Homeyer: Gardening with Kids

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(HOST) For commentator Henry Homeyer, gardening is inter-generational.

(HOMEYER) My two grandkids, George and Casey Jean-Marie are going to be great gardeners.  George, who is six, won his first blue ribbon at the Cornish Fair when he was four.  Casey, who is three, loves to plant things and watch them grow.  And I love being in the garden with them.

My Grampy taught me to love the garden because he loved it so.  He never asked me to weed.  Kids don’t like to weed. We, I mean they, love to look at bugs and flowers and all living things.  I still remember vividly the day sixty years ago when Grampy found a nest of bunnies in a pile of hay.

I think it’s important for kids to have a little piece of soil that they call their own.  It doesn’t have to be large – in fact it shouldn’t be.  A nice size for a child’s garden is the child’s height in one direction and arm span in the other.

Kids often want to grow things like watermelons or giant pumpkins in their first gardens, but a small garden is not big enough for either of those.  And, quite frankly, watermelons don’t do well in this climate anyway.  Children need guidance when choosing plants to grow.  With George, the choices are easy: he loves cherry tomatoes and carrots, so that’s what we grow.  And I buy purple carrot seeds to make his carrots even more special.

A child’s garden can also include flowers.  Educational experts say young children don’t do well with delayed gratification.  So why not go the local garden center with your child and buy a 4-pack of blooming flowers?  Teach your loved one to gently place it in rich soil and water it tenderly. Bingo. Day one, blooming flowers. Oh boy.

Siblings compete. We try to teach them to play nicely and to share.  But in the garden they don’t have to.  Each child can have a garden space – and brothers and sisters beware!  Hands off the plants!

Success is important.  I could, I suppose, teach my grandchildren the consequences of not watering or what happens if the weeds take over.  But George and Casey live more than half an hour away, so they can’t come every day to water or check for weeds.  So I do it. I want their gardens to be successful.

And of course, our gardens are organic.  Children are highly vulnerable to chemical exposure.  If you plant potatoes and the beetles arrive, pick ‘em.  Striped cucumber beetles? Cover the plants with a thin layer of row cover to keep them off.  And so on. There is no reason to spray for anything.

When I think of my Grampy I think of him, most often, in the garden.  Or in his red 1958 Nash Rambler setting off to give away bags of vegetables to his lady friends.  He was a good gardener, a good man, and he taught me to love gardening.  Thanks, Grampy, wherever you are.

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Henry Homeyer on-line at VPR-dot-net.

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