Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Gardening in Spite of Kids

The fun and benefits of gardening with kids are well documented. Kids love to garden and getting them involved with growing some of their own food and learning how nature works is a good idea on many levels.

But that being said, there is another side to sharing a garden with kids; the less fun, more frustrating side. When all the leaves get pulled from a plant or even the plant itself is yanked from the ground. When someone tumbles over and flattens emerging seedlings. When balls ricochet off plants, knocking branches off.

Sword ferns provide a buffer for other plants
After 29 years of running a family child care home I have learned a few things. Probably the first thing would be: don't plant anything you would be sad to lose in a danger zone. Don't plant strawberries where little tasters might help themselves before the berries ripen. Don't plant the expensive narcissus where a curious hand can reach to try to pick it, only to pull it from the ground. This isn't to say that you can't have those things, just protect them with something less precious. In my garden I have sword ferns lining many of the planting beds.  When little fingers yank a frond it is an excellent moment to talk about being gentle to plants and I don't have to be sad because I know it can't hurt the ferns. Things like iris or agapanthus which multiply like crazy here are also good choices because there are always plenty left if something happens to a plant or two.

Fences can keep bikes out of the vegetable garden
Short fences along planting beds can help keep kids in bounds without closing off things too much. A little bit taller fence comes in handy in bicycle speed zones that border the sunny spot that is needed for some vegetables.  Raised beds would be another way to keep plants a little bit protected.

Some tempting plants need to be within reach. Scented geraniums and herbs like culinary sage that children can learn to rub gently and sniff, lambs' ears that are so very soft, argyranthemum that bloom all summer. All these sturdy growers offer opportunities for repeated lessons in gentle hands without the danger of killing the plant.

Short fences protect beds while scented geraniums spill over for sensory fun
I am in love with succulents for many reasons but in this context they are great because even if a piece gets picked or knocked off the original plant will be fine and you can easily root the broken piece. Another opportunity for learning! Succulents in pots can be used as buffers around posts that might be dangerous to those speeding bicycles. This is where a nice looking resin pot comes in handy since the possibility of contact is high. Keep those expensive ceramic pots for use elsewhere.

Resin pots are sturdy but provide visual cues for traffic
Gardening in spite of kids is all about having reasonable expectations. You can provide a wonderful environment for learning with just a little effort. Plan ahead, adjust as needed, and keep in mind that kids need to be in gardens. So garden in spite of them!


Gail said...

Leslie, So much of life is about reasonable expectations, but it really makes sense when we have little ones around our gardens! I love your suggestions for plants that can stand up to kids and also those that invite touching. So very thoughtful. xogail

Kathy said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. You have a lot of good ideas about kids co-existing with your garden.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Leslie, you have very good ideas about how to grow a beautiful garden while taking care of garden of children. I think you're brilliant.~~Dee