Updated: Sep 4, 2019
You love tending to your vegetable garden. The savory fragrance of fresh-turned earth, the touch of sun or wind on your bared skin, the gentle micro-life busily carrying out their duties among the leaves and flowers – it’s an experience that gardeners everywhere find both invigorating and relaxing. But how do you pass this love on to your children?
There are so many reasons to want your children to enjoy organic gardening alongside you:
Working towards common goals strengthens relationship bonds.
Outdoor play and work is very good for them.
Sustainable gardening is a lifestyle habit you’d like them to continue into their adult years – it will be good for their bodies, their bank accounts and the environment – and they need to learn how to do it.
You’d appreciate the help, or just the company.
In this article, we’ll show you how to inspire your kids to start producing their own organically grown food.
1. Start young
Small children are fascinated by everything their parents do, and have a natural desire to help. Include them every time you tend your veggies. It may take a little more time, a little more patience, but once they know the ropes, you’ll probably be surprised at how much an inspired five-year-old’s insatiable energy can accomplish. If it’s already a weekly or daily habit by the time they reach their teens, it’s one they’ll be less likely to break, or more likely to pick up again once they have a place of their own. After all, gardening really is therapeutic.
2. Create a sense of ownership.
When I was a kid and my family moved from crowded Cape Town to the quiet countryside, my dad needed help with the expansive vegetable garden he planted. His first step was to assign a large garden bed or two to each of his eldest four kids. We nourished those beds as though the plants were our children. We could choose what plants were planted there (we were given a variety of practical choices), and we had to weed, water, sow and harvest. Because we felt responsible for our beds, we were proud of them, and were inspired to tend them.
3. Encourage them to make money from their garden.
Pocket money can be a huge incentive for children and teenagers alike. You could buy any vegetables your child can grow for your own table. Accept only the same standard of produce that you would from a neighbor, and pay more for items that are harder to grow. If this isn’t financially viable for you, help your kids to grow more than enough food for your household, and facilitate them in selling the excess to neighbors, friends and family members, or at the local farmer’s market. Or, pay them pocket money per hour or half-hour of garden work.
Top Tips for a children’s garden:
Provide oversight and training on gardening techniques.
Make sure the size of the bed is equal to the age and energy level of the child. Toddlers can feel included with basic garden pots!
Set up a watering system that’s easy to use and keeps water sustainability in mind, like a simple dripper system connected to a tap, or self-watering pots.
Use mulch to minimize the need for weeding and watering.
Praise your kids for their labors. Praise them when they squash a cutworm, pull out a weed, switch off a tap after watering; praise them at the table when tasting that crisp green salad, fragrant soup or butter-soaked platter of baked veg. If you do, you’ll hopefully still be praising their healthy, vibrant vegetable beds when you’re elderly and coming round to their place for Sunday lunch.
Written By Rifke Hill
About the Author
Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.