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Family Gardening Tips

Cynthia Davis Klemmer, the Children's Education Coordinator at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, suggests these gardening activity tips for families:

  • Start small. Window boxes or containers, because of their small size, can actually turn out to be rather luxurious gardens. Recycle clean bleach and milk containers. Cut off the tops and use them as planters.
  • Be willing to put up with a less-than-perfect looking garden: crooked rows and weeds are okay.
  • Leave an area where kids can dig, even after planting. This is often their favorite part of gardening. Look for earthworms together!
  • Get some child-sized tools from a local nursery or garden center. Try to find tools that look genuine so the kids will feel like real gardeners. Can't afford it? Plastic spoons and shovels work well in window boxes.
  • Make a secret place in the garden for your kids. Leave a space between the stalks of easy-to-grow sunflowers or bean poles so they can crawl "inside." Make a chicken wire animal and train ivy around: instant topiary!
  • Kids like extremes, so plant huge flowers, like sunflowers, and small vegetable plants, like cherry tomatoes. Plant fragrant flowers or herbs like peonies, lavender, and chocolate or pineapple mint. Show your kids how to rub the herbs between their fingers to get a really good whiff.
  • Teach your kids how to compost. Find a place behind a tree, or dig a hole in the ground. Don't add anything that ever swam, walked, or flew. Toss in rinds and peels from fruit, coffee grounds, tea bags, eggshells. When it turns black and crumbly (this will take several months) you can mix it with soil and use this for fertilizer for your garden. Don't forget to put your gloves on first.
  • Look in the children's section of your library or bookstore for both gardening how-to books and storybooks. Ready, Set, Grow! A Guide to Gardening, by Suzanne Frutig Bales, teaches youngsters about specific plants. Kids Garden! by Avery Hart and Paul Mantell includes information on "sowing and growing" as well as activities for kids ages 4 and up.
  • If you're interested in more organized children's programs, check with local parks departments or public gardens to see what they offer.
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