By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
My children always add their own “garden.”
When they were very young they always planted in beautiful containers they decorated and took great pride in choosing the flowers and herbs that would showcase their creation.
Then when they got older they always had a little plot of land of their own and when I mean little keep in mind that I “farm” on 1/5 of an acre.
The “farming gene” was one that I wanted to nurture and sought to make sure my children knew where their food came from and how much work it took just to get that cherry tomato or that apple that was in their lunch. When I became an Agriculture Education teacher I realize even more how knowing where our food comes from, how its grown, and the work involved in its production is a lost life skill.
As society moves outward and the recession continues our desire to get back to our roots becomes more compact in containers, community gardens, and urban gardens. Our schools on the other hand encourage agricultural exploration to be limited to field trips or school gardens, which represent a good start to regaining agricultural knowledge, but more can be done.
Make a commitment this gardening season and get kids out in the garden. The older ones can create a gardening budget, plan the layout of the garden, plant, and help maintain the garden. They can even create a family cookbook of recipes using the fresh produce grown in the family garden. Younger children can help plant and care for the garden along with learning how to harvest the family’s bounty. While these activities are done in a “garden” they can also be done in containers that the family can pick out together. To get you started with your “family gardening plan.” Please try one or both of these activities to get your “gardeners” started.
GRASSHEADS1 (2-5 years old)
- Egg carton
- Grass seed or chives
Wash out eggshells and let dry. While they are drying cut cups apart on egg carton. Give each child a half an eggshell and let it decorate the shell like a face. Once they have their face done have them place their creation in one of the eggcups from the carton. They can also decorate this as clothing or the rest of the body.
The eggshell is then filled with soil and sprinkled with grass seed or chives. Then gently water your grasshead. Please note watering your grasshead is something that will have to be done often to keep the plant growing. When the “seeds” germinate the child can cut the grasshead’s hair to any style and it will grow back again for another trim or new do.
GRASSHEAD 2 (6-100 years old)
- Pantyhose or recycled hose
- Grass seed or chive
Cut the leg off the panty hose or use knee-highs and fill foot with seed. Then fill with soil until it forms a round head shape and tie tightly off. Cut enough off the bottom so that the head sits on top of a cup with the bottom knot inside the cup with some of the panty hose left inside the cup. This tail of panty hose will act as a wick and help water the grasshead.
Next decorate your grasshead with buttons, ribbon, markers, or any thing else you can come up with to make your grasshead yours. Fill your cup with water and place your grasshead in cup with panty hose tail inside cup. This grasshead will self-water using this wicking system. Once your seeds germinate you can style your grassheads “hair” to your liking over and over again.
While these activities may seem minor they create “teaching moments” where some of the most valuable knowledge is learned. Regardless of where one may live these activities can be done to help preserve the agricultural knowledge base that we are losing with each generation. As I say “The family that plants together stays together” and while my family is leaving the nest I am still going to pass on my agricultural knowledge.
I am going to teach the neighborhood kids how to plant in containers this year and who knows maybe next year I will start a community youth garden. But keep in mind my kids love of gardening started with 1 eggshell, soil, grass seed, water, and time. The resurgence of gardening can continue in this generation with the same supplies and by those who want to foster the agricultural knowledge. The concept of “gardens” has changed but the natural process that makes our food has not so make a commitment this year and teach what you know this is the gardening motto.