Monday, June 25, 2018

Sprout Scouts Playcamp: Taking Inventory, Collecting, Cutting & Arranging Your Garden Harvest

Gardening comes with a lot of hands-on work and care as you dig, plant, water and weed. But then there is the hands-off aspect--the parts that involve waiting and watching and walking around carefully. Surely, gardens are meant to be appreciated but they are also meant to be used. Food gardens are an obvious source of fruits, vegetables and herbs that can be harvested and used in the kitchen when the time is right, but our gardens provide us with a lot of other ways to appreciate our harvest throughout the seasons.

Flower gardens especially tend to be in the category of "hands-off appreciation." Weeds are pulled and tossed away. Even parts of food gardens that we don't necessarily eat or use get quickly composted or tossed aside. Through the eyes of a child (and an adult), these can be objects of beauty! Even if you do not have a garden, you likely have access to a lawn with some interesting weeds or a nearby area with wildflowers. When it comes to picking flowers and plants in nature, I do teach children a few core rules:

  • Always ask a grown-up before touching touching a plant. Some plants can be unsafe.
  • Always ask a grown-up if it is OK to pick or cut a plant. Some areas, especially nature preserves, may have rules about this.
  • When you are cutting or picking a flower from nature, try to choose ones that are abundant in supply so that many will be left over.
  • When you are cutting from a plant, try not to cut the outermost blossom or leaf, as this can alter the future growth of the plant. A grown-up can help show you a good spot to cut.
  • Some plants and flowers are edible and safe, but not all of them. Always check with a grown-up before eating anything you pick outside.

Pansies were one of the first things we planted early this spring and they are still growing strong out front, now accompanied by some petunias and salvia plants. As We've enjoyed their beauty in our garden, it occurred to me that we could clip some blossoms to bring inside and enjoy! Not only would this bit of the outdoors bring life and color indoors, but it also makes room for new blooms to blossom. As we settle into our summer rhythm here, it has worked best for Y to have a short morning nap and S has loved this time with just the two of us. Often we take a morning garden inventory to see what is growing, what is ready to be harvested and collect any "garden treats" we can find. This morning's garden inventory revealed a small crop of beans ready to be picked, a sweet pepper, a nasturtium and some green tomatoes in waiting...

As we enjoy the hands-on experience of gardening, S especially loves using a collection of toy animals, peg dolls and accessories in our mini playgarden and surrounding yard...

We headed back through to the front yard with scissors carefully in hand and a small glass vase. It was time to cut some flowers for arranging! I, the adult, with the less discerning eye, of course headed straight to the flower garden. S, the child full of wonder and an untainted sense of beauty also found the most lovely clovers, tall blades of grass and other interesting weeds. He asked each time whether it was OK to cut and where to clip.

Herbs can also make a lovely bouquet or addition to a bouquet. They are so very fragrant and lovely and especially ones that bolt and flower (like basil, dill, parsley and cilantro--even lettuces) can make a gorgeous addition to your indoor arrangements. Even carrot tops, overly abundant green tomatoes and other greens that you don't intend to use from vegetables in your garden can be arranged alongside flowers in a vase. They will surely be conversation starters at your dining room table!

The garden is truly a place of wonder and curiosity. Although we garden on a small scale due to small space, a tiny taste of our tiny harvest is truly a treat! And even the more particular taste testers are eager to take at least a little nibble!

I hope this inspires you to enjoy and savor every bit your hard work and harvest. Happy Harvesting & Happy Playing!

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