Emma Biggs is 10-year old gardener who is in grade five. She helped her dad, Steven Biggs, write a book called Grow Gardeners: Kid-Tested Gardening with Children. Each year she takes over more and more of her dad’s garden, gives gardening talks and workshops with her dad and sometimes blogs on their website, www.growgardeners.com.
Last summer I grew a carrot garden, my very own carrot garden. I didn’t grow it the way dad would. It was a weird, messy mix of carrots. I had Red Dragon carrots beside yellow carrots, mixed in with white carrots, round carrots, long carrots, and short carrots.
No perfect pathways, no perfect rows. It was a kid’s carrot garden. Grown-ups might think kid gardens should be neat and perfect. No.
Kids want to help in the garden, but only when it’s fun. I think my carrot garden is more fun than my dad’s organized garden. Kid-friendly gardening isn’t always what adults want.
Kid-friendly gardening is FUN. And kids who garden are the kids who spend lots of time outside.
Here are four ways to have fun outside. They all help to grow kids into gardeners. Dad and I tell people to grow kids into gardeners with playing, exploring, and collecting, and growing.
- PLAY: Kids can get into the habit of being outside just by playing. It doesn’t even have to be in the garden. I used to make mud pies with soil, water, sticks, and leaves. My brothers, Quinn and Keaton, plow roads through wood chips. Playing is fun”¦and gets kids hanging out outside.
- EXPLORE. Just get outside and explore nature. Climb a tree to see what you can see. (We’re lucky to have an awesome climbing tree.) Blowing fluffy dandelion seeds is super fun for little kids. I show my friends the little mounds of worm poo when they come over. When I give gardening workshops with my dad, I get kids to touch worms because lots of kids have never touched worms before. Kids like stuff they don’t expect to find and stuff that is new. That’s exploring.
- COLLECT. My brother Quinn loves collecting feathers and now he grows plants to attract birds. My brother Keaton collects bugs. He once had a snail race with the snails he collected. You might not know it at first, but collecting will tell you what is interesting to your kids in the garden.
- GROW. Don’t make kids garden like adults. Try a pizza garden (with tomatoes, onions, basil, and oregano.) Or maybe a butterfly or bird garden. Themed gardens are fun. And try weird things like purple beans and yellow raspberries. One of my favorite vegetables is the Mexican gherkin (also called a mouse melon.) It’s a small relative of the cucumber. It’s really cool and looks like a little watermelon. One year I grew a low-heat jalapeno pepper. It was fun because I took it to school in my lunch to show my friends I eat hot peppers!
Here are some other ideas for fun plants for kids:
- Dry beans are fun because kids can shell them.
- Giant sunflowers can get taller than kids!
- You can eat nasturtium flowers.
- Cardinal sage attracts hummingbirds.
- And don’t forget carrots, because it’s fun for a kid to pull a carrot out of the ground.
If your kids like gardening, you might have to share your garden. Last year I had my very own herb garden, and I took some of Dad’s tomato patch.