It’s February! Which in the rest of the country means it’s still the middle of winter, but here in Phoenix it means we are practically in spring time and it is a great time to consider jumping into gardening. While gardening used to seem like an overwhelming activity- especially since I’ve killed every houseplant and herb I’d ever been given, it turns out that I CAN grow stuff once I moved my focus to outdoor gardening, and my kids have been helping me with that since they were old enough to hold a watering can. So if you’ve been on the fence about gardening, I thought I would share five lessons my kids learned from our little backyard garden.
- Compromise: We have a small raised bed garden so there’s only so much space to grow things. So one of the first lessons from our garden each season is how to compromise. Before we plant our fall or spring garden, we meet as a family to decide what to plant. We help the kids by letting them know which plants will grow during a particular season, but we end up needing to compromise because we don’t have room to grow both a pumpkin and a butternut squash. It has been a great exercise in talking about several things they might want verses what they want most. A crucial life skill!
- Patience: To my kids, it seems like forever between when we plant a seed and when that seed sprouts. (OK, not just to my kids, I get impatient and keep learning this lesson too!) Then there is a new round of waiting between when plants sprout and when we get to collect the fruit or flower from our garden. This give us a chance to talk a lot about how we have to wait for good things, but the wait is worth it.
- Consistency is key: My kids may not always remember to pick up all their toys before bed, but my kids are often the one who remind me when it is time to water the garden. They have seen what happens to our plants if I get lax about watering (especially as our spring garden enters those hot summer months!) and they know that you can’t just water something once and expect it to grow, you have to consistently take care of it. We’ve used this as a metaphor to talk about other chores as well as accomplishing hard things- be that running faster, learning sight words, etc. This is one of my favorite lessons from our garden.
- Some things are out of our control: Sometimes we follow all the directions on when to plant things, which soil is needed, we water consistently and weed, and some of the seeds we plant still don’t grow. Sometimes we have an explanation and it was out of our control- like a late storm or an unexpected critter burrowing under our garden and stealing entire plants. Other times we aren’t sure what happened, we just have bare patches of garden. We talk about how we did the best we could and will try again next season.
- Sharing is caring: One of our favorite things about the garden is finding we have more tomatoes or zucchini than we need in a particular time period and being able to share them with neighbors and friends. We’ve also brought bouquets of fresh flowers to teachers or community leaders we want to thank. This lesson about sharing good things and giving back is one I hope my kids carry with them throughout their lives.
While we have learned other lessons from our garden, these are some of my favorites. Have you tried gardening? If so, do you let your kids participate in this backyard adventure? Did you learn anything unexpected?