Raising young sprouts in the garden

Love of gardening can be passed along to children and grandchildren

April 24, 2010|By CHRIS COPLEY
  • From left, Maddie Abeles, 11, Claire Murray, 11, Natalie Karlen, 11, and Louise Dickinson, 11, collaborate to create their entry in last weekend's Art in Bloom fundraiser at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown. The girls said they learn about gardening and flower arranging from their parents, members of Town and Country Garden Club of Hagerstown.
By Chris Copley,

When Hagerstown resident Amy Sargent was a child, she worked with her mother and father in their large garden.

"I grew up in Ohio. My parents have three acres. When I was a kid, we always had a large vegetable garden," she said. "It was always heaps of work. I always dreaded it as a child. Who wants to spend the afternoon weeding or picking beans?"

Now that she and her husband, Andrew, are raising their own children -- George, 6, and Grace, 4 -- Amy Sargent remembers those hours spent in the garden. And the resulting bounty.

"I want that same experience for my kids -- to have that fresh taste, to know this came from our own garden," Sargent said. "Our food doesn't come from a grocery store. It comes from the earth."

Sargent is a Master Gardener, a graduate of a training program offered through the University of Maryland Extension, Washington County. Annette Ipsan directs the program. She said one of the most common ways people learn to garden is from their parents or grandparents.


"It's part of a family's heritage," she said. "Gardening knowledge and skills are traditionally passed from generation to generation."

Ipsan said gardening need not be the traditional way, with rows of vegetables planted in a large plot in the ground. Today, there are many alternative ways to raise flowers and vegetables.

"One of the wonderful things about gardening is it can be done well in a very small space -- a pot of basil on the patio or flowers on a windowsill," she said.

When introducing young children to gardening, she said, keep a few things in mind. Most importantly, have gardening be a fun activity. Let them select some plants for the garden. Plant quick-growing vegetables -- such as lettuce, radishes, scallions or spinach -- so kids see results from their planting within four to six weeks.

And keep in mind that kids see the garden not just as a food-making project, but as a place of delights.

"Kids are experiencing the garden with more of their senses," she said. "Kids like drama and bright colors. They like texture and smell."

Tina Webster is also a Master Gardener. In raised beds behind the home near Fairplay she shares with husband Brad, Webster gardens with her 5-year-old daughter Hannah. Webster also gardens with students at Hannah's school, The Country Day School near Kearneysville, W.Va.

Webster says she keeps a few guiding principles in mind when working with children.

"Kids are whole-body learners. I plant different textural things, plants with different smells," she said. "Boys like bugs. And they like the science aspect."

Teaching gardening is a long process. Impatient children learn that a garden grows in time. But if the goal is to pass on gardening knowledge, a teacher must be patient.

"Sometimes, kids don't believe a seed will grow into a plant," Webster said. "But you should see them the first time they go out and see green things sprouting."

Given the right conditions, seeds will germinate. A gardener can help this process. Cultivating gardening knowledge in children is a similar endeavor.

Ways to share gardening
with the next generation

Ideas for getting children interested in gardening, courtesy of Annette Ipsan, horticulturalist with the University of Maryland Extension, Washington County:

o Children like color, texture and smell. Lambs ears or woolly thyme have a sort, fuzzy texture. lemon thyme has a bright, lemony smell. Cherry tomatoes come in a variety of bright colors.

o Plant a vine teepee. Create a cone shape with eight-foot bamboo poles. Plant scarlet runner beans (purple flowers and red bean pods) or morning glory seeds around the base of the poles. Note: Bees might be attracted to flowering vines.

o Designate a corner of the garden as the child's area. Let the child select the plants to grow. Encourage them to weed as needed. Let them pick the vegetables as they ripen.

o Plant edible flowers such as violets, nasturtiums or pansies.

o Container gardens or raised beds make gardening easier to reach for young hands.

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