More than Mud Pies

It’s been awhile since I held my first job, customer service at The Natural Garden in St. Charles.  I still occasionally run into coworkers from that first job, but one particular favorite of mine was Dr. Joe.  He was a retired doctor who decided to call it quits early to pursue his leisure passions.  Always the gardener, he talked plant tips with patients until he left to teach his grandchildren about the greener things in life.  I always enjoyed hearing about the new plant projects he was planning with them, and the joy he found in their discoveries of the natural world.  I often wonder if his grandchildren remember him for the time he spent with them, digging in the dirt.  The following are a few projects that Joe did with his grandchildren and some I suggest to anyone wanting to cultivate a love of gardening in a young mind.

1.  Growing Snapdragon from Seed

Snapdragons are an easy to grow annual flower that could be planting directly in a garden bed or started early in a west-facing window.  The reward in the end is the unique flower that open and close when pinched. The colors are bright and fun too.

2.  Planting a Children’s Perennial Garden

Along with interesting flowers like snapdragon a children’s garden can be planted with a variety of other interesting perennials.  Try Balloon flower with buds that look swollen just before they open.  You can actually make a popping sound if you squeeze the buds just before they are ready to open and it won’t hurt them.  Just don’t do it too early.  Other options are scented flowers like Catmint or butterfly attractants, like Butterfly Bush, Liatris, or Monarda.

3. Helping with a Vegetable Garden

Allowing children to be in charge of an area or particular type of plant is a great lesson in the entire food growing process.  Trying to keep their attention with abundant producers like green beans, or tomatoes, or satisfying a short attention span with a fast grower like lettuce.  Pumpkins germinate fast though they are not harvested until fall.

4.  Flower Press Christmas Presents

This is one I did as a child and loved.  I collected flowers in the backyard like Roses, and wildflowers like Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace.  Had I taken the creativity further, I’d have laminated them onto bookmarks, or framed them as art.  A great way for a child to make a christmas gift for a teacher, or grandparent.

5.  Creating a Garden Hideout

If you have the room, how about creating a secret hideaway garden.  This one goes against many “good” landscape principles, but in a house with children, a little non-formality won’t hurt.  Some ideas are creating a teepee, or planting tall perennials in a circle such as hollyhocks.  Hollyhocks can be planted 12″ apart with room left for a doorway.  A fun place for a tea party on a summer day.