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Gardening with Kids

When I was younger, my mom set aside three separate areas for my sisters and me to plant our own garden. Our garden plots were side by side, separated by two apple trees. The best thing about our garden was that it was right beside the driveway where everyone could see it, and even as a child, you know that shows a lot of faith.

We were given pretty much free reign to plant what we wanted, and one of my favourite memories is of 'plant selection day' at the nursery. If your children are younger, some ideas for kid friendly plant material to grow are: Mammoth Russian Sunflowers, snapdragons, pumpkins, and carrots.

For parents who have a hard time getting their kids to eat vegetables, I have found that my kids are more likely to eat vegetables that they've grown themselves. Since my children started growing their own, it isn't an uncommon site to see them running around the yard with their friends, all holding a freshly pulled carrot.

Kids also enjoy helping you pick out flowers for your planting areas. For example, if you always plant petunias or geraniums along your driveway, let them select the colour this year. When I've involved my own children in decisions like this, I find that they're more likely to help me plant and care for the plants. As for my yard's free planting area is very limited, this process works very well for us. Another idea is to let each child pick out the plants for their own hanging basket, which you can then help them plant. Be careful to choose a large enough container (at least 12" in diameter) as small containers will need watering more often and may stund the growth of plants if not cared for properly. The more lush the basket ends up being, the more encouraged they'll be.

When plants that are selected just won't work, be careful to tell them why (such as choosing plants for the wrong exposure) and help them choose an equally pleasing alternative. By doing this, as well as them seeing the results of their planting, they learn design techniques such as which colours look good together, and how shorter plants should always be near the front so you can see them.

Other ideas include planting a theme garden such as a butterfly garden or a cutting garden where your child is free to cut you a nice bouquet of flowers whenever they please, a nice added bonus for you. Not only do you get a beautiful bouquet, but as my own daughter has demonstrated while at the nursery, they can keep themselves busy for hours.

My kids also like to plant a fairy garden every year to attract fairies. The fairy circle is made by planting a circle of flowers such as impatiens or violas, and putting moss inside the circle for a nice soft carpeting. This can be made as large or as small as you want. Apparently the fairies like to use these circles as meeting places at night.

You can also do a garden project with your children such as making a birdhouse, a toad castle out of empty terracotta pots, or a fairy pavilion made out of twigs and decorated with elaves and flowers.

The number one rule in gardening with your child is to have patience and to try to make everything fun. If you tell your child that weeding is one of their chores for the day, that's what gardening will become to them. A chore. If you do your weeding and watering together, the job will go more quickly, and the work will be a more enjoyable and memorable experience for each of you.

Gardening with your child can be a real learning experience for both of you. While teaching them about nature, you'll be amazed at how much you learn about each other in the process. - Robin Carifelle.

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