Child-friendly gardens provide a perfect pandemic hobby
BY DENNY SCOTT
With the COVID-19 pandemic now in its second year, resulting in a third wave and yet another lockdown, gardening has become a popular opportunity for people to get outside while at home.
Vegetable gardens and gardens featuring fruits and herbs are becoming a popular pastime not only because they provide an outdoor hobby, but because they help people become a little more sustainable at home.
However, gardening as a family is a little different than gardening for yourself or for food production, says Master Gardener Rhea Hamilton-Seeger, previously of the Auburn area but now living in Goderich.
She says that, when it comes time to create a garden that children can invest in, special considerations need to be made to have not only plants that children can enjoy, but that will provide opportunities for hands-on learning.
“You want to have fast-growing plants because children enjoy being able to see the growth and change day-by-day,” she said in an interview with The Citizen. “You can start with things like radishes and other seeds that quickly mature.”
Other options, she said, are cucumbers, some kinds of beans and carrots.
Hamilton-Seeger also suggested utilizing other plants to create natural growing surfaces for plants, which will allow children to see how some of the plants grow.
As an example, she suggested using blooms from ornamental grasses, which can grow to five or six feet high. By tying the blooms at the top and creating a free-standing structure, climbing beans can be planted on a makeshift trellis or support.
“Kids love to see that,” she said. “They love to see how the plants grow up.”
As far as vegetables, children can enjoy not only growing, but eating them right there in the garden, she said that any species of pea will bring a smile to their faces.
“Snow peas are great, but any peas are awesome because it’s like finding a treasure locked inside,” she said. “They’re a good vegetable for kids.”
Hamilton-Seeger said her own grandchildren loved peeling open pea pods straight from the garden and devouring the vegetables inside.
She also said that varied colours in the plants in a garden can help encourage children to take part. She suggested tackling purple beans instead of some of the more tame variants because the purple can add a splash of colour to the garden that will make it more enticing.
Having lived on a rural property and recently moved to a more urban area in Goderich, she said one of the things she thinks might be missing from children-friendly gardens is ground cover.
“Kids love to be in the garden exploring under rocks and fallen leaves,” she said. “Now that we’re in Goderich, we see people are raking their leaves all up and it takes away the opportunity to find what’s crawling underneath.”
She also suggested locating gardens near windows that are accessible for children so they can keep an eye on their project even if they aren’t able to be outside all the time.