My children start “helping” in the garden in February. Before I order seeds, I go through my box of seeds from previous years. As soon as they hear the rattle of the seed packs, my kids want to do some planting. So we go to the basement and as I sort, I hand off the seed packs that I deem too old or unlikely to get space in the garden. My two boys enthusiastically plant these castaways in pots and these seedlings get the place of honor in our sunny window. There they grow and die, and then they make way for the ground cherries, broccoli, and tomato starts.
You can imagine their excitement when it comes time to actually play outside, in the soil. They are eager with their shovels and generous with their seed spreading — one seed every four inches becomes four seeds every inch. Heck, last year someone seeded the entire radish pack in one fell swoop. Whoops.
Clearly, they have both earned themselves a garden plot of their own. They can plant what they want, then can tend and decorate it as they please. My 6-year-old always has plans bigger than his plot, but we figure it out. I remind him that there will be another patch of green beans just six feet away, so he is welcome to snack on those, too. Three years ago that same kid planted some eggplant seedlings in our dirt pile (the one he plays in). I planted four of those same seedlings in the garden, which is encircled by a seven-foot fence. Guess whose plants were eaten by aphids?
And my son’s plants? The ones that were six feet from our driveway, open to chickens, deer, groundhogs and rabbits? His plants produced half a dozen gorgeous looking eggplants. And, as kids are wont to do, he picked them when they were only four inches long, wanted me to make them for lunch right away, and then remembered that he didn’t really like eggplant.
But who can complain, it’s his garden plot, his harvest, I ate them up and sent my compliments to the farmer. Boy was he proud.
The kids’ gardens are now in the big garden, right in the raised beds. It’s hard to share space when it never feels like there’s enough of it. But I know that they will want to run out every morning to check on their peas or watermelons, even if it means I have to plant fewer cucumbers or zinnias. As Ben Hewitt, a homestead writer, has said, “Relax. Lower your expectations. You’re not just growing a garden. You’re growing little people. One is just slightly more important that the other.”
Originally published in Dirt Magazine, April/May 2017