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News / Life / Clark County Life

Gardening with Allen: Give a child their own garden

By Allen Wilson, Columbian freelance writer
Published: June 15, 2024, 6:05am

I have recently been talking to a friend whose 4-year-old son has taken an interest in gardening. It reminded me of some of my own experiences with my own children and grandchildren.

For little children starting as young as 2 years, I found that the most exciting thing I could get my children and grandchildren involved in was to get them to help me plant new plants in the landscape. I would start by digging a small hole for a plant and having a child place the plant in the hole and then help me place soil around the roots.

Later, as my children got older, I’m afraid I was not a very good teacher. I was too concerned about making my landscape look perfect. My youngest daughter showed more interest in gardening than her older brothers and sisters. When she was about 12 she was helping me plant the vegetable garden. When she became somewhat reluctant to help me, I remembered my own experience. When I was 9 years old my parents turned over a flower garden to me that had been my older sister’s when she left home. She had developed this area that had been given to her for several years. I was given help and encouragement, but it was my garden to do whatever I wanted.

So, I said to my daughter, I am giving you this part of the garden to plant any way you want. I will help you, but you decide what to plant and how to take care of it. We went inside and I did not say any more as I waited to see what she would do. A couple of days later she asked me to take her to the nursery to buy some plants. Within a few minutes we were on our way.

I found out that she did not want vegetable plants. She had decided to plant flowers. She communicated to me clearly that she just wanted to know how tall and wide each plant would grow, but she was going to choose the varieties and colors and design and plant them. Jenny’s flower garden was the prettiest part of our landscape during the next 5 or 6 years.

It wasn’t until I learned the key factor that I had real success in getting my children interested in gardening where they took the initiative that I did when I was a child. The key factor is ownership. It is only when a portion of the garden or landscape becomes mine that real success begins. My friend’s 4-year-old already has his own 3 feet by 8 feet grow-box for vegetables.

When someone becomes involved with gardening, they learn much more than just how to grow plants. When anyone carries through a gardening project to get the reward of some fresh vegetables or flowers or a beautiful landscape, they learn the law of the harvest. It is only when we take the responsibility for consistent effort on any project that we reap the reward. Who doesn’t want to teach their children responsibility? Some people go through their whole life without learning this principle.

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Columbian freelance writer