Kids and Gardening are a Perfect Match

[This post was originally published by Horticulture Magazine and is being belatedly archived, and post-dated, here so I don’t lose it.]

Growing up in the Bronx in the 70s, I’d always thought gardening was something people only did in the suburbs when they were older, and that you had to take a trip to the Botanical Garden in order see anything more than the occasional random tree sticking out of the concrete like a sore brownish-green thumb. In recent years, though, I’ve been thrilled to discover that is actually far from the truth, and that there is plenty of gardening going on in urban areas, whether on small balconies and terraces, or in postage stamp backyards, community gardens and, most exciting to me, schools!

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Patti Moreno—aka The Garden Girl of—who gave an inspiring presentation at the Mailorder Gardening Association’s Winter Conference about Sustainable Urban Gardening and engaging a younger generation of gardeners, effectively my peers and our kids. As a fellow former New Yorker (she’s now in Boston, I’m in New Jersey), I could relate to her lack of experience with gardening as a child and the hurdles she faced trying to educate herself largely through trial and error about a passion that isn’t always very beginner-friendly.

When my wife and I bought our first house last summer, my mother came up from Virginia for a couple of weeks to help with our small backyard: she chose the plants and told me where to dig, while I explained the landscaping features I wanted… and she told me where to dig! After she left, I kept things up pretty well, laying down the mulch, and watering and weeding when necessary, enjoying several summer days (and a few evenings) manning the grill while surrounded by a variety of beautiful flowers and shrubs, coveting my neighbor’s not-yet-ripe tomatoes hanging over our shared fence. And now, as it’s seemingly getting colder every day, I’m starting to think about what flowers I’d like to add to the mix this year, and, inspired by our neighbor’s mind-blowingly delicious tomatoes, am getting really excited about starting our own vegetable garden!

One of the most gratifying things was seeing how excited my 8-year-old son was about helping out in the garden and I’m really looking forward to having him out there with me again in the Spring. Despite Planting a Rainbow being one of her favorite books, my 6-year-old daughter isn’t a fan of the outdoors, nor is my wife, so it’ll just be the two of us, kind of like it is with baseball, our other mutual-favorite Spring pastime.

Interestingly, one thing that came up several times at the MGA Conference in reference to reaching younger gardeners was the need for a more project-oriented focus, emphasizing the end result over the process. ie: Seeds of Change offers an “Edible Patio Container Gardening Seed Collection” that’s perfect for someone like my wife who loves to cook but doesn’t consider herself a gardener. She’s also a teacher and, with my encouragement, is looking for ways to incorporate gardening into her classroom, so a package like this, perhaps combined with a couple of EarthBoxes would be a great way to make gardening fun, practical and interesting to kids and adults alike! (If only this combo was marketed together…)

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