With all the gardening love that happens around here, you would think the kids would have had quite enough of visiting the garden centre with Mama, but I am sorry to say, it just ain’t so.
They love the garden centre.
They love looking at plants. They love identifying things where they can and asking questions where they can’t. They love touching leaves and smelling flowers and fondling herbs to get their lovely, rich, earthy, herby smells on their fingertips. They love putting things in the shopping cart. They love bird feeders of all sizes and colours. They love all the tacky garden sculptures that The Man We Call Dad absolutely will not allow in the garden because they are too tacky for words. Not that I would ever buy such things. Except the fairy. And the turtle. And the light-up solar powered colour changing glass globes that are K’s absolute favourite things to stare at while he drifts off to sleep.
Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes.
One would think that our kids would be quite sick of the garden centre, but to my amazement, they decided to build one of their very own.
We had company for a week — two of the neighbour’s kids came to play all day for a few days — and while looking for things to do that would keep them busy, I tripped over what has to be my new favourite blog: ikatbag. I must admit to having a new and total fangirl crush! So many good ideas, so many fun projects, so many great tutorials! And among her many wonderful projects was… a garden centre!
So we built one, of course. Here it is all packed up in a basket for easy storage:
Lest you think it was a complicated affair, it couldn’t have been simpler. We started with colouring and cutting out seed packets, then taping up 2 sides and filling them with dried lentils to give them a most satisfying heft and sound before taping off the top. Tree food, and Plant food were also created in a similar fashion, and Worm Away and Weed Away were wrapped around toilet paper tubes.
The kids spent an entire afternoon carefully crafting their seeds and other gardening supplies. S’true. And then they spent another two hours setting up the play cash register and getting out the big money box of play money and a little basket perfect for shopping with and they played store.
The next day, the packets came out again and we spent even more time playing store, this time crafting flowers out of construction paper, bendy straws, and foam flower stickers.
The day after that, they played some more, this time bringing a whole new set of friends into the fun.
All in all, the garden centre store stayed open for business for two entire weeks. It was the easiest project I’ve ever done with the kids. All I had to do was print off the templates and provide markers, tape, lentils, toilet paper tubes, and space to play in. They did the rest. (You can download the templates for at least a dozen varieties of seeds, tree food, plant food, and weed- and worm- away here at ikatbag’s blog.)
The funniest part of the entire thing was when the kids were halfway through building the Worm-Away pesticide and they started discussing the merits of using pesticides versus organic gardening, and B pointed out that there was absolutely no reason to use Worm Away. In fact, she got quite irate about the entire thing — so irate that when her brother insisted, she stole the paper pattern away from him and wouldn’t give it back.
Worms aerate the soil. Worms recycle dead organic matter into rich compost. And, of course, worms eat our garbage.
How could K justify creating Worm Away, even if it was imaginary Worm Away, when worms do so many good things for us?
Since K couldn’t, in truth, justify intentionally murdering the worms that do so many good things for the garden, they contemplated that something was leaving lovely half-circle holes in the edges of the basil in their garden, and decided it must be inch-worms… and just that quickly, Worm Away was allowed again, with the carefully written but oh-so-important “inch-” added before its name.
When I began involving the kids in my gardening efforts, I never imagined it would stick. It began when K was a toddler. Toddlers are, as any parent knows, magnetically drawn to dirt and shovels, and it is nearly impossible to keep them out of the garden when you are digging in the dirt. They are also connected (by invisible lei-lines as strong as the strongest steel cables) to hoses and sprinklers, so even such a simple thing as watering a garden with a toddler becomes a communal (and very wet) affair. And so we gardened together.
We would dig holes, pull weeds (whoops, that one was a flower!), water things (watch out for Mama’s glasses!), smell things (Mmm, rosemary!), touch things (watch out for prickles!), rub things (Lamb’s Ear is so soft…), and glory in the sensual feast that is a garden. When B came along, gardening together was a well-established habit and of course she joined in. Was there any question?
For me, gardening is an ever-changing adventure. Each year, we try new things. New flowers, new vines, new trees, new techniques. More recently, we’ve been converting more and more of the garden to edible things and so we’ve been eating from the garden too. We’ve eliminated chemicals, we’ve increased our composting efforts, we’ve added a worm-bin to the kitchen and a Nature Mill composter to the garage and an open bin to the corner of the yard. We’ve increased the number of bird feeders (and seen a corresponding decrease in the number of bugs eating our plants). We’ve planted things to attract butterflies and other wildlife. We’ve gotten certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
Through each of these things, we’ve learned more and more about what makes the natural world tick, and we’ve become more and more convinced that we need to avoid harsh chemicals and allergens and neurotoxins and pesticides in everything we wear and eat and use.
Somehow, I always thought that I was the crazy one. That I was the only one who really cared enough to weed by hand and not by chemical. To refuse to spray our food, choosing instead to accept a few holes in the lettuce and a few tomatoes lost to mice and carrots lost to voles. (Though when the rabbit devastated one entire section of garden this spring I was less than impressed… but still I didn’t spray or poison or trap.)
How on earth did I forget that kids learn by watching what we do? That parents are, in fact, a child’s first and best teachers? That as I’ve learned about worms and compost and how to attract ladybugs to eat aphids, the kids have been absorbing all of my actions and my newly forming convictions right alongside me?
And that they, too, have a strength to their convictions.
Enough strength and passion to refuse to allow a beloved older brother to make Worm Away Pesticide, even of the imaginary variety.
With such strength of belief will we change the world, one backyard garden at a time.
So… what’s in your garden?