Because I was a late bloomer, not gardening until after retirement, I didn't pass on my passion to my children. But I hope that at least one of my grandchildren will discover the joy of growing things. To this end, during my Christmas visit to my son's family in Arizona, I helped my 12 year old grandson, Anthony, plant a small vegetable garden in a container. One advantage of the desert climate is the extended gardening period. In December and January it is possible to grow cool-weather crops, while being careful to cover them if frost is forecast.
My grandson gathered his supplies: a self-watering container (I bought him a gardening kit for Christmas), potting medium, plants, tools, etc. Earlier, we went to the garden center where he picked out some vegetable plants, a herb and a flower. We also purchased peat-based potting medium. Following the instructions that came with the kit, Anthony began by moistening the potting soil, then pouring it into the container.
He filled the box to a couple of inches from the top. He added a layer of dolomite (included in the kit) and mixed it into the top two inches of soil.
|He sprinkled dolomite evenly over the potting medium.|
My budding gardener added moist potting medium over the dolomite up to the rim of the container. He made a two inch channel down the middle where he would place fertilizer. We used all organic supplies.
|Anthony poured organic fertilizer into a center channel...|
|... then mounded the fertilizer channel with potting soil.|
After mounding more moist potting medium over the line of fertilizer and filling the box to the top, he added the plastic mulch that came with the kit. He placed the plastic mulch with its black side up; the other side is white for hot weather. Then we carefully cut holes in the plastic mulch for the plants: he planted two lettuces, three broccoli, one basil and a pretty cyclamen that he chose for its lovely bloom. We purchased too many vegetables for a small planter, so he gave the extra lettuce to his pet guinea pigs.
|Cyclamen and basil planted through holes cut in the plastic mulch.|
|Back row: lettuce, cyclamen, basil, lettuce. Front row: three broccoli.|
(Please forgive the quality of the pictures: I used my iPhone and at a time of day when the light was all wrong.)
|Anthony wheeled the planter to a sunny spot on the patio.|
His final task was to add water through the tube in the corner of the self-watering kit. He told me he enjoyed planting his garden and couldn't wait for his first harvest.
When gardening with children catch them young, if possible, and start small: you do not need a perfect plot of land to create learning opportunities. I believe, however, it is important to give the child genuine tools. I gave Anthony an adult's trowel shaped especially for container gardens and a serious pair of gardening gloves. I originally bought packets of seeds, and Anthony wanted to sow the carrots, but because they germinate slowly and produce tiny, slow-growing seedlings, I decided starter plants would be more suitable, especially as I wouldn't be there to help with thinning and encouragement.
Anthony made important decisions about what to plant and where to locate his garden. I focused on the basics:
- the best spot to place the garden
- great soil
- water requirements
- feeding requirements.
I came to gardening very late in life, but my love of horticulture stems more from the inspiration of my childhood than from any other factor. I recall the heady smell of wallflowers in my grandmother's spring border as I 'helped' my grandfather tend his veggie garden. Mother allowed me to pick crocosmia (she called it monbretia) from her flower garden. I would mix the spikes with cardinal flowers and phlox and carry them to school for my teacher. Because of that memory, I grow crocosmia in my cottage garden today. I loved to pick tomatoes in Dad's greenhouse and watch as he pruned his beautiful roses. I thank my parents and grandparents for their inspiration.
Do you have someone to thank for inspiring you, dear gardening friends?
Happy New Year!
|Prickly pear cactus in my PA garden|
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