Growing food with kids of all ages can be fun and rewarding. On today’s episode, Nicole Burke from the Rooted Garden joins us to share her mission of getting everyone growing their own edible garden. As a mom to 4 kids, Nicole is an expert on the best ways to engage kids in this process, from planning to planting to harvesting and maintenance.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- Getting kids from toddlers to teenagers involved in gardening
- Nicole's three best tips for gardening with kids
- The best crops for kids to grow
Nicole’s top three tips for gardening with kids are:
Surrender your plans for a perfect garden! If you want a picture perfect garden, you'll have to build a fence to keep kids out and that's just no fun. Over time, kids will learn to preserve the beauty of it, but in the beginning, you have to release the need for everything to be perfect.
A great way to engage kids is to involve them in the planning period of the garden. Tell them what's growing in the coming season and see what things they'd like to grow most. Involve them in the research or seed order. Every decision you allow them to join in on is one they will most likely care about more.
Give kids a job, chore, or area of the garden that's particularly theirs. For example, pick one crop for each child to tend to. Or, if it's a particular work day, let each child know what you're expecting them to do. Set expectations at the beginning of the time and let them know why their job is important.
Your approach should vary based on the children’s ages:
For children under the age of 3, it’s best to have a separate space that's just theirs where they can turn the dirt, drive their trucks, etc.
Kids between the ages of 3 and 5 are able to help with planting bigger seeds, turning soil, and spreading mulch.
Primary school aged children can distinguish and pull weeds, hunt for pests like cabbage loopers and aphids, harvest lettuce, peas, tomatoes, and clean up the garden area. The trick at this age is finding the things that motivate and interest your child and drawing them in at the right moment.
As children hit the ‘tween’ years, you've got to make it more interesting for them. This is a great stage to have them help with planning the garden, designing the area, and selecting plant varieties.
In the teenage years, kids really should start becoming the leader in planning, designing, and planting the garden.
Nicole recommended three categories of crops to plant with kids:
Crops that hide underground, like potatoes, carrots, and radishes. Kids love digging and finding treasure, and root crops are perfect for that.
Crops that grow tall. Kids enjoy reaching for things, so, do a teepee or arch that's full of beans or cucumbers.
Fun varieties that aren't available at the store, like yard long beans, lemon cucumbers, or purple snow peas.
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Rooted Garden, Houston, Texas
Nicole is a kitchen garden designer based in Houston, Texas. She's on a mission to get everyone growing their own edible garden, and she's also a mom to 4 kids. Nicole's business, Rooted Garden, has designed and installed over twenty gardens and provided consulting, design and resources for more than one hundred gardeners. Nicole grows her own kitchen garden right alongside her clients.