Q: My kids have been watching me garden for several years — now at last they have asked for a garden of their own. I'm a pretty experienced gardener, but what should I grow with the kids that will keep their interest? I don't want it to be overwhelming, but they have to be responsible for the life and death of a plant — gardening requires some work, but I don't want to scare them away!
A: So you're growing a new crop of gardeners for us? My hat's off to you!
You're right — gardening teaches responsibility for all living things. It might be the precursor to their first pet — after all, that pet will require feeding and watering and walking at a prescribed time — and tidying up, too.
Make gardening fun!
Start by buying some child-size tools. Tools won't be a waste of money, because you can always use them later — small rakes and shovels will be great for your smaller jobs like tiny transplants and cleaning out around tender plants and smaller spaces like in herb and alpine gardens. For now, they will be the kids' very own tools.
Be prepared for kids to lose a trowel or two over the summer!
Several young gardeners in the family? You might buy different-colored handles. Teach kids to care for tools, how to pick them up, clean and put them away after use.
Depending on the age of the child in these first years of gardening, you're wise to keep their interest alive by growing "sure things" so kids won't get discouraged — plants that are simple, reliable, fast-growing, tasty and interesting to the child. Do include simple veggies to eat raw: It's amazing to see how a fresh tomato or carrot warm from the sun and from their own garden is hard to resist and can tempt even a non-vegetable eater. Salad greens are a sure thing, and so healthy — but don't tell the kids!
Fruits such as strawberries or berries are naturals — and, if there's room, plant some pumpkins.
And include some simple flowers to cut — flowers for Mommy or a neighbor makes the youngest gardener so proud. Flowers to pick include marigolds, big and small, and some "fun plants" such as morning glories and night-blooming moonflowers.
Happy gardening with the kids! You'll both learn a lot this first year.
This week's dirt
It's that time! Time to open your doors and let the houseplants out for their annual summer vacation in your yard. We've waited patiently until temperatures remain steady and warm enough to suit these tropical plants — and it's finally here. Temperatures are reliably in the 50s at night, and it's time to make a move.
For the first week, place plants under a shady tree to acclimate them to the increase in sunlight strength and wind and rain and to avoid sunburn on delicate leaves. Then, in a week or two, move plants to a sunnier, more permanent summer position near your water source.
Can all plants go out for the summer? Maybe not! A few of the more delicate bloomers like African violets would much rather spend the summer on an airy screened porch rather than to risk snapping tender leaves.
Potted houseplants can be used to temporarily decorate your front steps, or to fill in holes in the garden — just make sure the sun isn't too bright and that little pots aren't forgotten when it comes time to water and fertilize. They can be hung in sturdy trees, placed on the deck or live near the pool — but keep them away from chlorine and other pool chemicals.
How much easier it will be to water with a gentle hose nozzle instead of a watering can — it's vacation time for you, too.
North Shore Gardener by Barbara Barger of Beverly is a periodi feature of Friday's Lifving section. Reach Barbara by email at email@example.com. Previous North Shore Gardener columns can be found at www.nsgardener.com.