Whether you want to teach your own children about where their food comes from, or you volunteer with a local children's group--kids LOVE to dig into the dirt. We love when kids come into the store, and spend time studying all the seed packets, dreaming of their own special garden. Here are some tips to help children learn about gardening....
1. Don't worry about perfection. It's not going to happen with kids. But, you will build a respect for nature that could be life-long. And in a world dominated by technology, everyone can use some time out in the garden.
2. Start small. Let children pick maybe 2-3 plants, and keep the space manageable (their own garden should be 6x10 feet at the very most). You want to let them take ownership, without becoming overwhelmed. You can also all choose a "family tree".
3. Help them with their choices. Although you want them to choose their seeds or small plants, it might make things easier for everyone to guide them toward easy to grow veggies and plants. Choose plants that are the appropriate size for your site, and whether or not they are sun or shade loving. (Most vegetables need full sun). Some of our favorite veggies for kids? Bush beans, greens, beets, lettuce, peas, peppers, radishes and swiss chard. And if they want flowers, try cosmos, marigolds or zinnias from seed.
4. Add compost to your soil. You can purchase compost in bags, or make your own from kitchen and yard waste. Either way, children should learn why organic gardening is the healthy way to go.
5. Use containers. If you don't have a big yard, kids can still plant plenty of things in pots and containers. And be creative! Here are some great alternatives, courtesy of Midwest Living.
6. Get the right tools. Child sized tools make the job easier (and more fun!).
7. Volunteer. If you don't have children, or yours are all grown up, there are still plenty of kids that can benefit from your gardening wisdom. Local community gardens, schools, park districts and churches often have opportunities to work with youngsters. Ask around and you're sure to find someone that needs your help. (The GardenWorks Project is a great organization in Chicago's western suburbs.)