teach them to appreciate caring and nurturing plants and the value of growing their own food. With early gardening experiences that are fun, there’s a higher chance that children will develop their green thumbs and enjoy gardening when their time comes.
Here are my foolproof ideas that get kids involved with nature and the gardens that naturally follow:
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 spaces to plant and nurture.
Grow plants from seed. Seed germination is fascinating to adults and even more so to children. Be sure to pick seeds that germinate quickly to keep kids’ interest peaked. Here are some fun and easy plants for children to start from seed. They are readily available here at Watters Garden Center.
Vegetables – Beans, cherry tomatoes, lettuces, sprouts, squashes, pumpkins, especially giant pumpkins.
Flowers – Sunflowers, nasturtiums, zinnias, marigolds, wildflower seed mixes.
More plants fun to grow. Plant color packs and 4-inch pots of geraniums, dahlias, petunias, impatiens, salvias, lantanas, pansies, mums, and anything else that piques your child’s interest. Summer is so much fun when visiting the garden center with kids, both young and old.
Keep them involved in the harvest. Let children help harvest the vegetables and prepare them for dinner. Assist them in cutting flowers and arranging them in a vase.
Teach Kids about Beneficial Insects. Bugs good for the garden are available in spring here at Watters. With kids in tow, pick up a packet of ladybugs, praying mantises, or red worms; then, with the children’s help, release them in your garden.
Plant Miniature Gardens Together. Air plants, terrariums, fairy gardens, and miniature train gardens are all popular with kids. Choose a wide, shallow container to fill with plants with small foliage, or ground cover plants. Arrange the plants into miniature landscapes, complete with gravel paths, mini benches, and arbors. Let your child help pick out the little accessories or choose from their toys to include in the garden.
Plant places to play. Make a teepee using bamboo sticks tied together at the top with twine. Help your child plant bean seeds at the base of each pole and watch those bean plants grow! If you have enough space, you can also produce a ‘house’ of sunflowers.
Plant a garden for birds and butterflies. Kids love to chase butterflies and watch birds at a feeder. Teach children how to attract hummingbirds and butterflies into your landscape. Provide these winged friends with water, plants for shelter, food, flowers, and places to protect their young.
Don’t forget to take photos of your children in their gardens and share them with friends and family. These moments are enjoyed now and will be treasured for years to come.
Until next week, I’ll be showing plants to young and old here at Watters 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 .