By Christina VanGinkel
Getting kids revved up for this coming summer's garden time is easier than ever, if you just go about it in the right way. Ask you kids now if there are any plants that they would like to grow. The answers you will receive to this question might surprise you. This simple question might also be enough to open the doors to their inner gardener more than any other question.
Many kids are willing to put in more time gardening if the results are for plants they want to succeed in helping grow and harvest. Some good suggestions if they really do not know what they want to plant could include watermelon, pumpkins, and giant sunflowers. All three of these plants offer up quite impressive results for the kids. Other common vegetables such as carrots and corn are also favorites. Not so surprisingly, onions and spinach are about as favorite to grow in the garden for kids, as they are for them to have on their dinner plates. It only makes sense that they want to grow something they are willing to eat! If they really have no preference, or do not show any, maybe it is time to dig out an illustrated gardening catalog, and sit down with them. Page through the catalog together, pointing out different plants and vegetables that you think might interest them if they will at least take note of them.
If the child you want to get involved gardening is very young, it might not be so much the plants, as it the tools with which they get to garden. I recently did a review of The Backyard Bunch Tools for beginning gardeners, and they are a perfect example of how tools can be fun for kids to use. Any small sized tools, in bright colors, and with easy to grasp handles will be a draw for young children though, such as a small watering can that is easy for them to carry and use, and small cultivators that they can make use of to loosen up the topsoil. Small shovels to help you dig a hole for putting in new plants, and other kid friendly and kid sized tools will also have a great advantage over any similar tool in an adult size that they try to use.
Next, be sure to provide these same young garden enthusiasts with their very own plot of land to 'garden' in. If they are extremely little, their gardening time might consist of digging holes and making mud hills, but if the plot of land you provide them with, is close enough to your garden, you can see them and supervise them while you actually get in some quality gardening time. The side benefit of this is that they will be picking up more knowledge than you might imagine. It will also keep them from digging up anything important, which might make you intolerant of them being in the garden in the first place. The spot does not have to be huge, just cordon off a small area, maybe make a sign for the area proclaiming it theirs, and provide them with everything they require to garden. Before you know it, they will be gardening for real.
Be sure that kids have a spot to store any tools you provide them with too. The fastest way to get a child to lose interest in gardening is when they are reprimanded for not putting away any tools they used. If they do not have a clear idea of where to store the items in the first place though, this can be a problem. My husband's father made a small unit that looked just like a garden shed, but is about one foot wide by three feet high, and it sits right in our rock garden. We keep our grandson's small hand tools right in it, so they are always handy when he stops by, and he can already get them and put them away by his self, and he is not even there years old yet.
For older kids, give them a stack of your gardening catalogs. Show them how to find out what zone your home is in, and how to differentiate which plants might be a suitable choice for your yard and or garden. Tell them that you would like them to plan a section of the garden with the plants they would like to try growing. By allowing them, some real say in what is being planted, such as where it is being planted, and total control over how it will be cared for, they will get a front row seat of what it is like to grow and tend a garden. (Do not try to take over this section, leave it to them, whether it is a success or a failure. They will learn more about gardening from this than you could ever imagine.)