Last fall, I was so wrapped up in working on my dissertation and teaching that I let the herbs in my indoor window boxes die and didn’t bother replacing them. This March, after I finished up my dissertation and had a little more time on my hands, my husband Chris and I went ahead and started some new plants. Because being outdoors is so important to us, gardening with kids is something that we wanted to start dong early on.
This time, we have tried to involve our son Sam, who is now 3 ½, at every stage of the growing process. Before we even started working on the garden, we started reading the Little Critter book A Green, Green Garden, in order to prime him for the experience.
On the first evening of work, Sam helped to fill the boxes with dirt.
The next day he helped to plant the seeds. Over the next couple of weeks, he checked the boxes every day, waiting patiently for the seeds to sprout. Gardening with Kids can be a little bit boring for them at this stage so it is important to remind them to be patient. A trait most of us need to work on anyways.
He helped keep an eye on the seedlings as they began to emerge from the soil.
He watched me to thin out overcrowded seedlings. He doesn’t quite have the coordination to gently handle the seedlings to do it himself, but he watched very carefully (and sampled the discarded seedlings).
Now that the plants are maturing, he is able to help water the plants.
He also helps me to harvest our herbs and use them in cooking. For instance, this evening I came home and was shocked about how much basil and chives we had on our hands, so I had to make one of my favorite chive-heavy recipes, a crust-less quiche-like egg dish with asparagus that I’ve adapted from a Good Housekeeping recipe. My version, which includes meat and more eggs, is posted below.
Sometimes Gardening with Kids can be more about making choices about what you should do versus what they can do I harvested a lot of chives and basil myself, because I don’t trust Sam to be gentle with the plants. Instead, I gave him a few leaves and asked him to trim them down with his little kid scissors. I used the basil he trimmed in our recipe.
Dinner is often a tricky meal for us. Sam is excited for daddy to be home and impatient with the healthy food I try to give him. We frequently have to bribe him to even try what we put on his plate. But he is always excited to try things when he’s been involved in the preparation.
And this latest recipe was a major hit, because he has been involved with not just the preparation, but every stage of the process. My little 3 year old has a sense of pride and ownership over our green, green garden, and is excited to eat the fruits of his labor.
Egg, Ricotta, Asparagus “Tart” Recipe:
1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed
1/3 cup chives, snipped
3 tbsp. basil
5 large eggs, beaten
1/8 cup milk
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
15 oz. ricotta (I used a little less)
3/4 cup small cubed ham steak
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375. Mix all ingredients except the asparagus together. Spray a 8×8 glass pan with nonstick spray. Pour mixture into the pan, and arrange the asparagus on the top. Bake for 40 minutes.
Gardening with kids can be fun if you are patient and give your child room to get dirty!