Parenting Win of the Week: Let's Plant a Garden
Green thumbs, patience, and a whole lot of bonding.
Last year, I was dead set on having a garden. I have grown herbs for the past few years, but I was determined to have a bigger edible box garden, and that is what my kids gifted me for Mother’s Day. We picked out a bunch of plants — tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers — and the tomatoes took over it all, mostly. But it was so fun to have new vegetables along with the herbs. My kids helped me water the plants and pick the vegetables and now, I have a much more solid plan for next year. When thinking about gardening with kids, there are a lot of great learning lessons.
That’s why I wanted to chat with Raquel Vigil, the Senior Curriculum Manager and Co-designer of Edible Education at The Edible Schoolyard Project. If you aren’t familiar with the organization, it was started by chef Alice Waters to provide edible and experiential education. Check them out — they are doing amazing stuff.
If you’re thinking about gardening with your kids, here are a few great thoughts from Raquel to get you started.
What should we be thinking about when gardening with kids?
It can be helpful for parents to have a baseline knowledge of how plants grow. But really, it's about showing excitement and enthusiasm for experimenting and observing the natural world. It's important to remember that gardening at any scale can be rewarding. You don't have to have a vast garden bed for your child to experience the beauty of growing food and gardening. With your attention and enthusiasm, one pot and one small window box can be incredibly rewarding for young children.
Any equipment we need?
It can also be helpful to have kid-friendly, appropriately sized equipment, like gardening gloves, shovels, garden forks, etc. Other equipment depends on the space you have and making sure your equipment needs meet the scale you are growing.
What plants would you suggest growing?
Plants want to grow and thrive, and it's about giving them the right conditions — nutrient-rich, well-drained soil, a sunny spot, and good water. Plants that fruit tend to have longer growing times from seed to mature plant, which can be more labor-intensive. Plants that root or that green you can plant from seed might yield the best, most immediate results. Perennial plants — plants that live more than two years, like herbs and some flowers — can be less labor-intensive once they are established.
For newer growers or people who want to grow with their kids, I always lean into the experimentation of learning to garden. Start small and get to know what works for you, your space, and your area.
For gardens with young children, I love growing herbs, edible flowers, and greens because they can observe different parts of plants. Think about what you grow as what will provide the most engaging sensory experience for the young person in your life. You can encourage them to rub a rosemary plant and smell it or pick the flowers from a flowering plant — awakening the senses is incredibly rewarding and a wonderful learning experience.
Any discussion points you have that we can talk to kids about planting?
I love activating young children's observational skills. So much of gardening is about growing and attuning to plants' needs — noticing what they need by observing how they look and behave. Young children have an incredible ability to tap into their imagination when observing the world around them.
With young children, take the time to slow down and talk through various questions or form observations with them. For example, as you are gardening, ask your young ones:
- What do you see?
- How does this plant smell? Do you like the smell?
- What colors do you see? What do the petals look like?
- Let's draw what we see.
- Do the plants look happy? Sad?
Any fun recipes that can be made from the garden?
I love making pesto from various greens. On our website, we have many great recipes in our resource library, including a recipe for creating our organic greens pesto. We have a number of create your own recipes, check them out at this link.
We also have an excellent lesson for creating a planter box. It's a fun visual and gives excellent instructions on creating a planter box using what you have at home. Check it out!
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