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Kids Can Make Good Green Thumbs Too

Gardening also gives them a sense of ownership and pride, as well as gives them a few life lessons.

Kids and gardening just go together.

You have dirt, water, bugs and food. What more could any child ask for?

Spring is coming. The days are getting longer and it’s becoming warmer in the garden. Nurseries are beginning to display enticing packets of flower and vegetable seeds, stocking up on garden tools and accessories for kids and adults, and soon they’ll be adding seedlings that can go directly into the ground.

The trick to gardening with kids is to make “gardening” a fun word and not an icky “chore” word. What kid wouldn’t be happier: digging in the dirt than cleaning up their room? Start kids off as early as possible and make it fun. You’ll be growing more than plants. Children who, at an early age, are involved in the growing process of fruits and vegetables are healthier. They are proud of what they grow, pick and eat. What tastes better than a fresh strawberry picked from your own garden? Or that juicy apple you climbed the tree to pick?

With the resurgence of sustainability, going green and appreciating Mother Earth, it is a good time to teach children about growing their own food. There is such a disconnect about understanding from where food actually comes. And no, it doesn’t come from and Costco. You sow more than seeds when involving children in gardening. The understanding, nurturing and compassion that children learn for the earth, the bugs, and the plants are beyond computers and television. And the family time is priceless!

In UP, we have the wonderful , where families can follow the growth of an apple from spring blossoms to juicy red apples ready for that first bite come fall. Along the way, they learn about pruning, pests and different varieties of apples. And at the season’s end is the cider squeeze in which the whole family can participate.

Letting children pick out their own seeds and plants and helping to prepare the garden bed gives them a sense of ownership and inspiration. And just like you and I, kids need garden tools that work and are “just the right size”. A garden bed can be simply a plot in the ground, a raised bed, or whimsically creative objects like an old deflated ball no longer used and cut in half, filled with dirt and planted with some seeds. Recycling toys like dump trucks, wagons, or umbrellas (opened and upside down) that will hold dirt teaches them about repurposing items. A clear umbrella lets children see the root development of their plants and out-grown rubber boots are just plain cute when planted with flowers.

Once the garden is planted, making markers is a fun project. Older kids can help the younger ones create personalized markers out of wood or rocks. Going on a scavenger hunt for just the right rock is always fun. Paint it white, then use colored markers to draw what flower or veggie seeds have been planted. Slicing up a downed tree limb about 2-3 inches in diameter and about an inch thick makes a great marker. Again paint the flat part white and use makers to identify what is planted. Drill a hole and stick a dowel in it so it can be stuck in the ground.

Even though the earth is still too cool to start planting, I wanted to sow some thoughts about getting the children involved in gardening. The squeals of finding the first earthworm, or beetle are just around the corner. The harbingers of spring are here, listen and you can hear the robins happily chirping.

Happy gardening,

Barbara Lee

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