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March 30, 2009

Kids in the garden

mesclun   grape tomatoes

When Joe and Jessie were little, my Mother's Day gift was the same each year: six tomato plants and the time to plant them.

  Gardening was something I did on my time off from mothering, but it doesn't have to be that way. You can get your kids started early, and you don't need much more than a couple of large pots on a deck or patio.

  Now is the time to plant lettuce or spinach seeds in one of those pots. Even little hands can sprinkle the seeds, with your help. If you are planting lettuces, choose a colorful mesclun variety. They produce a gourmet salad in a pretty short time.

   As greens grow, you and the children can thin the seedlings and then harvest the tender leaves. Leave the plant and its roots in place and it will sprout new leaves for another harvest, something that I bet will amaze the kids.

Strawberries are another kid-friendly crop, and you can plant those now as well. They make nice ground cover if you have a spot for them in one of your beds.

  When Mother's Day rolls around and it is time for those tomatoes, you can use large deck pots again, this time to plant a couple of cherry tomato plants. These tomatoes come in wonderful shapes and colors and are just the right size for little hands to pick and pop in the mouth.

   I have this idea that my children will remember that their mother gardened. How much better for yours if they actually do it with you.

  Let's hear your "kids in the garden stories. To get you talking, we have a contest. A winner will be chosen at random from those who comment to score a copy of Grow It, Cook It: Simple gardening projects and delicious recipes. It is perfect for gardening kids and their gardening parents.

The catch? You've got to enter your e-mail address when you comment so I can contact you afterwards, but rest assured that we will not publish your e-mail address. That's between you and me.

Tomato photo courtesy of Park Seeds.

Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Kids in the garden


My kids are little (3 and 1 year old twins) but last year we planted a lot of bulbs in the fall. My then 2 year old wanted to be involved and we thought it would be nice to have a more natural look to the flowers. So I let her toss the bulbs into the flower box and planted them where they fell. Now, a year and a half later, we have a beautiful display of blue bells that my daughter proudly announces she planted.

I look at those flowers and how they've grown and spread this summer and look at my daughter who has grown as well! I love connecting her with my growing outside. It makes me think of her when I see the flowers.

Safire. When Jessie was little, I let her choose the flowers for "Jessie's Garden," one of those half-barrels by the back deck. It was small enough for her to get her head around, as it were. Jessie is 22 now, too social to garden or even visit me there, and the barrel dry-rotted and is gone. I am hoping she remembers "Jessie's Garden" when she has children of her own.--Susan

I am excited about gardening with my little boys this year. Our two year old loved harvesting last year (popping tomatoes right into his mouth from the plant :), but he is in on the planting this year too. I would love this book for some more ideas.

Susan, it's a surprise what kids remember. Mine don't remember - or, don't "remember" - what I'd planned for them to and what they do recall makes me say, THAT?? You remember THAT??

My younger son used to complain about my gardening. "Too many flowers. Not enough lawn." He changed his tune when he was big enough to get stuck with mowing duties.

Divine justice!--Susan

I can't wait for Maryland heirloom tomatoes.And peas...MMM peas!

My daughter is only four and this will be her 3rd year gardening. At first, she helped me plant bulbs , because they were large enough for her tiny hands to grasp. Last year, we started some seeds in the house and transplanted them to our backyard. She was able to pick cherry tomatoes all summer. Again this year, we started seeds in the house and we are expanding our vegetable garden. She is always so excited to see how much the seeds have grown. Every night she checks them and asks, "Can I water the plants". I love spending time with plants and also enjoy sharing my passion with my daughter.

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About Susan Reimer
Susan Reimer has spent 16 years writing about raising kids - among other topics - in her column for The Baltimore Sun. And every time son Joseph or daughter Jessie passed another milestone - driver's license, college, wedding or a move to a new military duty station - she has planted another garden. Now she will be writing about those gardens - and yours - here on Garden Variety.

Susan isn't an expert gardener, but she wasn't an expert mother, either. Both - the kids and the gardens - seem to be doing well in spite of her.

She lives in Annapolis with her husband, Gary Mihoces, who loves to cut his grass but has noticed that there seems to be less of it every time the kids pass another milestone.

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