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Gardening With the Kids
Gardening With the Kids
There is a rare instance when a kid actually wants to hear the words, “Go make your bed”-- and that is when you mean “planting bed”. One way to encourage children to spend time in the garden is to let them have a bit of creative autonomy. Children can be reluctant to try something new; afraid of doing something wrong, or making a mess. With their own space to experiment, putter, and even goof up or get dirty, a child can creatively learn. This is especially true in a lovingly tended garden where when the kids are playing, one might hear from the kitchen window "Watch out for the ________ please!" (Insert your own favorite plant here)

This is where the "planting bed" comes in. Just as a child's room is a special, personalized place in the home, an individual flower bed in the larger garden is a fun kid space. Several years back I helped clients with two girls, ages 3 and 5, get interested in gardening by designing "garden beds" for flowers, veggies or making mud pies. Each girl created their own garden in the raised beds that were built in the size of a twin bed: 3.5' wide by 6' long by 18" high. Filled with topsoil and amended with 3" of compost, the beds are irrigated with drip lines that came up from underneath. Mom shopped for the used wrought iron trellises that became the "headboards". I suggested sweet peas twining up the headboards since pea seeds are large and easy for kids to cultivate.

Initially, with Mom's help, the girls selected their favorite colored potted annuals like petunias and alyssum from their local nursery. Later they added strawberries and planted pumpkins. It was a hoot to see each girl's personality come out in the plant choices and the ornaments they added, often homemade.

There are lots of different uses for "planting beds." Road courses, for instance: hills, tunnels and tracks where the plants serve as roadblocks or backdrops for a rock quarry filled with gravel. And when veggies are grown, it's hilarious to put a cherry tomato in the back of a matchbox dump truck! Or use the bed to lure interesting insects. Mount a screened box with magnifying glass in the garden to contain and better inspect the creatures that come hither.

The bed's style and use will grow as your child grows. From rain-tea parties to forts with plastic soldiers to school science experiments, your kid can have their spot alongside you in the garden to nurture their appreciation for the outdoors, the seasons, and for plants. With a personal space where they are allowed to get dirty and yes, kill things (we've all had our share of sad plants), a child can grow to love making his or her bed!
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