I was a kid who gardened starting quite early. One of the first things I ever planted was corn. Yes corn. I was somewhere around the age of 3, we did it in school and yes I transplanted my corn plants into our walled garden in Philadelphia (lived in Society Hill until I was like 11).
Some of my earliest memories involved gardening with my father and his father, my Pop Pop. Pop Pop showed me how to plant tomatoes – Plum Tomatoes to be specific (he was Italian!) We also planted herbs. That first tomato plant yielded a tomato that looked like a little baseball mitt!
Gardening as a happy place started early for me. I also understood I had my plants I tended to, but left others alone. I learned early to stay away from the leaves of three (poison ivy, sumac,etc.)
The garden was not a place child-proofed other than a locked side gate in the garden wall that was locked to keep us in and strangers out – it was a walled garden with old brick walls almost 8 feet tall. I will admit I had a friend named Ali who was as agile as a cat who would climb her tall brick garden wall, walk over the edges of neighbors’ walls and climb down into my garden to hang out. It was quicker than walking around a long city block. I am happy to report she is alive and well and living in London with her husband and children.
I was told not to touch this subject with a 10 foot pole by a friend, but I feel I must. Yes I have certain plants that I do not plant because they are poisonous to domestic animals.
This topic comes up a great deal in my gardening group. And I do get frustrated sometimes by the questions. I understand that they are valid, but I grew up in a house that wasn’t childproofed to death, so did my stepson, and nieces and nephews. This also goes for a lot of my friends’ children.
Common sense dictates a lot of this. Watch young children carefully when playing outdoors. Keep indoor plants safely out of the reach of children. Teach kids from a young age to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything. Don’t eat wild plants in front of little kids who will mimic you.
You can have a garden and have small children. And the thing is, like teaching them to cook, or even just make cookies, they will probably have fun.
I have friends who often had a more grown up garden in the front yard, and out back where the kids played was more basic. That seemed to work.
You can give your kids their own “first garden” in a few pots, a low to the ground rectangular planter, or window boxes. Or you can give them their own section to tend in the garden beds you have already established. Start seeds early inside like sunflowers,zinnias , cosmos , vegetables or culinary herbs. Or buy starter plants somewhere.
Connecting with the earth and gardening is such a positive thing. Many local arboretums even offer gardening – Tyler Arboretum, Jenkins Arboretum, Morris Arboretum, Mt. Cuba Center,Longwood Gardens, and more. Here is a whole link on Eventbrite (click on hyperlink) for all sorts of gardening related events that are kid friendly.
There is this website called KidsGardening.org which has all sorts of information. They have an entire section on gardening basics. The have other sections on garden activities and even growing guides! They are based in Burlington, Vermont and even have a spot on their website about designing school gardens. They are a non-profit. They have been around since 1982. I think they are awesome.
We seem to partially live in a cotton batting world where kids are so scheduled and often overly protected. Sometimes they just need to be kids. I think gardening is one of those things that helps that along. Give them parameters like you do when teaching them other things. Most of all, remember, the garden doesn’t have to be perfect. It is a fun thing you can do together, learn together, and create memories with.
I still remember how fun it was when we planted my first tomato plant, and I learned how to tend my herb plants. As a child, I also loved learning how to make terrariums. In high school I was a Shipley Sprout and we even competed in the Philadelphia Flower Show! I won a couple of ribbons too for forcing bulbs! (Not first place, but it was still awesome!)
On the U.K.’s Telegraph website there is this article:
Churchill family gardening
Seeds of success: gardening with kids cultivates life skills
5 SEPTEMBER 2016 • 10:45AM By Victoria Lambert
Anyone who has gardened with children will know what a pleasure it is to pass on skills and see the next generation developing a passion for planting.
There may be the odd moment where “weeding” decimates your new bedding plants or a snail collection is released en masse into the veg patch, but research shows we should stick with it as experts increasingly point to the value children get from gardening and being outside.
These benefits range from the chance to be active and get away from the omnipresent screens, to real mental health gains.
Back in 2000, a Texas A&M University survey of children under 12 actively involved in gardening projects in school, community or home settings, found benefits to children’s self-esteem and reduction in stress levels.
Closer to home, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) research continues to back this up. It suggests children perform better at school if they’re involved with gardening, and many will develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they get to grow their own veg.
Caroline Levitt, who founded the Diggers Forest School and Nursery near Midhurst, West Sussex, believes the benefits of outdoor work even for the smallest children are huge. She says: “Children can learn so much and have fun, too.
“Gardening involves lots of different activities, such as design of the garden and choice of what to plant, and it can be a good team or friendship building exercise, as they take turns to water plants and share the weeding. This is also a good way to learn responsibility.
“Gardening can also be a fantastic sensory experiment, handling dry earth or gloopy mud and even worms! It is a great way for children to naturally learn patience while they watch their produce grow.”
Ms Levitt adds that gardening is useful for stimulating creativity. “We get them thinking about the design of the layout and in terms of how seeds are planted – for example, neatly in rows or thrown into a pot…”
….Gardening for children is also closely linked to feelings of well-being.
Rodale’s Organic Life also has an article on this:
The Importance Of Getting Kids Into The Garden
Turn digging in the dirt with your children into a lifetime of love and respect for nature. by Marti Ross Bjornson November 24, 2015
Gardens are magical, fun, and always full of surprises. Watch a child pull a carrot from the earth, brush off the soil, and take a bite, or see the anticipation in the eyes of a youngster creating a bouquet of flowers she grew. There is a natural magnetic attraction between children and the earth, whether it’s making mud or discovering a germinating seed emerge from the earth. Gardening with children, from toddlers to adolescents, opens new windows in a world dominated by technology.
Whether you are an accomplished gardener or a novice, gardening with children is your chance to partner with Mother Nature to make magic. Don’t worry about achieving horticultural perfection. Just dig in and grow something beautiful or good to eat. Your garden is your treasure chest; you and your young gardener—exploring together—can discover its priceless bounty for an afternoon’s delight or for a lifetime.
Memories last longer than one season.
Anyway, just wanted to point out teaching kids to garden is a good thing.
Now, to be safe click below for lists of poisonous and non-poisonous plants:
PoisonControl.org: Poisonous and Non-poisonous Plants An Illustrated List
California Poison Control System: Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Plants