From The Sperry Garden – March, 2009
There’s something magical about gardening with a child, and our grandson Alex had a heart-warming wish this past December. Alex announced several weeks before Christmas that what he really wanted most was to plant a garden with me this spring. And, he never forgot that request. Nor did I forget my promise.
This past Sunday afternoon, Alex and I planted the garden, and I thought I’d pass along a few tips in the hopes that you, too, might help a young person turn on to the world’s greatest hobby.
• Start small. 100 square feet is probably enough. Kids’ attentions dart quickly. Remember, this is for fun. It shouldn’t become work. If you don’t have ground space, grow things in pots.
• Full sun is critical. Warm-season vegetables all require it.
• Prepare the soil carefully. It’s the foundation of everything you will plant. Incorporate 4 or 5 inches of organic matter, and till 10 to 12 inches into the soil. Be sure the area drains well.
• Choose vegetables your youngster enjoys. Alex loves beans, and he brought his own hot pepper seeds (no kidding!), so we’ve planted them in the greenhouse. I’ll probably buy him a couple of pepper transplants as well, just as a backup. I asked him to help me grow 3 or 4 tomatoes, since they’re Grandma’s favorites, and we’ll have a couple of squash plants, because her pimiento cheese spread recipe with squash is a family favorite.
• Remember that some vegetables take a lot more space than others. Corn requires large plantings to ensure good pollination and full ears. Watermelons and pumpkins spread to cover large spaces. These may not be the best choices for smaller gardens.
• Guide children as they plant, to be sure seeds and transplants are at the right depths.
• Show them how to water plants properly, and stick with them all season to double check that it’s done.
• Teach them the importance of feeding their plants so that they’ll grow well and produce to their maximum. Help them understand that insects and other pests may invade, then stand off to the side and be vigilant.
• When it comes time to harvest, show them how, and then step back as they proudly display the fruits (and vegetables) of their labors. Your own personal "harvests" will come months and years later, as you think back at the wonderful experience you’ve created.
Thank you, Alex. I had a lot of fun working alongside you.