Basics of Gardening with Kids

Basics of Gardening with Kids

Part of Ep. 303 Kids and Gardening

Visit the Children’s Garden in Green Bay.  Barbara Heike, director of the summer program at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, discusses the gardens the children are tending and the tools they’re using.

Premiere date: Jul 31, 1995

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Danielle Lardinois:

Hi, this is the children's garden and I'm Danielle. I'm going to show you around. This is the sunflower house. When we come in here, we can read and play. These sunflowers start with these seeds. You have to plant them about eight inches apart. This is my tag. Each tag tells about the other person's different sunflower. In between each sunflower, we planted morning glories. The morning glories are climbing up the sunflowers and when these bloom, they're going to be pretty flowers. When this grows, it's going to be much taller than me, and it'll have pretty flowers. Then we can come and play and read in here.

 

Boy:

Here's another garden structure that's fun and easy to grow. Make a teepee out of long poles. Tie them together at the top. Then, plant pole beans around them and at the bottom. Scarlet runner beans are a good choice, because they have pretty red and white flowers. The beans will grow up and make a leafy green hideaway.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You're looking at the Children's Garden in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This is part of the summer program for the Green Bay Botanical Gardens. I'm with the director of the program, Barbara Heike. Barbara, this program has been going on for seven years, and it just looks marvelous. You've done a wonderful job here.

 

Barbara Heike:

Thank you.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Tell me a little bit about some of the basics of gardening with children. What do parents need to know to do this successfully?

 

Barbara Heike:

I think the most important thing is that each child have their own garden plot, and have it be the size that the child can manage. Right here, we have 4' x 5' garden plots.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Kid-sized gardens.

 

Barbara Heike:

Yes, and the children are between five and eight, so it's just right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

You have 64 kids throughout the summer?

 

Barbara Heike:

That's right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And 16 or 20 at a time?

 

Barbara Heike:

They come for an hour and a half once a week.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Do they get to pick what they're planting?

 

Barbara Heike:

Oh, yes. They also get to choose some of the things that they like. We make a list of the things the children like, and the things that will grow well here. So we have a variety of cut flowers, herbs, vegetables, edible flowers and straw flowers.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Let's talk about some of the basics. I've been told that children have small hands, we should only plant large seeds.

 

Barbara Heike:

Oh, we have planted little lettuce seeds, Shelley. We also plant little radish seeds. I can show you how we do that.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Please.

 

Barbara Heike:

Well, we have a film canister that we use. We pre-measure the seeds so that the children can have just what they can handle and what will plant a row. Tori is going to help us do this. Okay, Tori, which hand do you write with at school? Okay, then I'm going to put your seeds in your non-dominant hand. You can bend right down and plant them under the string in the little furrow that we already made.

 

Shelley Ryan:

The string is there to help guide them?

 

Barbara Heike:

Right.

 

Shelley Ryan:

This looks like a great technique for the little seeds. Otherwise, they're so lost so easily.

 

Barbara Heike:

That's right, and they can use their dominate hand to control them better, exactly.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Let's look at some of the other chores in the garden that children would do. Thinning, for instance.

 

Barbara Heike:

Yes.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Barbara, when I think of thinning my own garden, I have my own problems with it. I hate to take out anything in the garden that I've already planted.

 

Barbara Heike:

So do the children!

 

Shelley Ryan:

How do you deal with that with children, then?

 

Barbara Heike:

Well, I'll show you how to do that with Alison. Alison, let's work on our carrots today that need some thinning. I'm going to put my hands on either side of the carrots that I want to save. You pull out all the ones in the middle. So take a big hunk, now's your chance. All right. Any keepers there? Not quite. Let's get some more right here. Pull all those out. I can see a little baby root right there. That would be almost a keeper.

 

Alison:

One more?

 

Barbara Heike:

Okay, one more, then you can do the rest of the row yourself. There you go. How about back here? Can you do that part yourself now? You're going to leave some and take some.

 

Shelley Ryan:

We'll let Alison continue thinning. She definitely does a better job than I do. I'd like to learn more about the tools that children use in the garden. I see a lot of kid-sized tools out there, and they're really cute. But is that important for kids? What do we look for in tools?

 

Barbara Heike:

It's more important that they have real tools, and they learn how to work with real tools. Here, we use a regular, adult-size trowel, and a little hand cultivator. It seems to be all they need to kind of rake up their garden. Jenna is raking up her garden with a hand cultivator.

 

Shelley Ryan:

They're real tools, not the plastic toys.

 

Barbara Heike:

Right, exactly.

 

Shelley Ryan:

So they use their hands a lot. They use the hand trowels.

 

Barbara Heike:

The regular trowels. They like to be right down in the dirt, and in with their plants. So a long-handled tool would just be cumbersome for them.

 

Shelley Ryan:

And actually push them away from being where they want to be.

 

Barbara Heike:

Exactly.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Well, with them being so up close into the dirt, what do you do as far as bug control, chemicals on the plants?

 

Barbara Heike:

We're only organic garden in the children's garden. We don't use any chemicals at all. The children are right in there, all the time, so it's safest this way.

 

Shelley Ryan:

Okay, and is there any bottom line. What are we missing? What's the most important thing today about children's gardening?

 

Barbara Heike:

I think that the children have to have fun with it.

 

Shelley Ryan:

If it's not fun, they're not going to do it.

 

Barbara Heike:

Exactly.

 

Shelley Ryan:

I guess that's the same for adults, too. Thank you, Barbara.

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