April is here and it is time to think about gardening. Do you like to garden? Do you like to look at what other people have in their gardens? If you are like me, you like both! This is a great time to share the world that is springing up in the gardens with your children.
Our sons loved to be outside digging in the dirt. As soon as the weather warmed up enough to plant we went outside to “put in our garden”. Of course, it was nothing like their Great Grandpa’s garden on the farm in Ohio but it was ours. His garden was the size of our whole backyard! We always had corn (which was never knee high by the Fourth of July) and we seldom got to eat it because the raccoons got there first! We planted carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, blueberries, pumpkins (that never got very big), strawberries, raspberries, cherries and, when they got older, peppers and cilantro for salsa. Ours was an “eating garden” not the “canning gardens” they could run through while visiting the relatives in Ohio. Our garden was there for them to experience the joy of growing something, to see where food comes from and to be able to taste the goodness of their harvest (if we could keep the raccoons and birds from experiencing it first!) We would take pictures of their two corn stalks and send them to Great Grandpa. I know my Grandfather was proud of his little gardeners and they were proud of the food that they harvested.
When they got to high school they both took the horticulture class offered at Nathan Hale High School. The teacher came up to me one day and asked if Joel and Nick had gardened when they were younger. I said they had a small garden in our yard and she replied, “I knew it. They have such a respect for living things.” It is so important to let little ones nurture things from nature. There is a lot to learn as they garden. When they garden they develop a respect for things living things as well as a knowledge of where food comes from, the grow in their knowledge of science as they experience the magic of watching a growing a seed, they learn patience as they wait for their plants to produce something to eat and there is a new level of self-confidence when they see what they have accomplished. This love for nature will stay with them.
Joel and Danielle have been working on the garden at their home. We just gave Ansel the little red watering can that was Joel’s when he was a toddler. Ansel loves being outside. He loves watching the leaves as they move in the wind, enjoys looking at flowers in the garden, finding something new in the yard and he loves to eat so I am guessing he will be excited to learn about the things growing in his garden. He will be especially excited once he figures out he can eat those red, ripe strawberries that grow in his yard!
Nick and Greta do not have their own garden but Greta works on an organic farm so they have lots of fresh produce at their house. Greta dried spices for our Christmas gifts this year. When we visited Madison she took us on a tour of the farm. There are garden plots on the farm like the pea patch gardens in Seattle as well as the large fields that the farm harvests. It is a fun community area. They have a community play area for the children – lots of mud, water, open spaces—lots of fun!
My Grandfather would be so proud of his little gardeners and pleased to know that Joel, Danielle, Ansel, Nick and Greta are carrying on one of the traditions he so loved. Gardening. I am glad we had, and are still having, fun digging in the dirt together.
Children love to see where food comes from before it gets to the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Take them to a blueberry or strawberry farm and let them pick some fruit. Then let them help prepare the food for a family meal. You know where food comes from but to them this is a new and exciting adventure.
Take some time to get dirty with your child – or just visit the pea patch and see what other people are doing in the dirt.