Kids in the Garden

Getting children involved in gardening is an excellent way to share quality time with them. You also have an opportunity to teach some basic botany and to instill a respect for nature and the environment.

The key to holding children's interest is to make the activity fun and rewarding. Because children are anxious to see the results of their labor, plant fast‑germinating seeds or work with transplants that are quick to flower or set fruit. Here are some ideas to make gardening fun and fruitful for children.

Make it tasty. Growing something a child can eat and also serve to grown-ups creates special pride. Set aside a small plot (a 4x4 patch is ample space) for growing vegetables, fruits, or herbs for teas.

Make it easy. Leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, green beans, and cherry tomatoes are easy to grow and can be harvested in a few weeks. Strawberries are easy and fun to grow, and the flavor of the ripe berry is sweet.

Tap their creativity. Mark the rows in a child's garden with colorful drawings of the crop. Tape the drawing to a stake and protect it from the elements with a plastic bag.

Feed the senses. Children love pretty flowers, especially if they smell good and are brightly colored. Plant seeds of moonflower vines and watch the large, fragrant white flowers unfurl at dusk each evening. Other favorite fragrant plants include dianthus, China pinks, scented geraniums, honeysuckle, and sweet peas. Zinnias and marigolds are bright and easy to grow from seed. Other fun flowers include snapdragons, hollyhocks, moneyplant, nasturtiums, and Johnny‑jump‑ups.

Grow some drama. Children are fascinated with flamboyancy. They love plants that are huge and tower over their heads. Showy flowers include 'Southern Belle' hibiscus, sunflowers, hybrid clematis, hybrid iris, dahlias, Joe‑Pye weed, and Oriental lilies.

Find the lessons. Teach your child that a garden must be nurtured and cared for if it is to flourish. As an adult, you should teach what needs to be done and help with the gardening chores, but allow your child to shoulder responsibility for his or her small plot.

Take advantage of gardening information available at our office at 411 N. Spruce, in Searcy or call us at 268-5394. The University of Arkansas System, Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Sherri Sanders
County Extension Agent - Agriculture