Getting the children to join you in the garden

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2006

Gardening is usually a hobby that attracts adults more than kids, but with some fun, eye catching project ideas and advice from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s experts; kids will be asking the adults for a chance to get out in the garden.

Kerry Smith, home horticulturist and Alabama Master Gardener Program coordinator for Extension, recommends that parents get their children involved in a program such as the Junior Master Gardeners.

The program gives kids the opportunity to experience the excitement of learning about various plants and flowers and even provides them with some fun projects along the way.

Contact your county Extension office for more information on the Junior Master Gardeners Program.

Depending on the attention span of the child, most kids are able to start learning the basics of gardening as young as four years of age.

Smith recommends starting young kids out with various fun gardening projects.

Listed below are examples and explanations of a few gardening ideas.

n Pizza garden – plant some of the vegetables and herbs required to make pizza. Examples might include, but are not limited to oregano, tomatoes and chives.

n Salad garden – plant lettuce, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and bell peppers.

n Plant big seeds – when shopping for different flowers or vegetables to plant, look for the types that have big seeds. These will be much easier for a child with small hands to use. Examples might include, but are not limited to beans, corn, sunflowers, sweet peas and morning glories.

Smith believes one of the most important points for a parent to express to a child planting a garden is that not all plants are edible.

&uot;Have a specific place for the edible vegetables and herbs to be planted and a different place for the plants that are just for looks to be planted. Be certain that your child knows what the difference is,&uot; Smith said.

Gardening can become a hobby that is enjoyed by all members of a family, but it can be beneficial for small children. Gardening teaches children patience and gives them a sense of nurturing something from just a seed to full grown plant or vegetable they can hold and show off to others.

Smith said &uot;Gardening also teaches children that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store. It teaches them that there is a process by which food grows and by showing their plants, vegetables and flowers special care, they are able to get hands-on experience with that process.&uot;