Updated: Nov 9, 2020
How to 'cultivate' an interest in gardening with children that extends to Spring and beyond
Awe November- the excitement of the new school year has lessened. Halloween is over and the beautiful fall foliage is nearly gone. We haven’t yet had a blanket of snow to make everything pretty and clean. We are left looking at a dreary landscape these days – so, what to do now? Why, start planning for spring of course!!!
We are already dreaming of the colours we will see when our newly planted bulbs bloom next spring! Our little ones enjoyed putting the bulbs to ‘bed’ - with a pat and a ‘night, night’ to encourage a good winter nap. The daffodils, tulips and bluebells will bring lots of colour to our butterfly garden! We saved all our flowers that we grew this year, drying them in the garden shed so we can use the seeds next year in our children’s gardens. We hope our sunflowers, zinnias, and purple coneflowers will spread colour and joy across our backyard again next year!
“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden?” Robert Brault
A garden cannot flourish if we do not nurture the soil in which we plant. We have been preparing by sheet mulching- a system of laying cardboard, sod, newspaper, compost and straw to enrich the soil. This will help gain nutrients which in turn, make the earth richer for the flowers and vegetables we will plant in the spring.
In our backyard we are also planning a Zuni Waffle garden- named for the Native American style of small plot gardens with raised mounds and border edges. These help to collect water and avoid (or at least deter) drought in hot dry climates. This will help lessen the amount of watering we will have to do – conserving some of our collected rainwater barrels for other areas of the plots.
Our gardens are not limited to flowers- no, we also plant vegetables, herbs and berries! The children enjoy the gardens in the summer, almost as much as we do! Seeing the scarlet runner beans blossom and then grow- harvesting them as a tasty treat in late summer brings smiles to all. Cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, peas fresh from the pod- Oh Summer- you are too far away! But the children learn more than just how to garden. We add literacy with plant stakes with names. We use math when counting the blossoms, petals, leaves or making a graph of the height our stalks reach! When our gardens start to fade in the fall- the children learn about science; dissecting the flowers to identify the different parts. Herbs can become part of fine motor and sensory activities- cutting with scissors and inhaling the fresh scents!
“In every gardener is a child who loves to play in the dirt. In every child is a gardener ready to grow” ~ LeAura Alderson
Our children help with gardening- whether it is planting seeds, growing and watering, harvesting (and eating)- or like now, preparing for next spring. We start collecting milk cartons, that by laying on their side, we will make into seed pots. The children will plant seeds in spring that we will nurture and tend, and then they will help to transplant them to their new beds in warmer weather. We are blessed to have a big backyard and acres to plant and explore. If you are not as fortunate- you could try container gardening to introduce this activity to children. After all, plants just need the same things children do- earth, water, sun and air.
Many people say they would like to garden, but don’t have a green thumb. This is where our favourite books come in. After all, gardeners learn as they ‘grow’. Here are a few of the best books we have found, easy to follow, with practical, down to ‘earth’ directions.
Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots-Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy
An easy to read book on how to connect children to nature through gardening. This book is made even more enjoyable by the author’s own beautiful watercolour illustrations.
Gardening Without Work- For the aging, the Busy & the Indolent- by Ruth Stout
Originally published in 1961- this book is an easy enjoyable read. Ruth Stout was known as a ‘lazy gardener’ who believed in getting the most out of gardening – with the least effort. Her book is charming and witty- and a good reminder to enjoy life!
Best Garden Plants for Atlantic Canada- Duncan Kelbaugh Alison Beck
Gardening is highly rewarding and enjoyable- made even better by planting for the climate in which we live! This book is broken into sections for Annuals, Perennials, Trees and Shrubs, etc- with full colour pictures, tips and recommendations for successful planting.
For bulbs- we choose Brecks Canada- with over 200 years experience- they ship premium bulbs harvested in Holland. www.brecksbulbs.ca
If you haven't begun gardening with children- why not? You have all winter to plan. Try it- you will be glad you did!