Gardening for Kids (and Cats)

A toddler and cat stroll through raised garden beds.

By Anya Freya

There is nothing like gardening with your family. Some children, given the opportunity to plant, weed, water and harvest their own garden are more inclined to eat the moth kissed, sunburnt fruits and veggies from their own backyard than they are to finish the $12 plum from Whole Paycheck that you lovingly selected, washed and wrapped in silk before carefully placing in their lunch box.

Not my children. They are more likely to pick the blueberry flowers, throw green strawberries at each other and create a dinosaur habitat in the kale bed. At least they’re outside!

Before I had children, I had this image of myself in a soft, cotton apron and big floppy hat, walking barefoot down my garden path, back bent against the warm sun, lovingly loosening plump radishes from black soil and filling baskets with bounty while my tie-dye clad babies sat in the grass petting pill bugs. I swear I can hear the tinkling laughter of fairies in this fantasy.

Instead I have a child who refuses to eat any fruit and rotates two veggies she’ll deign to nibble when prepared perfectly, but never two days in a row… And a toddler who eats pill bugs.

For those of you still naive enough to be pinning gardening with children articles on Pinterest, I put this together for you.

Anya’s Guide to Gardening with Children

First, prepare the garden site. Raised beds with fluffy, rich topsoil are ideal for long carrots and round radishes. Mulch lightly to retain moisture and encourage the neighborhood cats to use as a litterbox.

Second, spend forty-seven thousand dollars at your local farm store on seeds, starts and pretty baskets for harvesting. Also buy a compost pot that will end up mouldering at the bottom of your front stairs next to the pumpkins leftover since October. Be certain not to read the seed packets so you’re sure to wind up with some that need a green house in Bermuda to germinate and others that must be sown in November for a crop in 2027.

Third, let the starts wither and wilt on the back porch for two weeks. Water them just enough to keep them alive and prolong your state of guilt as you torture the sweet tender baby plants. There is a special place in hell reserved for those that habitually purchase plant starts only to let them die in parched agony. We know, there’s play practice, work deadlines and dinners to be made. I understand! We’ll roast together.

Fourth, salvage the two little plants that made it through this mistreatment and plant them lovingly on a Tuesday evening, just ahead of a freak hailstorm. Wednesday morning, fish them out from the muddy pit and cry a little.

Fifth, scatter the seeds indiscriminately. After the toddler digs them all up, give her two fistfuls of lentils to “plant” so you can finish dinner.

In just six short weeks, you’ll have a lovely crop of weeds and a garden bed suitable for sunbathing cats and plastic dinosaur sanctuaries. Give the kids shovels, watering cans and more beans, and send them out to tend your lovely little victory garden. Now wasn’t that fun!

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