Cooking and baking are two sure fire ways I can relieve stress. Growing up my mom let me experiment starting avocados and apples from seeds. My paternal grandmother let me harvest ripe cherry tomatoes from the planters on her deck. And my maternal grandmother let me pick strawberries from her yard.
Growing food is in my blood. So it was only natural that I'd want Gates to experience it for herself this Fall before the San Francisco growing season ended.
In 2013, we set out to cultivate an indoor organic strawberry patch. If you're curious if it was successful, the answer is no. Strawberries, like many other plants, attract aphids. Aphids aren't that easy to deter when you're using repellent tactics indoor. The best offense is to release (and attract) lady bugs to your garden; not a tactic that's available to indoor gardeners.
When we moved into our new home, The Nest, last month, we were more than excited to get planting. (Note to parents: don't leave your child alone with a shopping app. We ended up with a few more plants for our inaugural crop than I'd intended: twelve tomato plants (two of each), twelve peppers (six sweet and mild and six firey), and twelve strawberry plants.)
Tips for Gardening with Kids
- Understand that your little one is curious and may be unintentionally less than gentle with your seedlings. Your little one is going to have a hard time looking with their eyes. They're going to want to touch. But, they may not have yet learned the difference between a gentle and a rough touch. We lost the top of one of our bell pepper plants. For this reason, do not start your gardening experience with super expensive or rare plants (like Marshall Strawberries). You'll be setting yourself up for conflict. Get a few extra plants and be ok with loosing a few.
- Plan on finishing your garden over a couple of afternoons. The best time for educational activities that require hand-eye coordination and listening skills are when littles are freshly rested. If you're not a morning person, this means targeting your planting for after their afternoon nap.
- If you can, get a few seedlings that already have fruit on them--especially if you're planting near the end of the season. There's nothing like something that visibly changes quickly to get and keep a little one's attention. Our strawberry plants had a mix of ripe and soon-to-be ripe Seascape berries. This was great because Gates could taste what we'd be growing and then easily remember her nightly garden tasks (watering) as she looking to see if another berry was now ready for her to eat.
- Don't rely on just the plastic plant markers to identify your seedlings. Your little one may not realize the information on each marker is different. Within seconds of getting to know her plants, Gates rearranged all of the tags. With a mix of pepper plants, some sweet and some firey, this will definitely add an element of surprise to our cooking.
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