I recently read through old gardening columns and ran onto one about my son, who was nine at the time, and how we had gardened together since he was a toddler. It brought back fond memories. And when he and his siblings call to ask gardening questions now, it makes me smile, because I know that we are sharing life experiences again, even though none of our children live close to us.
I think of gardening as a life-long hobby. Teach a child to garden today and you have hooked him for life in a worthwhile endeavor.
Make gardening fun
Make gardening with a child fun. Forget the weeding and lawn mowing. There is time to learn that later.
Create a garden space that can be your child’s responsibility. Start small with a toddler. Kids love to play in the dirt. Let them plant a plant and a few seeds even if it is in your perennial border.
Glads are predisposed to success
Use something showy in the flower world that is almost impossible to kill. A gladiolus is nice because it comes in its own container, and is large enough for small fingers to grasp.
Glads are hardy enough to grow despite which direction they are plopped into the ground.
My second plant of choice would be a petunia for a child. Many are brightly colored, and they have a long flowering season. Petunias do very well with a moderate amount of care, and they draw humming birds for your child to view.
Try 'silly' vegetables
When planting your vegetable garden, don’t forget your child’s patch. Let the child plant a cherry tomato plant and harvest the produce from it regularly. A few purple bean seeds are nice. And like magic the beans turn green when you steam them.
Add other flower and veggie varieties
As your child grows, include other types of plants that are longer lasting. Add a few biennials that make gardening fun, like snapdragons.
Add sunflower seeds to the list. Small seeded varieties are bird-friendly.
If you have a larger patch of ground, four-feet by four, let your child plant tall sunflowers in a square and have a living fort to play in for the summer. Point out how the flower heads turn to follow the sun every day.
Botany lessons on the sly
Teach your child to really see. My young son discovered a lady who hides inside the bleeding heart flower. He could point out the stamens and the pollen. He never thought about the botany lesson he was learning.
Let the child help when it’s harvest time in the garden. Little fingers seem to naturally find the pea patch and it may be difficult to keep enough on the vine for a regular picking.
Young children can help snap beans. They may not be as uniform as an adult would do them, but I firmly believe that you start a child young when they're eager to learn.
Don't forget spring blooming bulbs
Children love spring-blooming bulbs and the bulbs are predisposed to success because they have already acquired their food storage. Be prepared for a few accidents to happen in your flower garden.
Give a special plant
Are you a grandparent? Think about giving your grandchild a plant that will intrigue them. Check first to make sure it is not toxic. My older children were enchanted with a sensitive plant. Every time they touched it, it would fold up its leaves. The poor thing was at its prayers almost constantly for the first few days.
Plants can be as nifty a learning experience for a child as a new book.