Teaching your kids to love gardening

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Today’s youth have a plethora of entertainment options available to them — many that were not available 10 or 20 years ago. One activity that does not usually make the top of the list is working in the garden. Here are some ways to make gardening interesting and enjoyable for them.

One good way to involve kids is by making it a group effort. Spending time together is invaluable, and most times it becomes an opportunity for a teaching moment. You can teach about plant life cycles, insect habits, or something specific to your yard or garden.

A good example is showing how weeds start as small seeds that blow in with the wind or are tracked into the garden on someone’s shoes and then start out as small plants. They grow into mature plants that produce thousands of seeds. This will also help your children see the value in pulling them out of the garden before they go to seed.

Try teaching the cycle of organic matter with composting and gardening. Start out with a plant in the garden that dies in the fall, then show how to compost it and check on it frequently with your child to see its progress. Till it into the garden afterward, plant your next crop, and have your child grow his or her own garden so they can see how composting successfully works.

Another good way to get kids involved is to have them select what plants they want to grow and choose a spot specifically for them. Taking ownership of a garden spot is an excellent way for children to understand responsibility, taking pride in one’s work, and seeing a project through to the end. (Be sure to help them along so it doesn’t fail if they get distracted).

You could also try something different with your plants. I am not saying you turn the garden into a Frankenstein laboratory, but consider growing unusual plant varieties that are uncommon in this area, such as growing purple tomatoes, purple carrots, or apples with bright red flesh on the inside. Colors or other attributes cause youth to get interested in gardening, and it is a good learning experience.

Another good experiment is growing cucumbers in a bottle. Place a small cucumber fruit inside of a 2-liter bottle and let it grow to the point that it’s too large to come out through the opening. Lots of little kids are baffled by this.

Grow your squash or melon inside of a preformed mold, and at harvesting, you have fun shaped produce that kids can take to the fair to show off their work.

Aside from spending time together, your children can gain skills that they will pass down to their kids. Gardening can be lots of fun for the family and create many cherished memories.

For further gardening ideas or questions, contact Lance at (208) 624-3102.