Don’t Forget About the Young Gardeners!

Submitted by Faye Mahaffey

Ohio State University Extension Brown County Master Gardener Volunteer

Have you thought about the younger generation of gardeners and what you might give them to fuel their interest in digging in the dirt? Each year when I speak with 4-H gardeners, I am thrilled when I hear the words, “I learned about gardening from my Grandparents.”

One of my favorite catalogs to leaf through is “Gardening with Kids.” They have a fantastic website full of great ideas for parents and teachers, and yes, grandparents! Does a young family live close by? Have you considered inviting their children to visit your gardens?

In the words of the author of “101 Kid-Friendly Plants,” “Kids are endlessly curious, basically kind, completely genuine, and a lot of fun. They enjoy messes, are gleeful about the basics of nature, and absorb anything they are interested in like giant sponges.” What qualities make perfect plants for kids? Yummy fruit. Big, bold flowers. Funky leaves. Sweet fragrances. Branches to hide in. Fly-eating jaws. Cindy Krezel’s book is a great resource for finding plants that are safe, easy to use, and fun in their own way. But she also cautions readers that you must always think “safety first!”

Another fun book is Rocks, Dirt, Worms & Weeds– A fun, user-friendly illustrated guide to creating a vegetable or flower garden with your kids. Jeff Hutton, author, landscaper and gardener, guides grown-ups and children in starting seeds indoors, creating a garden, and harvesting the bounty. In addition to teaching kids how to compost and mulch, Hutton provides ideas for activities in and around the garden, including: Planting a sunflower maze, Making a rain gauge, Creating a butterfly garden, and much more.

Looking for some fun “easy read” books for young gardeners? Some of my favorites include: Oh, say can you seed? (from The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library), Miss Maple’s Seeds, Seed to Plant (National Geographic) and Ten Little Caterpillars.

Wondering about gardening supplies for that young gardening enthusiast? Or do you want to spark some interest? What about a windowsill herb garden kit? A weather station? Do you have a bird-feeding station? Have you ever thought about raising worms? Do you want to do a better job of composting? These are all activities that are great for young gardeners as well!

It’s supposed to warm up a bit. Now would be a great time to install a snow measuring stick with a young gardener! Take a square stake 2” x 2” and 5 to 6 feet tall. Drive the stake into the ground 8-12″, so it will stay upright. Measure off 6” increments and mark them with a permanent marker. Then paint/color each increment a different color. Write down what color indicates what depth. In winter you should be able to look out of the window and see your stake!

It’s almost time for that year-end list of successes and failures. What worked and didn’t work. Get out that garden journal and start your list. Do you have any gardening “resolutions” for 2019? Start writing!

 

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