Though it feels like it happens a bit later here in Colorado than it does in some other parts of the country, spring has sprung! Spring and summer gardening have become a tradition in our family over recent years. My husband, Greg, is an educator and gets about six weeks off in the summer. Gardening has become a great way for the kids to work by his side during his long summer days at home.
For all of our kids, but in particular for our kids from hard places, garden work provides incredible amounts of sensory input and fresh air – one of my favorite combos.
Pushing wheelbarrows, carrying bags of soil, digging in dirt, spinning the composter – taking breaks to bounce on the trampoline. The garden has become one of our very best tools to prevent dysregulation and “boredom meltdowns” during the spring and summer. And weeding is a timeless, tried-and-true “redirecting” activity when needed!
Beyond that, a garden is packed with lessons in what consistent work at a worthwhile task can produce over time. This is a lesson we hope all of our children learn well!
Greg and the kids cleared an area of sod in our backyard a few years ago to expand the garden and then created fencing and a gate with found pallets. How’s that for deep sensory input?
Each child has their own plot, and they all begin working and amending the soil in early spring as they plan out their plots on paper. My only request is that they include roma and grape tomatoes every year. And they never forget sunflowers and zucchini!
Last year, we had so much zucchini that I had to leave baskets of it in front of the house for neighbors to take. One lovely woman who lives several blocks away brought us a box of chocolate as a thank you. So, depending on how you look at it, we actually grew chocolate in our garden last summer!
One of the things I love about gardening with kids is that it can be a small or large project – whatever fits your family’s needs best in any given year. This has been so important in our family during times of foster care transition or times when the calendar is full of surgeries or other medical interventions. We do what fits and adjust again the following year!
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In preparation for this year’s garden, I’ve gathered a “getting ready for the garden” list at the end of this post. We own several of these items already, and I have friends who own a few more that have made it onto my wish list (kitchen composter and indoor greenhouse are next in line). In fact, these basil sprouts are growing right now in my friend Michelle’s indoor greenhouse, and she has promised a few of them to me.
Hands-down, our favorite gardening item is our backyard spinning composter – I don’t know if I would have purchased this on my own because I wouldn’t have realized how wonderful it is, but our friends left it for us when we moved into this house. I always found composting tedious before, so I rarely did it. This has simplified it so much – just toss the items in and give the barrel a spin. Our younger kids have loved being chosen to carry out a pile of kitchen compost and to spin the big barrel.
Spinning composter = incredible sensory work.
And it gives us rich, dark soil year after year. Our composter is sturdy and solid – it has made it through at least seven years of summer thunderstorms and Colorado blizzards and has many more years left. We also love our deck boxes (we have two), which have provided easy garden tool storage and great backyard work surfaces for the kids. They have also done triple duty as bench seating when we have dinner guests – we eat mainly in the backyard throughout the summer, and these provide seating for four extra people!
Although my kids are getting older and are not intially as eager to join in the garden planning as the weather begins to warm, they usually find themselves not wanting to miss out and end up joining in – so the garden continues on as a family tradition even in the midst of teenagers.
(Though I did have to tease my 14-year-old daughter just today that if she wasn’t planning to garden with dad this year, maybe we could take a foster placement of 6-year-old triplets who would love gardening, and they could share her bedroom! Surprisingly enough, she said she will happily garden and that we probably shouldn’t take a placement of triplets.)
We’d love to hear over on our Facebook page about your family’s garden plans!
Happy gardening, friends!
Isaac Family 2016 Gardening Favorites
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