Gardening With Youngsters
An Article written by Janet K. Irwin

In the Garden…
Before you begin....
Brainstorm with the group and discuss your constraints...
· How much room will they have?
· Is it a container?
· Is it a row?
· Will you plant annuals?
· Will you plant vegetables?
· What will you do with the harvest?
Be sure right from the beginning the kids are clear on your limits.

Several years ago when I provided only school age care I turned over part of our garden to those who would be coming to our program all summer. Since all the kids in care wouldn’t be there for the summer I had our first garden club meeting after hours. It rained cats and dogs and cows and pigs that day but we cleared the garden and made plans over pizza, oranges, salad and dessert.

Each child go a 2-foot wide row about 10 feet long. They choose herbs, annuals, flowers and vegetables. They were given seeds and small plants on our next get together. This second meeting was after hours and all the rest of the gardening took place during the constraints of the day care day.

Children planned in detail a map of their plot. They measured and planted according to their plans. They were responsible for weeding and water and thinning. They were also responsible for asking a friend to “tend” to their plot if they were away from care. That year we planted the following: chives, sage, parsley, radish, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, pumpkins (the little Jack Be Nimble size), marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, and several other varieties that made nice cut flowers.

That summer was idyllic…. The kids were really diligent and when several left us to go off to Jr. High in the fall we harvested for them and had them pick up their produce.

If you are at a time where space could be an issue I would suggest you try the new plastic hanging garden containers. They are planted on the ground and then hung for display purposes. They are made of black or green heavy gage plastic and they hold 10 or 12 plants. Things like impatients do very well in them.

If you are looking for inexpensive planting tubs, try plastic laundry tubs from the dollar store. Be sure to drill several holes in the bottom for drainage. They look great with a mass of lettuce sprouting. I also like the look of things growing in colorful painted food cans…like the ones tomato products come packed in. Spray the bottom with clear spray paint to avoid the rust factor. Don’t forget to punch holes in the bottom sides.

Don’t worry about perfection and if things get eaten…say by slugs or die let the kids deal with it. Talk about it before hand…This isn’t a place where all will always be how we expect it to be…. Stuff happens…Kids can deal with it because the things that do grow will bring wonderment, fascination, and discovery. Being responsible for something is a great life still to begin working on and you may help them develop a life time hobby.

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