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Fostering love of gardening brings families together

Eating vegetables can be a hard sell to children. They have become so accustomed to hamburgers and hot dogs, and if you put veggies in front of them, they shrink. It can be challenging to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables, but maybe we’ve gone about it the wrong way!

The Springs Preserve is adding a new topic to its gardening seminars, it’s "Gardening with Your Family." Gardening is a great way to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables, not to mention increase the bonding that takes place within the family. Learn how to keep them interested from the first radishes to the last pumpkin in the fall. The workshop is at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Call 822-7786, because reservations are a must.

Something almost magical happens when kids become immersed in gardening. You’ll see improved self-esteem and social skills, and their attitude about the environment will change for the better.

Kids today have a lot of distractions: watching television, playing computer games, going to parties etc. Notice their interest increases when producing their own vegetables. They’ll be digging holes, making mud pies, snooping for insects and, in the meantime, watching their vegetables grow.

Here are some tips for gardening with your children:

n Start small.

n Engage them through the entire process, from seed to table. Children learn better when they understand all that needs to be done.

n Place the garden where you can see it from your kitchen window or other rooms you spend a lot of time in.

n Let kids choose what to plant. Make sure they have quick success stories, such as harvesting radishes within a month. On the other side of the coin, my favorite was pumpkins, but it took three months to mature. In the meantime, I was on the end of a hoe weeding and I dreaded it.

n Let kids plant things where they want; it’s OK to grow beets and carrots with roses, and petunias!

n Relax your traditions. It’s OK to have crooked rows. You’ll get just as much produce as you do from formal straight rows.

n Let them dig in their own plot. You’ll find holes become popular with younger kids. They just might find worms wiggling and then you can teach them about the value of worms to our soils.

n Let kids make their own decorative scarecrows and bird feeders. This causes more awareness as birds visit the garden.

n Have kids make their own labels by drawing a picture of the particular vegetable they are growing.

n Never say, "Let’s go spend an hour weeding!" Let them weed until they lose interest and then you finish weeding!

n Give them their own set of tools. You’ll find these tools in gardening catalogs. If kids want a hoe like yours, cut the handle off for easier use.

n You may need to cheat a little! Not all the tasks are pleasant or the child may not be old enough to do them, so you need to step up to the plate and rub off a few aphids

n Look for the teachable moment. You may want to show them the male and female parts on a squash plant, but a praying mantis sets down on a plant. Have the kids observe how a mantis positions itself to lure in its food or maybe go to war with another mantis fighting for an insect.

n Show their produce off; this goes a long way to increasing interest. And take photos of them through the gardening process. This is a real motivator.

n Make sure they do their own harvesting and preparing the vegetables for eating no matter how few they get.

n And let’s not forget the neighbors. This is an ideal time to give produce to friends and neighbors.

Gardening should be fun! Just remember: The best thing you can grow is your "gardener."


Let Muriel Scriver, president of Ikenobo Ikebana Society and Bonsai Society show you Ikebana (Japanese floral art). She is well-known for her award-winning work and will be demonstrating at the Sunset Garden Club at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Paseo Verde Library, 280 S. Green Valley Parkway in Henderson. This is a free event.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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