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Gardening with kids

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:21pm

Arlene and John Prater of Hamburg, Iowa, are mostly retired from farming, but still love digging in the dirt with grandsons Luke, 1, and Jake Prater, 3.

Kids love to dig in the dirt and with two toddling boys, I should know! If that isn't reason enough for them to get excited about gardening, there's also the fun of spending time with Mom and Dad, the anticipation of harvest, and the pride of sharing the garden's bounty. Of course, the digging part is pretty great, too.

John and Arlene Prater, my husband's parents from Hamburg, Iowa, have always enjoyed gardening. Now that they can share the hobby with our boys, Jake, 3, and Luke Prater, 1, it's even more fun.

"Grape tomatoes are Jake's favorite, so we searched the local nurseries until we found some," John says. "We planted them close to the path so it would be easy for him to pick." Each of four plants produced about 5 gallons of grape tomatoes, so there was plenty of picking to be done.

They also planted some of Luke's favorites, like zucchini and potatoes. "It is a lot of fun to see their faces light up when they find something on the plants they can pick," Arlene says.

Still, Jake ate his share of green tomatoes before learning to pick just the red ones. "Next year will be even more fun," Arlene says, "since the boys will be bigger and able to help more when they come to visit."

Luke enjoys a healthy snack as he sinks his four teeth into a zucchini.

Container gardening is a great way to give younger kids a sense of ownership and responsibility. Here, Jake prepares the soil to plant cherry tomatoes, one of his favorite treats.

Arlene and John Prater of Hamburg, Iowa, are mostly retired from farming, but still love digging in the dirt with grandsons Luke, 1, and Jake Prater, 3.

Sandra Gerdes, manager of the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden(TM), says, "Kids often enjoy growing food or flowers from seed. Choose fast-germinating and maturing varieties, though, since they usually don't have much patience." Lettuce is a good choice for beginners, she says.

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