Gardening has brought so much joy to my life in so many ways. Sharing this with my children has been the best part of all. My oldest daughter told me this week when she was home from school sick that she is going to plant all edible flowers in her raised bed. It was so touching for me to see her creative wheels spinning, and we had so much fun brainstorming together and looking at pictures. She told me she is going to freeze the flowers in ice cubes. It is so much fun to share this joy together! To know that if life gets tough for her down the road, maybe she will have this tool of gardening to shine some happiness into her life. Gardening has taught me so many things: the importance of conservation and being organic and green; the importance of feeding the birds I now love; the upside of delayed gratification; and even, in certain ways, to be a better mom at times.
Some of my best, earliest childhood memories are from gardening with my parents and grandparents. Whether remembering picking raspberries out of my grandparents’ South Dakota garden or helping my dad with his plantings of tomatoes or popping off the tops of marigolds with my mom, happiness was always found or grown in the garden.
My greatest hope is to pass the Joy of Gardening onto my kids, to give them the tool and ability to have a place to go and an activity to bring them happiness. I think I’m off to a solid start and hope to spread this joy to you and your kids or grandkids or great-grandkids. I am fortunate because my kids get this not only from me but also from both sets of grandparents and from my grandma, too, so they are surrounded with so much gardening love.
So here are some tools that worked for me and seemed to get my kids’ gardens growing:
1. Encourage them to create
Show them catalogs and visit Allen Centennial Gardens. It is free and a great place to have a picnic and run around and get ideas. See what colors they like.
2. Implement their ideas
My oldest daughter had an idea a few summers ago that she wanted to wake up and see morning glories out the family room window. I had not planted morning glories in this spot because they tend to be a bit thuggish, but I went with it and quickly moved some over to that spot with garden stakes. They did okay, but this past summer we started earlier in the season with this idea and used strong fishing line up the window. It was marvelous, and I am so excited to repeat the success this summer. And I am so grateful this was 100% my daughter’s idea.
3. Let them be the boss
Kids are told what to do all day long. It is nice when for a change they can choose whether they want to grow carrots, tomatoes or edible flowers. This can be challenging in my small urban garden. I don’t have an endless amount of space or full sun, and I have ideas, too. But sometimes their choices end up being my favorites, and they encourage me to step outside my comfort zone and try new things.
4. Give them space that is all their own
I built each of my kids a raised bed out of untreated cedar, so they each have a garden within my garden.
5. Get a fun new tool and let them use it
A dandelion picker has been loads of fun and a great way to aerate the lawn.
6. Take them with you to the nursery and let them buy something
My girls get extremely giddy over picking out a 25-cent terracotta pot that they paint as soon as they get home. They also love to pick out a packet of seeds or an annual. There are many times I have to say no, which is never easy for me to do. But I simply say it is not in the garden budget for this year, and I always remind them they can use their own money.
7. Teach them how to collect seeds and collect seeds together
This is so fun and your kids can get started at a very young age.
8. Build them a growing fort or tepee
I have tried this with success and failure, but the simplest way to do this is to buy large garden stakes and make a tepee. Then you can grow morning glories, nasturtium, beans and such up the stakes, creating a fort for your kids to play or read in.
9. Grow edibles
There is nothing more fun than growing, picking and eating your own food. One huge success my kids have had is growing corn, with green beans growing up the corn and little white and orange pumpkins below. We always have so many little pumpkins, they have plenty for all of their friends, too.