small scale gardening- laura chancey
Nourishing something outside of ourselves is always a good practice to instill in our children. Parenting is normally a challenge, but in the past few months that challenge has felt compounded, am I right? While being stuck at home our kids are longing for consistency, for comfort, for something to rely on. And honestly, I’ve needed it too. One thing that has remained an ever steady comfort to me is the garden.
Caring for a garden can mean so many things. You don’t need an elaborate garden to experience the joy that comes with it. If you’ve ever seen Monty Don’s show “Small Spaces, Big Dreams” you’ve heard him say with confidence, “No matter how small your garden is, anyone can cultivate a big dream.” Potted plants have been a wonderful way to experience the joy of gardening year round and temper our hearts as we slowly build our forever backyard garden. Here are some tips and small ways to get started on your own potted garden...
1. Use Inexpensive Terra-Cotta Pots - I love the cottagey look of terra-cotta pots. The best part of this look is that it doesn’t have to be expensive! I’ve found the majority of my pots at the thrift store. Buying second hand is a great sustainable and inexpensive way to start your own collection! Plus, our kids will break pots every so often (it’s inevitable) so why spend a ton of money on them? And while you’re waiting for your pot collection to grow, egg cartons are a great start for your itty bitty seeds (and if you’re anything like us, egg cartons are often on hand!).
A word of caution, make sure as you’re eyeing those $1 terra cotta pots to avoid big cracks. As plants grow bigger the roots and dirt will shift, and your pot will need to be able to hold together.
2. Collect Seeds Throughout the Year - There’s nothing quite so satisfying to a kid as seeing the process of cutting a red pepper, saving a seed in a paper bag, planting it later, and seeing more peppers come to life. It’s amazing to see these tiny little seeds come full circle.
3. Give Your Kids the Daily Chore of Watering - Our kids love being part of the process. Their seeds become their little plant babies that they get to feed and watch grow! We’ve added an additional chore to kids who may feel the need to water too often (drowning our poor plants) of singing and talking to our flowers daily! Our girls have loved providing a more emotional aspect to nurturing their flowers.
4. Herbs are the “Gateway” to Healthy Eating - Each of our kids have food preferences and those preferences seem to change with each passing month. They like salads, then they don’t. “What’s that green?”, is shouted from the table often. Well, this isn’t the case with herbs. Our kids are still mesmerized by the concept of adding these wonderfully smelling leaves to a dish. Also, herbs are wonderful plants to grow in pots. In fact, I tend to think that some herbs do better in pots, namely mint which tends to grow too wild in an open garden, so growing it in a pot tends to tame it. Keep herbs in a sunny window and have them near when you cook!
The experience of gardening has been such a huge blessing during this time hunkered down as a family. It’s such a tangible reminder that the world is bigger than a pandemic. The sun still shines, rain still falls, seeds planted will still bud. This ritual of watering and singing to flowers, patiently waiting for little sprouts to pop out of the earth has proven to be a great comfort to each member of our family. It has kept us grounded.
If you’ve never attempted a small garden, here is my one final tip: try it. Try and if your plant fails, you can try again. As the great Monty has said, “If you don’t have failure, you don’t know why things are succeeding.” The only way towards a green thumb is by trying and failing... just another one of many life lesson we are reminded of as we walk through the garden