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We're Diggin' It: More Gardening Advice From A Green-Thumbed Mama

May 15 marks the end of the frost-season and it's time to dig in...to the dirt!

Earlier this month, I described the , and I hope that now that the spring weather has come, many of you have donned garden gloves with your little ones.

This week, I wanted to add a little more information to the “Child-friendly garden” concept. If you are gung-ho, you may already have some broccoli, lettuce and beans in the ground.

May 15 is the traditional “safety date” in New England, meaning that we can put the fear of frost out of our minds and plant things in the dirt!

Teaching your children even this little tidbit of information can be a great way to introduce them to the concept of temperature, climate and planting cycles.

For example, I recently learned that while my broccoli is loving  the cool night air, my tomato plants, which had been standing like sentinels on my front steps, are not so pleased with outdoor nightlife.

Apparently, merely not freezing is not enough for tomato plants.  They like to keep a soil temperature of 58 degrees, which is pretty impossible during a 40 degree night!

 Children are innately empathetic. To raise a gardening child, it is beneficial to dote on your plants, cherish them, and treat them well.  This includes not letting your tomato plants shiver in their roots all May long (I’m  still living with the guilt!).

Your children will attempt to copy you and will most likely dote on your plants as well. I suggest buying the teeny, tiniest watering can you can find for their indoor use.

Point your child to the plants that won’t drown under  your child’s well-meaning hydration efforts. Let plant watering be your child’s responsibility, and if you are plant-crazy, like I am, let them off easy by giving them a portion of the houseplants to water.

All too often, plants are simply the backdrop to human affairs.  They shade us, freshen our air and even feed us, but we do not often give them the attention that goes to our four and two legged friends.

I have a Schefflera plant, also known as an Umbrella plant, which is about 10-years-old and 4 feet tall.  By giving “her” the name “Scheffy”, this plant has become a much more vibrant part of living room conversation.

Children love to “humanize” everything; suggest to your child that they name a plant or two, and you will soon see your child’s interest in the plant grow!

There is nothing nicer at dinner time in my home than sending my daughter to the garden to pick lettuce for a salad.

However, we’ve found a few ways to bring the garden to our attention throughout the day. One of our morning traditions is to eat breakfast outside by the garden.  Birds and squirrels are often the most active in the early morning, and this makes for a breakfast theatre of sorts on the warmer spring mornings! 

Additionally, a long-time family gardening secret comes into play at breakfast. If your family likes to eat eggs, be sure to save the eggshells. Crush them up with the bottom of a glass, or a pestle.  Sprinkle this white, sharp gravel in a circle around your lettuce and tomato plants.  Slugs and snails will be sure to avoid this mini faux-electric fence, and your veggies will live to grow another day!

Jon Richards May 16, 2011 at 03:36 PM
I just love this article. I have a 2 year old son who I would like to impart with a value for mother nature, and I can think of no better way then gardening. I especially like the concept of naming a plant to further "humanize" it. I believe that by being active in the growing process of plants and vegetables, my son will be more aware of life around him, and have a deeper sense of the underlining unity of all things. Thanks http://indoorgardener.net
Jeannie Capone May 17, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Thanks for your kind words, Jon! I think kids are born with a value for mother nature...we just need to nurture it, rather than steer them away from the messy, muddy word outdoors! This week in particular is a great example of a thriving outdoor classroom, full of worms, puddles and happy plants for our kids to explore!

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