The hectic lifestyles of today's families leave little time for togetherness. However, gardening offers a perfect opportunity for a family to share and learn together.
A wonderful thing to do is to plant a tree to celebrate a birth. A tree's growth is much like a child's: It starts small and young, as a seedling; it needs nourishment and watering; and it goes through growth spurts, passing through childhood and entering maturity.
In maturity, it is able to share its attributes, such as shade to cool and add comfort to a yard, leaves to help make soil-building compost and sturdy branches from which young children can swing.
Children can see their own growth reflected in the growth of the tree and can appreciate the length of time it takes for a tree to grow to maturity.
The love of trees your children gain now will carry on through adulthood. Learn the names of plants and teach your children. Spending time in the garden to learn about plants can be fun for parents and children. In addition to learning about food crops and beautiful flowers, they will find this time perfect for learning which plants or plant parts can be potentially poisonous and how to enjoy the plants safely.
Plant a vegetable garden to enjoy. The rewards of a vegetable garden are as exciting to adults as they are to children, giving both a sense of accomplishment. Sharing the joy and excitement or even the disappointment and failure of a vegetable garden strengthens family ties. My 4-year-old daughter, Lindy, has helped me in the garden since she was 2. She particularly took delight in watching for our broccoli to become ready for harvest and in actually helping me harvest it this winter.
You can make crafts from garden harvests. Making birdhouses from gourds grown in the family garden or arranging dried flowers offers times of sharing for family members.
Share gifts of the garden. Giving gifts of handmade crafts and treasures from the garden is extremely satisfying, and I have never met anyone who was not delighted to receive such gifts. Tomatoes, squash, green beans and other fresh vegetables make terrific gifts for people who do not have gardens. Offering these gifts gives adults and children alike an opportunity to show they care about others.
The garden is a fertile ground of opportunity for families to grow together and learn more about one another. It offers the opportunity for adults and children to share ideas, to talk, and what's most important, to listen to each other and, by working together, to communicate the many messages that must be said without words.
Gardening develops self-worth, a sense of nurturing, and generosity. The garden is a wonderful family room!
Start now to involve your child in the planning of your spring garden. There are many books available to educate and excite children about gardening. Seed catalogs can be a source of fascination and are perfect for craft projects after the plants have been purchased.
Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call him at 821-2349, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The offices that serve Richmond and Columbia counties have a Web page at www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ga/columbia.