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2018-19 Eat Smart. Play Hard Magazine

2018-19 Magazine

2018-19 Eat Smart. Play Hard. Magazine

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Introduce Your Kids to Gardening

Adults like gardening, but what about kids? Most kids like video games and Legos. I’ve never heard of a kid asking Santa Claus for a new gardening trowel.

Adults like gardening, but what about kids?

Most kids like video games and Legos. I’ve never heard of a kid asking Santa Claus for a new gardening trowel.

Don’t give up. Here are a few tips on how to get kids excited about gardening:

Select easy-to-grow crops - I grew beans in my family’s garden when I was a kid. It was foolproof. I was amazed to see the seedlings pop out of the ground; it was like magic. I’ll never forget the joy my mother expressed when I harvested a pot full of beans for our family’s dinner. Priceless!

My brother grew carrots, a crop that can be difficult to grow. Sowing the tiny seeds was frustrating. The plants were hard to weed around, and the rabbits ate the harvest. He hated gardening as a kid, and he still hates gardening today.

Sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, corn and cherry tomatoes are other easy-to-grow plants. Let your children grow their own pumpkin. They can watch it get bigger and bigger all summer.

Make gardening an adventure - Keep your eyes open. Your garden is an outdoor classroom that keeps changing all summer. It always has something new to find. Explore for bugs and worms. Who can find the biggest weed? When harvesting potatoes, pretend you are a potato pirate digging for buried treasure.

Give them ownership - When you are at the seed rack at the store, let your kids choose a packet of seed. When you are selecting flowers at the garden center, let your kids select the flower they want to grow. Give your children their own portion of the garden to take care of, or give them their own container garden or raised bed.

Make gardening delicious - Kids like raspberries and cherry tomatoes, not Brussels sprouts. Don’t make a kid grow Brussels sprouts. It’s cruel!

Explore herbs - Give your kids a chocolate mint plant. Introduce them to lemon basil. Let them stick the leaves of herbs right up to their noses. Watch their eyes pop open in amazement. They’ll love it.

Give them kid-sized tools - Make gardening comfortable for kids. Avoid cheap, plastic tools that are more suited for sandboxes. Give your child a real, kid-sized metal shovel.

Pick a theme - Pizza gardens are a popular theme garden for kids today. Tomato, basil and onions are easy to grow, and then make a pizza with them. Butterfly gardens and sunflower teepees are other ideas.

Consider raised beds - Raised-bed gardens have a lot of advantages. Once established, they require less physical work and bending. They warm up faster and drain better than normal gardens. For kids, raised beds bring the plants closer to their eyes. Kids are less likely to stomp on the crops. Kids like running around the beds.

Get wet - Kids love to get wet. They love watering plants. Give them a watering can or let them use the gardening hose. We always irrigate the garden at the end of my youth gardening classes.

Give them a treat after gardening - Work in the garden for 30 minutes and then snack on fresh fruit. Soon the kids will want to come to the garden, instead of looking for the chance to escape from it.

Share the garden produce - My experience with youth gardens is that once kids become teenagers, being seen in a garden is not “cool.” But if you grow the vegetables for needy families in your community, it suddenly becomes a cool thing.

Be patient - Don’t force gardening on kids. Invite them to the garden and show them how much you love it. Sow the idea of “garden love” in their hearts. Maybe their love for gardening will germinate right away; maybe it will take 30 years. The opportunity will come, and so will the joys and the memories.


Tom Kalb, Ph.D., Horticulturalist, NDSU Extension Service

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