Family Gardening Tips

by Cindy Bond

Here are some excellent tips on gardening as a family -- a great outdoor activity for families that's healthy as well as fun.

Cynthia Davis Klemmer, the Children's Education Coordinator at theMassachusetts Horticultural Society, suggests these gardening activity tips for families:

  • Start small. Window boxes or containers, because of their smallsize, can actually turn out to be rather luxurious gardens. Recycle clean bleach and milkcontainers. Cut off the tops and use them as planters.
  • Be willing to put up with a less-than-perfect looking garden: crookedrows and weeds are okay.
  • Leave an area where kids can dig, even after planting. This is oftentheir favorite part of gardening. Look for earthworms together!
  • Get some child-sized tools from a local nursery or garden center. Tryto find tools that look genuine so the kids will feel like real gardeners. Can'tafford it? Plastic spoons and shovels work well in window boxes.
  • Make a secret place in the garden for your kids. Leave a spacebetween the stalks of easy-to-grow sunflowers or bean poles so they can crawl"inside." Make a chicken wire animal and train ivy around: instant topiary!
  • Kids like extremes, so plant huge flowers, likesunflowers, and small vegetable plants, like cherry tomatoes. Plant fragrant flowers or herbslike peonies, lavender, and chocolate or pineapple mint. Show your kids how torub the herbs between their fingers to get a really good whiff.
  • Teach your kids how to compost. Find a place behind a tree, or dig ahole in the ground. Don't add anything that ever swam, walked, or flew. Toss inrinds and peels from fruit, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells. When it turnsblack and crumbly (this will take several months) you can mix it with soil and usethis for fertilizer for your garden. Don't forget to put your gloves onfirst.
  • Look in the children's section of your library or bookstore for bothgardening how-to books and storybooks. Ready, Set, Grow! A Guide toGardening, by Suzanne Frutig Bales, teaches youngsters about specific plants. KidsGarden! by Avery Hart and Paul Mantell includes information on "sowing and growing" as wellas activities for kids ages 4 and up.
  • If you're interested in more organized children's programs, checkwith local parks departments or public gardens to see what they offer.
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