By Nancy Schiller, a certified floral designer experienced in staging homes for sale.
The snow is finally melting and my lavender crocuses are starting to open. It’s been a long, wet winter... You can smell spring in the air and with each sunny day there is excitement for another season of gardening.
The lure of the earth goes way back in my family. My great-grandparents had a small farm, where homegrown vegetables were served nightly. Fresh cut flowers had a place of honor on the table. My father and his grandmother tended a kitchen garden together where they grew Italian herbs. My own children were thrilled when we grew miniature pumpkins on a vine that snaked its way through our yard.
How can you instill a love of gardening in your children? Be a garden lover! The following is a list of creative ways to introduce children of all ages to the wonders of gardening.
1. PLAY IN THE DURT
Give your child a flowerpot or a garden plot all his own. Handling soil is healthy and lots of fun, especially when it’s wet! Plant some seeds and anticipate the first sprouts together
2. VISIT BOTANICAL GARDENS
Introduce your child to a great horticultural variety. Use your library to learn about plants and trees of particular interest. Learn what’s native to your area, and see if you can plant something at home.
3. KEEP A GARDEN JOURNAL
Make notes as a family about gardening projects and trips to public gardens, state parks, etc. Include drawings and photos.
4. PERFORM GARDENING EXPERIMENTS
Try different seed varieties, monitor their progress and rate the results. Which carrot seeds are the best producers? Which mix of plant food, leaf mulch, etc. makes the zinnias grow the tallest?
5. READ BOOKS
Stories and poems about flowers, trees, plants and nature are a great inspiration to the gardener in us all.
6. FOOD FOR THE TABLE
As a family, think of fruits and vegetables you eat often that you might consider growing at home. Visit a plant nursery and speak to a professional about an apple tree, blueberry bushes, or perhaps a tomato plant to grow in a pot. Take pride in accomplishing this task together.
7. MAKE TREE STUDIES
Gather leaves from a variety of trees. Learn their species and press them in a book. Also, use paper and crayons to make tree bark rubbings. Place a sheet of white paper over the bark of a tree. Gently rub the paper with the broad side of a crayon to make a replica of the bark. Study the differences for identification. Learn about the trees in your area and how to care for them.
8. CREATE BIRD AND BUTTERFLY GARDENS
In pots or in the garden, colors and varieties of plants attract various types of wildlife. Plant a butterfly bush or some red bee balm and wait for the Swallowtails and hummingbirds to find you.
9. HAVE A GARDEN PARTY
Reap the rewards of a well-tended garden. Let your children share their homegrown fruits and veggies with their friends at an outdoor picnic. Take pictures and they’ll have a great “ What did you do over the summer” story to tell when they return to school.
10. ALWAYS HAVE FUN
Never let gardening become the dreaded “yard work.” Even if you’re raking two acres of autumn leaves, if you do it as a family, it can be fun. Once it’s not fun, it’s not going to make your kids love gardening. If dad hates to mow the lawn, and mom hates to pull the weeds, the kids will avoid the yard like the plague. Love gardening and model that love. That’s the best way to foster an appreciation of one of life’s greatest pleasures.