Gardening With the Family
How a family spends its time together has changed over the last few decades. I remember growing up in the 1980’s and staying out late playing with their neighborhood kids, in fact we used to use the street lights as our cue it was time to go home. Families would converge around the dinner table back then and share stories about their days. At the time I didn’t see the significance of doing this but with a family of my own I completely understand now.
I’m not against change but I do believe that changes can snowball into additional alterations down the road. With our kids becoming more distracted by technology parents are finding alternate ways for families to spend time together.
Spending time together, in my opinion, is critical to children being able to grow up with all the right chances to be successful contributors to our society. I’m not saying it is impossible to be a success if your family didn’t spend much together when you were growing up but I believe it is a very important piece to an incredibly complicated puzzle.
One way for families to function as one is to garden. A garden is a great vehicle because the kids can actually see the fruits of their labor, no pun intended. Some work at the beginning and nurturing along the way can yield some visible, and possibly tasty, results.
Having your kids help plant a garden is a fairly simple way for a family to work together. It doesn’t matter if your kids are little or teenagers, all ages can help in some capacity. Sometimes just getting them off of the couch or away from the computer and video games can be a victory by itself but don’t stop there, drag them outside while you are in the motivating mood.
If your children are little let them do small chores that don’t require a bunch of muscle. Let them push back the soil after you plant something or task them with picking up the empty containers from the vegetables. For the older and stronger kids let them dig the holes or drag the garden hose over to give the new plants a nice drink of water.
Parents know their children better than anyone so knowing what their limitations are should be one of the easiest things you probably do all day.
We are very fortunate that we have always included our kids in our gardens so they are used to helping, even though as they get older their vocal displeasure has grown. Even though they complain they know they have to do the work, and they do.
Home and Gardening
Do you have a home garden?
Some folks aren’t into dealing with vegetable gardens and that is OK. Another idea is a flower garden. It will still take some of the same preparation as a vegetable garden but it usually requires less upkeep and might be more successful in poor soil conditions.
For the little ones let them help pick out the flowers at the home improvement store or seed packets if you want to go the seed route. Let their imagination run wild with their selections, think of the garden as their own dirt canvas.
The older kids will have probably the same job that they would have done for a vegetable garden, just another ‘advantage’ of getting older I guess.
To have a prosperous garden, of any kind, some basic tools will be needed; the obvious one is a shovel. Depending on your soil you need to decide between a flat shovel and a pointed one. If your soil is very easy to break up a flat one would probably be fine; for harder soils go with a pointed one. The pointed ones will help you drive the shovel deeper into the dirt to break it up and will make planting a much easier task.
Another handy tool to have is a small shovel, sometimes called a spade. These miniature shovels are hand held versions of their bigger relatives. When you are squatted down, or on your knees, these smaller shovels are very handy because you can use them in smaller spaces.
It is also nice to have a hoe around to help break up larger clumps of soil. This tool isn’t mandatory but it is easier to break up dirt with a hoe than it is with a shovel. If you are looking to save money and not buy every tool you can find then stick with a shovel; it comes down to personal preference on this one.
Don’t be afraid to involve the kids when picking out any tools. Maybe they like a particular color of a shovel or found kids sized ones. When our kids were little we found some small rakes and just had to get them. They would come out into the garden and help us weed or rake away leaves. They weren’t really “helping” much but they didn’t know that and we certainly weren’t going to tell them.
Garden Compost and Soil Amendments
Adding compost or other soil amendments should be saved for the older kids or parents especially since most of the compost available smells bad to little kids. The amendments and fertilizers are a more dangerous story. Little kids don’t know they need to wash their hands after touching fertilizers so do this task yourself or have an older child tackle it, you might want to try distracting them with some other chore to not let them know they are missing out on something. People can get sick ingesting these fertilizers so play it safe and don’t even let them touch the stuff.
Storage Garden Shed
Some more advanced gardeners have a shed dedicated to their craft; obviously this is not something that is required. If you have a garage then store your tools, seeds, compost, etc. there. Wherever you decide to store your tools just make sure to protect them from rain, bad weather will damage many garden tools.
We learned a long time ago that when your kids are helping out in the garden you need to sometimes follow-up with them from time to time. In addition to supervising their actual gardening work parents should also make sure that they are cleaning things up as well. Tools can weather extremely fast when left in the elements. Take it from me; make sure the things you ask them to help put back actually make it back to the shed, garage, etc.
Garden Ideas and Designs
Flower and vegetable gardens are probably the most popular kinds of gardens for families to do together but don’t feel that you are only limited to these two. If your children want to build a rock garden go ahead and go for it, especially if you have some extra stray rocks lying around.
When our kids were little we built an oasis for our little box turtle. It wasn’t too fancy to us but I’m sure she loved it. We picked a corner or our yard and fenced it off, built a little gate and added the typical turtle home amenities. Both of our kids loved helping by putting rocks, sticks and old flower pot saucers full of water in there for her.
Since they were little I did the post hole digging and stapling of the fence to the posts but they still felt like members of the construction team. Obviously they didn’t contribute as much sweat to the afternoon project as I did but they still helped and were proud of their contributions, isn’t that what matters when a family rolls up their sleeves in the garden?