Lay down the pencils and hang up the book bags! Summer is here, and the warmer weather calls us to venture into the great outdoors.
Keeping the kiddos active, happy and productive over the summer months is a challenge that parents have grappled with for years. At one time, many children were raised on a family farm where there was never a shortage of chores to keep them occupied during the summer. Times have changed. Ball games, swimming lessons, and camp schedules keep everyone busy but sometimes all of these activities can make summer seem just as hectic as the school year. Creating a simple container garden as a family is just the right project to bring back the simpler, family bonding experience of working and playing together to reach a common goal and creating memories to be cherished for a lifetime.
Planting a container garden together is a natural fit for helping families to create a closer connection with one another and the world around them. Working with plants and soil, stimulates the senses and transforms the outdoors into a classroom that teaches children a multitude of lessons such as nurturing, self-confidence, patience, teamwork and even service to others.
What To Grow
A container garden that is fun and easy for young gardeners to grow and maintain can include just about any type of flower, herb, or edible. For inspiration on what to grow, review the weekly grocery list or look up recipes of some of the favorite meals the children love to eat and help prepare. You could also take this as an opportunity to grow something that the children may normally turn their noses up at, who knows? Growing and harvesting it themselves may be just what gets them to try a new food. Each family member should take an active role in selecting his or her favorite flowers, edibles, or herbs to grow. Be sure to take into account the lighting of where you will be positioning your containers when making your selections.
Depending on the look you want to achieve, container possibilities are endless and can be as unique as each member of your family. Group or cluster the containers together in odd numbers such as 3, 5 or 7. Instead of using the same dimensions for all the pots, mix up the sizes for interest. Allowing the children to select their very own 'special' container will instill ownership of the task at hand. Using an old toy that has seen better days such as a wagon, or child's wheelbarrow can add a whimsical effect as well as teach a basic lesson on recycling. Just make sure whatever is selected as a container is equipped with good drainage. You may need to drill holes in the more unconventional ones.
There are countless lessons for children and grownups alike when creating a container garden together. However, two of the most important lessons for grownups to remember are not to expect perfect results and this could get messy! Try to relax and enjoy the excitement and wonder that your new gardener or gardeners will experience with you by their side.
Work, Harvest and Share
All hands on deck… patio, or porch! The initial task of planting your containers is just the beginning of a fun-filled summer. Create a simple chart to share in the caring of the plants such as watering, fertilizing, and checking for pests so that everyone can experience the different responsibilities that are required to have a successful container garden. With flowers blooming and edibles flourishing, the remainder of the summer is an opportunity to explore ways to enjoy and share the harvest. Using the fruits of your labor to enrich your family's life is just one of the benefits of your container garden. Use this opportunity to show the children how their efforts can make a difference in someone else's life as well. Pick a small bouquet or harvest a pint of cherry tomatoes to share with a neighbor.
By introducing a child to container gardening, you have opened the door to learning an important life skill while being able to experience the circle of life firsthand.