January 21, 2010 in Washington Voices

Introduce children to wonder of gardens

Pat Munts
 

Ask Pat

Send gardening questions to Pat Munts at pat@ inlandnwgardening. com. In 34 years of growing stuff here, she has seen about all nature has to dish out.

The squeals of joy and surprise were unmistakable. Little heads could be seen bouncing through rows of tomatoes and corn that were taller than they were. “Look at the butterfly,” one little voice called out.

There is something magical about children in a garden. Maybe it’s because the plants are right at their level so they can see things up close or that there are treasures to be found under the leaves or insects to watch. Gardening with children is a great way to connect them – and you – with nature in their own backyard.

It isn’t complicated or expensive even if you aren’t a gardener. You can learn right along with them. How many chances in life do you get to become a kid again?

Talk to your kids about having a garden. They are as bored with winter as you are. To get them excited, order some seed catalogs so you have pictures to show them. Go up to the Gaiser Conservatory at Manito Park where they can see many different plants from all over the world. Check out the resources of the Spokane County Master Gardeners at www.spokane-county. wsu.edu/Spokane/ eastside/.

Author Sharon Lovejoy has written and illustrated a number of books on gardening with kids. “Sunflower Houses: Inspiration from the Garden” (Workman, 1991 with a reissue in 2001) helped inspire the use of gardens as a teaching tool for introducing nature to children. Her “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children” (Galison, 2003) is full of ideas and ways to involve children in the world around them through gardens.

For adults, Lovejoy has authored and illustrated such gems as “Trowel and Error: Over 700 Shortcuts, Tips and Remedies” (Workman, 2003) and “Country Living Gardener: A blessing of Toads – A Gardener’s Guide to Living with Nature” (Hearst Books, 2004). In these, Lovejoy shares some of her experiences and observations about really seeing what happens in a garden and maintaining a healthy environment for all critters, plants and people.

Check out www.kidsgardening.org for age specific projects and gardening information. This site has lists of parent and teacher resources, funding and grant sources and a great monthly e-newsletter to help you connect with other like minded folks.

For the young gamers in the house, a new computer game called Bug Farm ( www.bugfarm.com) lets children 7 and older plan and tend their own vegetable garden. They have to make all the decisions to make it grow. The kids can even become a soldier bug, a good predatory insect and go after the bad bugs in the gardens just like the bugs would in the real garden. Sterling International, the creator of the game, is a Spokane company.

When it gets time to plant, team up with other families and plant a communal garden plot in a sunny, level spot where everyone can watch the plants’ progress. Have the kids plant their favorite vegetable and when things get ripe, have a potluck with their harvest as the main ingredient.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by e-mail at pat@ inlandnwgardening.com.


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