AHHH. The smells of spring. Staring out my window at the snow covered trees I can almost smell that sun kissed earthy and green smell of turning over the garden. There is something special about this time of year. We’ve sprung ahead, it’s staying a little lighter later, and the seed catalogs have started rolling in. I might even call it one of my favorite times of year. I diligently dog ear pages and dream of garden fresh herbs and produce.
My love affair with gardening started very early in life. Weekends in our house were for pulling weeds, turning compost piles, fertilizing gardens and picking herbs and vegetables. I can lovingly recall my pride in our harvest and the excitement of cooking with that days picks that I had a hand in growing. It’s a pride I still feel now as an adult and a skill I plan to pass along to my daughter.
Gardening is a wonderful family affair and it’s not limited to vegetable gardens the size of football fields or flat level yards. You can garden big or small and the enjoyment factor is just as rewarding. The wonder and excitement your children will feel when they have nurtured something from seed to harvest can happen in a window sill garden. For those of you just starting out, start small. All you need is some potting soil, mason jars and herb seeds. My favorites are basil, dill and chives.
- STEP 1. Fill the mason jars with potting soil leaving enough room so that you can add a small top layer of soil over your seeds.
- STEP 2. Label your jars so you can identify them when the seedlings start popping above the surface.
- STEP 3. Add seeds to each jar following planting instructions on the seed packet (some thicker seeds like to be filed a little or rubbed on a rough surface).
- STEP 4. Cover the seeds lightly with a top layer of soil. Don’t plant them too deep because they need the sun and water to germinate.
- STEP 5. Add just enough water to each jar to dampen the soil.
- STEP 6. Watch your germinating seed emerge from the soil.
- STEP 7. Check in on and tend to your seedlings daily!
If your ready to go beyond the mason jar, keep your garden plot small and manageable. You can also find a neighborhood garden and either rent a plot or volunteer to help someone else with theirs. Regardless of the path you choose, start with only a few varieties of vegetables and herbs. Let your children help. Give them tools and age appropriate tasks, but most importantly, regardless of age, let them get dirty. Because what’s the fun of gardening if we don’t have to scrub under our nails afterwards. Magic happens in the garden. Beyond the fact that your child, who may have never tried a green bean you placed on his plate, is eating one right off the vine, or can accurately point out the parsley in the herb garden, children who have a hand in growing their own food and understanding where it came from expand their reach with food. A bunch of basil or a handful of chives can add some fun and flavor to a meal, but when helped grow them, when you helped clip them from the plant before they went into the dish, now that is where the magic happens.
I believe children are naturally draw to the earth and gardening gives them an opportunity to disconnect with the the daily grind and make meaningful connections and memories. Gardening is a lesson in science, nutrition, nurturing, disappointment, excitement, and patience. Whether you have never gardened a day in your life or are a seasoned gardener, get your kids in the garden. You won’t regret it.