Many (Little) Hands Make Light Work
Little gardener hands help A TON in my home gardens. Little hands help all over in the community and elementary school gardens I work with too. Often, adults are leery of letting kids into the gardens for fear that they will wreck something. Well, news flash: I wreck stuff all the time – and that’s exactly when I’m learning the most.
My mess ups might be of a different nature than a child’s but the chance to learn from them is the same.
Please, do not be afraid of your kids messing things up!
That is the perennial beauty of gardening; we always have another chance to do better! And thank goodness, nature has designed plants with amazing resilience. They are compartmentalized unlike humans, if part of them suffers, they can usually regenerate.
…but, there are a few guidelines to get in place before you let your kids loose in a garden, for their own safety as well as the plants.
Tips for gardening with kids
• Mark Out Garden Plots: Raised beds are the easiest way to keep kids off the garden soil.
• Mark out Rows of seeds: another way to bring learning into the garden- get creative with your garden markers- painting etc.- or just get yourself a sunlight proof permanent marker (trust me, sharpies on those tags will “sun fade” fast).
• Make Signs: Water me, Weed me, Pick me, WAIT! Usually with both words and an image if there will be kids too young to read the signs.
• Have a plan: figure on 1-3 specific task(s) when you go to ‘garden’ with kids
• Have extras: Keep a few seeds and seedlings on hand to replace broken plants.
• Grow Organic: Just Say No to Chemicals. For ALL the reasons.
King + Queen of the (Garden) Hill
As with all of us, we care more about things with which we have ownership. Get kids involved from step one; looking at seed catalogs, deciding where a new garden bed will go, and digging it out. Keep in mind, this is about sparking a life-long love of gardening, not about a perfect tomato plant the first year! Kids crave being responsible for something other than themselves. Let them start with plants, maybe next year chickens ?
And, personal preference here, but… I don’t give my kids their own separate ‘garden space’ because I enjoy working in the dirt together with them way too much. They do grow their own herb box each year though. I also don’t want them to feel the stress of keeping up with too much, or the weight of failure because some random insects or disease moved in. Reality will come crashing down soon enough. I also couldn’t handle not being able to pull a few weeds or water dry plants as I walked by their plots. That level of restraint I save for the Community and Elementary Gardens!
Questions about getting your kids into the garden? Ask away. I’ll give you my Minnesota Nice-yet-honest answer.
Michelle Bruhn is a local food advocate in Minnesota, where she runs Forks in the Dirt, a website that supports local farmers with interviews, social media, and other promotions. She also keeps chickens, gardens, and a few boys. Connect with Michelle on Facebook and Instagram, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.