Perhaps you read up on my gardening posts over the last couple of years and perhaps you remember last summer when we ended up with a deliciously edible tomato forest comprised entirely of the results of one seed I did not plant last spring. No, in fact, all of those seeds sprouted, grew and withered due to my inattentiveness while the tomatoes from the previous year that had gone to seed after I lost my gardening gusto replanted themselves and blessed us with an abundance of cherry tomatoes well into the fall!
So why garden with my kids if I might not have the greatest talent for it? Because my mom gardened with me and her mom gardened with her and because there are generations of photos of mud-covered versions of our younger selves holding cucumbers and zucchini taller than we were. Because it's fun, it's healthy, it can be relatively inexpensive and it is hugely beneficial to a number of developmental skills to boot.
Gardening encourages gross motor & fine motor development, gets kids OUTDOORS and moving! Summer months without school can feel daunting. How do you fill the hours let alone the days? A garden is bound to take up time and fill it with meaningful and healthy activity that will get your (and your children's) bodies moving and soaking up healthy amounts of Vitamin D (just don't forget the sunscreen).
Gardening encourages planning, organizing and is a natural way to experience the science, math and literacy. From seed, to sprout, to plant to produce, growing a garden is a science and an art. Even failed attempts are part of the lesson! Plotting your plot will call upon math and spacial awareness skills. Reading directions on seed packets and introducing your children to a host of novel vocabulary as they explore new tools, plants and flowers will have you reading without even realizing you're reading! (This is a huge plus for reluctant readers in the summer.) Critical thinking is unavoidable as you troubleshoot infestations and unwanted pests, plants that thrive and those that don't...and just wait until you begin to enjoy the bounty of your labor in your kitchen.
|Even your pickiest eaters...|
|....might just be willing to try out a lettuce leaf or two if they grew it themselves!|
|Even the littlest of littles can lend a helping hand...|
|They will grow bigger (so might your garden)...|
|...and eagerly teach the next in line all the rules of the road when it comes to helping in the garden!|
If you're not overly convinced or gardening on a large scale is not practical for you, think small!
Consider a kitchen herb garden planted in a container either indoors or outside. Whether you start from seed or buy a plant at your local grocer, garden shop, farmer's market or plant sale, choose a few favorites (or something new) and spice up your favorite recipes throughout the season. Many herbs can continue to thrive in a kitchen window throughout the cooler months given adequate sun and water. Alternatively you can dry and/or freeze your harvest before the first frost!
Radish seeds are quick to germinate, quite hardy, and produce a harvest in a short amount of time. You will have quick results and success and plenty of time left in the season to plant more radishes or something else. We plan to try out some carrot seeds once we harvest our radishes and enjoy that harvest into the Autumn season!
When choosing a container, keep in mind ones that do or do not have drainage at the bottom. You can find great options secondhand or re-purpose something in your own home as opposed to buying new if you'd like.
Perhaps you'd prefer to plant or purchase a pot of colorful flowers for your stoop or window box. Brightly colored blooms will attract pollinators like hummingbirds, bees and butterflies! I run a local outdoor meet-up group and this week we will be joining friends in a butterfly garden seed exchange! Easy to grow and hardy annuals are a great candidate for growing your own potted flowers. Marigolds in particular do quite well where we live and ward off mosquitoes and other garden pests.
But if growing your own plants and gardens is not something that appeals to you or is possible right now, consider inviting gardening into your home in an alternative way. Join (or start) your own nature based meet-up group. Visit local garden centers, botanical gardens, farmer's markets and produce shops. Many communities have gardens where families can volunteer or otherwise participate to work and help. Perhaps a friend or relative would like some help in the garden and welcome some additional hands. Many times a neighbor might need to go out of town and want someone to garden-sit (and even enjoy some of the harvest).
Being surrounded by the colors and bounty of the season in every season always brings such joy to our home. I love how excited S gets over picking a dandelion whether it's yellow or full of fluff he can blow away. He got so tickled over a couple of small flower plants I picked up for him and Y before last Shabbos. He loves Shabbos treats that are edible but was just as excited when he got to pick which flowers would be "his," and which would be for Y. He immediately moved his orange blooms right beside his dinner plate and it kept him company throughout the meal.
If gardening on a larger scale is not your thing, consider welcoming some of the bounty of this season into your home in the form of cut or potted flowers, fresh herbs, fruits and veggies. Feel free to visit your local library for some great literary inspiration. I am eager to get my sleepy boys out of bed and out to our garden. We'll be there if you need us!