Gardening with grandkids

starting seedsOver the weekend, I finally got around to starting some seeds for later filling a few patio containers. In Colorado, nothing should go in the ground before Mother's Day, so I'm hoping the timing will be just right. It's the first time I've tried starting seeds, and I'm crossing my fingers my zinnia, snapdragon and marigold seeds will have grown to a decent size by the time there's no longer a chance of snow, ice or frost.

As I poked the seeds down into the egg cartons filled with soil, I wished I had a local grandchild or two to help out. When my daughters were little, they helped me plant things now and then. Nothing major — meaning, no bountiful harvest — ever came of it, just a sunflower or marigolds here and there, as Colorado's not the greatest climate for growing things. Still, there’s something about getting one’s hands dirty and appreciating what comes (or might come) from the earth to counteract all the electronic and artificial stimulation kids get on a daily basis.

For grandmas who are more fortunate than I — those who can enjoy a little digging and growing with the grands — below are some tips to ensure your grandchild’s curiosity with the natural world grows right along with the goodies you plant together.

child gardener

• Designate one part of your yard or garden — or even one special container garden, if you’re short on space — then together peruse gardening catalogs and websites for ideas of what they could include in the space.

• Keep in mind this one particular space is primarily for the grandchild, so guide the process but allow him or her to make plenty of the selections and decisions.

• Plant using a variety of methods. Seeds are always fun to plant and see sprout, while plantings already started provide some instant gratification while they wait.

• Include plenty of goodies to eat along with the pretty and colorful marigolds, sunflowers and such. Beans are one of the easier edibles to grow. Consider cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, too. And don’t forget herbs such as basil and oregano, which can be sprinkled on homemade (or frozen) pizza.

• Forego chemicals on a garden children will be digging into. Either on your own or together with older grandkids, research organic ways to ward off bugs and disease. Consider options for repelling wildlife, too, including squirrels, deer, even cats and dogs.

• Include your grandchild in the work (weeding, watering) involved in gardening as well as the reaping of the bounty. They’ll naturally tire of the toiling far sooner than you, far sooner than will be effective, but take that with a grain of salt and finish up the job yourself later, especially with the younger kiddos.

• Plan some fun things to do with what’s grown. Include edibles grown in the garden in snacks or meals. Allow flowers to be cut and shared with friends and family. Etch a child’s initials (or name, if short) into a small pumpkin to watch the scarred name stretch and grow right along with the gourd.

For additional ideas on gardening with grandchildren (or any children), read Susan's About.com—Grandparents article on Helping Kids Garden and Teaching Them to Love It.

Photo of child courtesy Pixabay.com

Today's question:

What are you planning to grow this year — with or without children?