By Kristan Stephens, Lark Song Kindergarten Teacher
As the summer season is upon us, I invite families to take the time to create a small garden at their home so you can share in the wonder of tending a garden together. At school, the children have many opportunities in the kindergarten and through the grades to care for a garden and we see the benefits this provides as the children grow. Gardening is especially good for young children because it gives them the opportunity to experience a process the whole way through from start to finish. So many experiences in our culture are fractured, and gardening provides children with the chance to see something begin as tiny as a seed and mature through to the harvest and feast!
Many families express interest in gardening but do not know where to start, so I want to offer a few small ways you can begin incorporating this into your daily life. Some families are able to cultivate beautiful gardens in the yard, but it doesn’t always have to be such a large endeavor. Here are some tips for starting smaller if you prefer:
- Plant a kitchen-window garden – keep potted herbs or start young plants in small containers on a sunny window.
- Create flower box or planter gardens. Herbs, tomatoes, and pepper plants all grow well in small containers. These can be placed by the back door or on the front patio or wherever you may have a little room!
- Consider installing small raised garden boxes in your yard. Raised beds help minimize weeds and optimize water usage. You would be surprised what you can grow in just a few square feet!
- Volunteer to help tend the school garden. Generally the third grade holds this effort during the year, but they are always happy to welcome volunteers in the summer months when lots of help is needed to weed, water, and harvest!
- Support a community garden – there are many community garden efforts in the area. Check with your city to see what locations are in need of volunteers or consider starting one in your own neighborhood!
In the Lark Song class, we are starting small. We have planted two small containers outside the front patio with a small selection of herbs and greens. While it may not seem like much, the joy these bring the children has been significant. Each morning little helpers assist me in watering the plants. As the herbs have grown, many eager hands are always ready to sample the leaves or harvest a few handfuls of kale or spinach to add to our soup on Tuesdays. While we are working towards building and cultivating a larger garden in our kindergarten yard, this simple start has been so wonderful for the children and is easy enough to do at home whether it is on a front porch or back patio.
I encourage you to take some time to consider a small handful of herbs or vegetables that you would enjoy eating as a family and then finding a way to grow those at home with your children. If you have questions, there are many knowledgeable helpers in our school and community who would be happy to help you begin!