Ideas for getting kids interested in gardening (Google / Rocky Mountain News)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jun/05/helping-kids-interest-in-gardening-grow/

Helping kids’ interest in gardening grow

By Jennifer Forker, Associated Press
Thursday, June 5, 2008

The National Gardening Association has lots of ideas for getting kids interested in gardening at its Web site, kidsgardening.org. The site’s editor, Barbara Richardson, dug up these helpful tips:

* Since kids are prone to instant gratification, start with a flat of annual flowers. The rewards are immediate.

* Gravitate toward unusual plants, such as pink potatoes, orange cauliflower or purple beans. Or focus on edible flowers and herbs, such as nasturtium and basil, and fragrant plants, such as lemon basil and orange thyme, to engage multiple senses.

* Kids, even older ones, like hiding places, so grow them one in the garden. Two ideas: Plant tall-growing (such as Mammoth) sunflower seeds in a circle, leaving a space for a “door” that kids can crawl through once the flowers have grown 10 feet high.

Or build a simple tepee out of fallen tree branches or long gardening stakes, and plant bean seeds around the outside.

Beans grow fast, and soon the children will have a secret hiding space.

* A birdbath or, better yet, a small, shallow pond, will encourage critters, such as frogs, to enter your garden, which in turn might draw your children out there, too.

* If a tool attracts them, let them dig a hole.

* Notice the changes that occur in the garden and track them on a calendar, in a journal or with photographs. Pay attention to the birds and insects in your garden, too.

* Build a scarecrow together. Build a birdhouse. Make personalized stepping stones to mark the pathway. Garden-related projects may lead to more time playing in the garden.

* Plant a garden based on a child’s favorite storybook. Richardson recommends The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

MY COMMENT (Willem)

These are excellent ideas to stimulate the kid’s motivation to start gardening.  Let me add a couple of other ones :

Instead of getting children starting with a small space in the garden (see also square-foot gardening), where they have to be active with “dirt“, offer them a chance to create “mini-gardens” in all sorts of containers (flower pots, bottles, yoghourt pots, an old tyre, a basin, a barrel, a hanging basket, …).

In containers they are not working with “dirt” (the garden soil), but with potting soil, which is more readily accepted in a first experience with gardening.

Even if a raised bed seems more attractive to youngsters than a small space in the garden (maybe covered with weeds !), containers are more easily seen as “their own” little garden.

Container gardening for kids is very rewarding as a first step towards “the real thing”.  Once “hooked”, they will ask for getting their own piece of land.  Let them enjoy this step-by-step process.

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.