by Barbara Harlan
Anoka County Master Gardener
While we are mentally planning this coming season’s gardens, have you considered a children’s garden? Whether you have young children of your own or grandchildren, gardening with children can be a wondrous thing. Looking at a seed, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower though their eyes presents a whole new perspective.
My daughters loved to plant bean seeds each year. They were very precise about how far apart each seed should be. And even though they complained about weeding the garden and picking beans, they grew up loving to garden and now, as mothers, have their own gardens and have shared with their children the wonders of nature.
Young children need to have seeds large enough to be handled easily – beans, sunflowers, corn, squash, pumpkins, marigolds, zinnias, Four O’Clocks – any seed that is large and germinates fairly quickly. Children are also impatient and will lose interest if they have to wait too long for their “special” seeds to peek through the earth. Additionally, they can help you pick out seedlings at the nursery and plant and care for them. One plant to consider (if your child likes them) is a cherry tomato. Children love to pick those little tomatoes off the vine and eat them while still warm from the sun. Another joy for children is to pick pea pods, open them and eat the raw peas.
Some fruits like strawberries and raspberries seem tempting but little hands tend to squash berries when picking them. That chore is best left until a child is older.
You can plant a few short rows of sweet corn or ornamental corn… just four rows of four plants each won’t take much space. How amazing it can be to grow your own corn. Giant sunflowers can be planted in a large square with an opening left as a “door” and morning glories, scarlet runner beans, cucumbers or any other vine of your preference could be planted around the outside of the square and trained to climb the sunflower stalks. This will make a great fort, house or whatever the child’s imagination makes it.
It can be great fun to grow your own pumpkins for Halloween. You can carve a name into a small pumpkin and it will remain there and grow with the pumpkin. Just don’t cut too deeply into the skin. I have always been a bit apprehensive about marking a pumpkin because how will the child feel if his/her “special” pumpkin dies for some reason? Know the child and have a back up plan. Growing gourds of different shapes and sizes can be fun.
I hope you will have the chance to enjoy something very special with a child this year, whether it is gardening, reading a book or just watching the clouds go by. They truly can bring sunshine into your life.
Barbara Harlan is an Anoka County Master Gardener.