Last year we got a few tomato plants and started a little patio garden. My daughter loved tending to her garden and her plants produced many yummy tomatoes for our family of three to enjoy! My little gardener has been begging to start a garden again this year, so we masked up and went to the local garden center to select some plants.
Why Garden With Children?– Children are born to be curious and they learn best by doing. Gardening gives them an outdoor, hands-on experience in the dirt. By tending to a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction of caring for something over time and watching it change and grow. Through their observations, little gardeners can witness the cycle of life firsthand, gain environmental awareness and explore the workings of nature.
Gardening Builds Self-Confidence– The process of tending to a plant and seeing it bloom or produce fruit takes time and a lot of patience. When children see the payoff, they gain satisfaction and pride in knowing they contributed to the end result.
You Eat What You Grow– My daughter is a very picky eater but I have found she is eager to eat what she grows in her garden. From different varieties of tomatoes to peppers and even wheat grass, if she grew it in her garden, she will eat it! In fact, we were all amazed when she gulped down a wheat grass smoothie! Gardens encourage good nutrition and healthy eating because anything you grow will be healthy!
What to Grow?– Although you can grow anything, most of the research I did recommended the following vegetables and herbs based on the fact that they are easy to grow and have short growing seasons: tomatoes (specifically cherry and grape), radishes, leggy pole beans, lettuce, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes, mint, cilantro, basil and dill. The following flowers were recommended: sunflowers, nasturtiums, butterfly bush, sweet alyssum and succulents.
How to Grow- My daughter has grown wheat grass, pole beans and wildflowers by planting seeds and watching them grow. This method will yield the most benefit as children will have the opportunity to observe growth from seed to plant to table. For our small patio garden we cheated and bought starter plants. Even with a combination of seeds and starters, I saw positive outcomes in my daughter and she benefited greatly from her gardening experiences. Next year I would like to expand our garden with a raised bed.
Asking Questions and Problem-Solving– The day after we got our starter plants home, we noticed a predator had eaten the leaves off of our strawberry and pepper plants! This led to a great discovery as my daughter predicted and then researched… Who ate our plants? We decided it must have been a wild rabbit we had nicknamed Clover and we caught her in the act, nibbling more leaves the next day! We discussed ways to solve this problem and decided to hang the strawberries and put the peppers on a high outdoor table.
Gardens come in all shapes and sizes and can be filled with a variety of vegetables and flowers. Whether you have a patio garden like us, participate in a community garden or have an entire backyard devoted to nature, children who garden harvest a whole lot more than vegetables and flowers!