Gardening can be a great learning experience for children, even
the very young. It gives them an opportunity to watch life unfold and
develop, according to
horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
It also takes a minimum investment of time and money, Koske adds.
Gardening can be a distasteful experience, however, if children are
treated as unpaid hired hands. Saturday morning weeding isn't fun or
creative, but simply hot, boring work.
"But with a little planning and encouragement and a different
approach, you can plant the seeds of a good gardener in your
children," Koske says.
The secret is to start slowly and be creative or competitive about
gardening. He suggests letting each child have a separate small
garden or particular section of a big garden. Give them a choice of
what to grow. Avoid difficult or challenging crops, since they will
frustrate the kids.
Encourage the youngsters to grow things they like eating so they
appreciate the end products. Or suggest planting a vegetable they
might like to eat but have never tried. This has the added advantage
of broadening their diets. They'll be more likely to eat what they
If more than one child is gardening, a keen spirit of competition
might spark as each child tries to make his or her plot neater and
more productive than the other. Weeding, too, then becomes a contest
instead of a chore.
Be creative in your approach, Koske continues. "Instead of just
growing beans, grow a pole bean tepee. Place a center pivot pole
upright and attach several strings from the pole down to the ground
forming a tepee," he explains. As the plants wind up and around the
strings or support poles, they will form a little cone. Your children
may want to play in there and pick the beans from the inside.
Another possibility, if space allows, is to encourage the kids to
grow a big pumpkin for Halloween.
More gardening information is available at your local LSU AgCenter
office. In addition, look for lawn & gardening and Get It Growing
links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: