Last year, Kat and I enjoyed the fruits and vegetables that came from our first garden in our new home. We went through the trials and errors of proper watering schedules, organic pest control, and soil acidity. Some of our plants were very fruitful while others were not, and we ate and learned our way through our first big garden project.
This year, I was struck by inspiration while reading a bedtime story to Kat. We had been reading “The Secret Garden” by Francis Hodgson Burnett, and Kat loved the idea of a special place the children could call their own while they played outside in their own beautiful garden. When we got to the part of the story where Mary asks Archibald Craven if she may have “a bit of Earth”, it struck me that my daughter might very well wish to have her own special place, too. Of course, she loved this idea, and we spent the rest of the night talking about what plants Kat might want to grow in her very own garden.
A few days later, we were off to our local nursery to pick out our plants! Kat and I love to go the nursery. We often go just to play tag among the rows of trees and rose bushes, or play hide and seek in the greenhouse where they grow the colorful tropical plants. This time however, we browsed the rows of flowers and vegetables and considered all of the possibilities of the gardens we could grow. Kat combined a few ideas and picked out pansies, snapdragons, poppies, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, and lavender. I picked up a few extra herbs and vegetables, and we were on our way!
We set to work, clearing out a circular patch of dirt in a prime spot in our front yard. Kat and I pretended to be Mary and Dickon as we pulled weeds and talked to the birds. We found earthworms and laughed as they tickled our hands before we put them back into the ground. We found pill bugs and small beetles and let them crawl on our arms before gently putting them back into their homes. We grabbed our rakes and shovels and turned the dirt ourselves, getting it ready for our planting. We talked about the soil, what plants need to best gather nutrients from it, the animals that help plants grow (by turning over the soil, releasing nutrients into the soil, or eating other insects that might eat the plants), and the water, air, and sunlight that plants need to undergo photosynthesis. When we were finished, we felt the rich soft soil with our hands and feet (Kat was very excited to feel how soft it was!) and got ready to set the plants in her very first garden.
We took each plant out of its container, and looked at how much space it needed in order to grow. I took out my measuring tape and had Kat use it to determine where she should put each plant. This was very useful in her education, not only with using measurements and thinking about proper spacing, but Kat also had to consider how her garden looks now and how it might look in the future. She had to consider the amount of room the plant would need above ground, and how much room the roots would need below.
When we were finished planting, it was time to build a support system for her tomatoes and sugar snap peas. We remembered from the previous year that the tomatoes that didn’t have a support system did not fare very well in comparison to the ones that did, so we decided to go ahead and set something up from the start. We used some wooden stakes and colored yarn (these worked well last year) so the plants can climb or lean against them as they grow.
Soon it was time to add the finishing touch. Kat loves animals, so we headed off to find some little friends to accompany her plants in the garden. While we were at the store, she told everyone who would listen all about her garden and how many peas and tomatoes she was going to eat when they started growing! She was delighted to find little critters to live in her garden, and then talked about all of the adventures they were going to have in it.
Adventures indeed! It wasn’t long before wonderful little surprises could be found in the garden. I went out to water my plants one morning, and was greeted by an exhausted little gnome that had been tucked in under a fallen poppy petal.
I’ve also found little rabbit friends who have apparently taken up residence among the flowers.
So far, this has been a wonderful project for her. There are so many opportunities here for her to explore her own little world, and all of the creatures (real or pretend) that live in it. She has these beautiful plants to tend, and she’ll get to experience the joy that comes along with helping that little bit of life grow and flourish. She will learn and experience a great deal of life science through plant growth, ecosystems, and seeing how changing weather can affect the plants. She is also learning a bit of math by using measurements, considering spacing, and seeing how tall tall her plants will grow. I am thrilled to be able to share this love of nature with her, and watch her grow and learn as she plays with her very own little bit of Earth.