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Xanthe White's guide to growing strawberries

Thanks again to Xanthe for this excerpt from her book Organic Vegetable Gardening, in which ...

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Little Green Fingers

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Little Green Fingers

“Children in the Garden”

Kids do enjoy growing plants, and are interested in what happens in the garden. Encouraging your child to be involved in growing plants is very rewarding. It helps develop a well-balanced child in a society that is fast becoming technology orientated.

As parents you can help your child develop immensely as a person by encouraging them to take notice of what is around them. Helping them grow plants is fun and very easy, you don’t even need green fingers. Mind you after you are finished you are likely to have dirty ones – but hey that’s what soap is for.

By sowing a few seeds, transplanting them, watering, weeding around them, monitoring the plants progress and just by being aware of these surroundings add a lot to your child’s life. They become inquisitive and start to notice the environment around them, the leaves changing colour on the trees, bugs that appear, butterflies, holes in leaves that are the results of caterpillar damage. It is interesting for them and you, as a parent can easily be involved in this exciting stage of your child’s education.

Growing plants gives children a strong sense of achievement, they become proud of their achievements, whether it’s a bunch of flowers they can pick for Gran or some fresh veges for the family meal. It’s important for them to feel like they are contributing. A child has to take responsibility for the success of the plants. It encourages discipline, reliability and patience. At the same time it reinforces simple rules of life, such as plants need the right amount of regular feeding and watering to survive, if they are not looked after properly they can deteriorate, wilt and become sick.

Gardening is a very healthy activity for young and old, it gets children outside into the fresh air, it’s a physical activity, and this helps eliminate stress and fatigue. A gardening project can be a simple as planting a seed and watering it; it can be very inexpensive. Why not get a few of your child’s friends to plant seeds at a similar time to see how they all grow.

You may find when your child starts by growing vegetables it will encourage the development of good eating habits. How many of us as parents, struggle with the vegetables at dinnertime, it’s a lot easier if your children have helped produce the vegetables.

Gardening helps children develop their senses, from sight and smell to taste and feel. A great task for children to become involved in is making compost. The idea that food scrapes, grass clippings, leaves from trees, seaweed, pine needles and sometimes newspaper, can turn into plant food is quite amazing. Even on family outings to the beach, forest or farm you can collect things for the compost bin. Once the compost is ready the children can help you dig it into the garden. After a few months they will notice the soil becoming easier to work with. This gives them new experiences, its great to see them showing their friends “Check out my compost bin, I have some really big worms in mine”

As spring arrives the children will start to notice new leaves on trees, bulbs in the ground and all sort of other things as the ground becomes warmer. The spring is time to think about planting Sunflowers and Pumpkins. Sunflowers are simple and easy to grow – why not plant one for each member of the family and give it a name and watch its progress throughout the season.

Look up www.coolkids.co.nz - it is a program that is running through schools in New Zealand to get children into gardening.

It’s all about making it interesting for the children and letting them get involved.