By Denny Scholl
Children are the canvas to a world full of color and opportunity — sunshine, fresh air, and the taste of nature bring this special piece of artwork to life. Letting your child play in the dirt is the perfect way to plant the seed and cultivate your child’s green thumb.
Gardening teaches kids about plants, soils, bugs, and the responsibility it takes to care for growing flowers, vegetables, and fruits. The best thing about gardening? It gets kids outdoors and away from the TV and computer.
How to Grow Your Child’s Green Thumb
- Garden Party
Encouraging a child’s interest in gardening begins with nature itself — and you. Take the kids on a field trip to pick pumpkins, berries, and other fruits. Visit farmers markets and local florists to talk to home gardeners and flower lovers. Take a stroll through nearby botanical gardens.
- Getting Started
Gardening tools like spades, hoes, rakes, and tillers come in child and adult sizes; choose the ones that work best for your kids.
Test the soil in your garden to determine its range of acidity. If you like green peppers and tomatoes, they prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.5. Plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Take note of nearby trees and how their branch canopies will filter sunlight or block it out altogether. Your job as the “main” gardener is to know your land as well as you know your kids.
Choosing the kinds of flowers, fruits, and vegetables to grow outdoors starts with what your kids like — and don’t like. You know what they’ll eat, but oftentimes and for no apparent reason, kids take an instant dislike to something. Maybe it’s the smell, taste, name, or color.
Plant a few rows of those vegetables and prompt your little one to care for them. At harvest time, your finicky children may be willing to try these vegetables again.
Plants with strong scents are attractive, as well as those with a rubbery or fuzzy feel to them. Create a rainbow of colors with green beans, green-blue broccoli, yellow squash, white onions, brown potatoes, red tomatoes, purple eggplant, and orange carrots.
- Dig In!
Digging into the dirt is one way to really get to know the soil, and your kids will enjoy getting muddy in the process.
A word of warning, though: When there’s dirt, there are bugs — some of those are stinging insects that swarm around Charlotte area gardens. Teach them which ones to avoid and which ones help aerate the soil.
- Indoor Greenery
Want to have a garden growing in your bathroom? How about a wall full of flowers? Or maybe a tree growing through the living room? Hydroponic gardens — in which plants grow in water — are available in various sizes. You can set one on the bathroom counter or anywhere else in the home.
Another indoor option for your budding gardener: Garden walls contain herbs, ornamental grasses, small flowers, and vegetable plants.
Spice up your décor with North Carolina native greenery like maidenhair ferns, Carolina lupine, and eastern blue star flowers. Teach the kids how much water to use and how to remove dead foliage and buds.
For a remodeling project, consider adding a nature room to your home — complete with a tree growing through the floor. With a maple or magnolia tree dropping leaves in the fall, the kids will have their hands in nature all year long.
Passing on the Green Thumb Gene
The key to cultivating your child’s green thumb begins with you, and your own relationship with nature.
If you’re the “outdoorsy type,” your instincts will take over with ease. But if you’re apprehensive about getting your own hands dirty, or fussy about the kids staying clean at all times, it’s likely to influence your children.
A green thumb grows from the seed that plants it.
Denny Scholl is a third-generation farmer who hopes to pass his 5-acre farm down to his sons one day. He grows green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini for his family and neighbors who visit him at the local farmers market. What he doesn’t sell, he barters for baked goods.