By Jill Black
Starting a small garden is an excellent way for children to learn how to care for the environment and gain an appreciation for the many birds and insects with whom we share our gardens. It is also serves as an introduction to the changing weather patterns and the seasonal cycles of nature from planting the seed, harvesting (e.g. picking and drying flowers or collecting the seed) and then preparing for the next season.
If you can, set aside a special area in the garden where they can grow the flowers and vegetables of their choice. Decide what kind of garden your child wants - butterfly, herb, flower, vegetable etc.
Sketch a plan for the garden and mark off the area in the garden. Turn the soil breaking up any lumps and condition with organic compost if necessary.
Tip: Buy childs sized gloves, gardening tools and watering can to make the project fun and more real.
If you don't have a suitable area of ground use container pots, planter boxes, or even an old half wine barrel will do.
With very young children it is easier to grow flowers directly from seed. The roots on seedlings easily become damaged as they take them from the pots and transplant into the soil.
Let children choose their own plants and look for easy germinating types such as Cosmos, Snapdragons, Sunflowers or spring bulbs such as Daffodils as young children are typically impatient waiting for plants to germinate and grow.
For vegetables - carrots, peas and strawberries tend to be a favourite as they are easy to grow and great to eat.
Create a garden journal and take photos as the project progresses so your child will have something to remember over the winter months until the next season begins.
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