Thomas J. Koske | 3/15/2006 4:29:56 AM
Gardening can be a great learning experience for children, even the very young. It gives them an opportunity to watch life unfold and develop, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
It also takes a minimum investment of time and money, Koske adds.
Gardening can be a distasteful experience, however, if children are treated as unpaid hired hands. Saturday morning weeding isn't fun or creative, but simply hot, boring work.
"But with a little planning and encouragement and a different approach, you can plant the seeds of a good gardener in your children," Koske says.
The secret is to start slowly and be creative or competitive about gardening. He suggests letting each child have a separate small garden or particular section of a big garden. Give them a choice of what to grow. Avoid difficult or challenging crops, since they will frustrate the kids.
Encourage the youngsters to grow things they like eating so they appreciate the end products. Or suggest planting a vegetable they might like to eat but have never tried. This has the added advantage of broadening their diets. They'll be more likely to eat what they grow themselves.
If more than one child is gardening, a keen spirit of competition might spark as each child tries to make his or her plot neater and more productive than the other. Weeding, too, then becomes a contest instead of a chore.
Be creative in your approach, Koske continues. "Instead of just growing beans, grow a pole bean tepee. Place a center pivot pole upright and attach several strings from the pole down to the ground forming a tepee," he explains. As the plants wind up and around the strings or support poles, they will form a little cone. Your children may want to play in there and pick the beans from the inside.
Another possibility, if space allows, is to encourage the kids to grow a big pumpkin for Halloween.
More gardening information is available at your local LSU AgCenter office. In addition, look for lawn & gardening and Get It Growing links in the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com/
Source: Tom Koske (225) 578-2222, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture