Just as we nourish and tend to gardens to make them flourish, adults can inspire an appreciation and maybe even a love of gardens and gardening among young people in a number of different ways.
Invite children to help in the family garden – weeding, watering, picking flowers, harvesting vegetables.
Instill in your children a sense of ownership by giving them each a garden bed or row. Plant fast growing vegetables such as beans, radishes, carrots or lettuce. Cherry tomatoes and the bush type of sweet peas are fun because children can pick them, and eat them raw off the vine.
Pumpkins are great for kids because the vine wanders all over. Plant a hill of pumpkins, one for each child in your neighborhood.
Potatoes put on a good show. You can wait for the eyes to start to develop on an ordinarily potato, cut them out, lay them in soil, then add hay or grass clippings to cover them. This way you can peek at the potatoes as they start to grow.
Start fun seeds and bulbs inside the house in the winter – avocados, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, beans, paper whites.
Think colorful. Corn in wild colors is amusing; you can buy varieties in blue, black, dark green and yellow. Cucumbers come in orange, pink and yellow.
Visit local botanical gardens, nature parks and nurseries together. Taking children to public gardens (instead of museums) is a great activity since they can run around. The American Horticultural Society’s River Farm has an alphabet garden.
When traveling or walking in the neighborhood, identify plant, flower, wildflower and tree varieties –as well as mammals, birds, butterflies and insects that are vital parts of our gardens and forests.
Discuss and follow-up on interesting facts children learn at school through their science units on plants, trees, insects, earthworms – even poison ivey (a topic in first grade in Fairfax County Public Schools).
Enjoy and support Ec0-friendly activities; shop at farmers’ markets; look for open spaces in cities and suburbs; find roof-top plantings.
Pick your own. There are numerous farms in Loudoun and Fauquier counties (as well as one in Prince William county) that are open for picking your own fruits, vegetables and even flowers, starting with strawberries in the spring and running all the way to apples and pumpkins in the fall. Some offer other entertainment as well for the kids. You can find them at www.pickyourown.org.
Share books about gardens and related topics – nonfiction and picture books, even folk tales and poetry.
Visit websites created to foster environmental literacy.