By Dustin Turner
Spring in the Augusta area is the perfect time to get outside with the kids and do some gardening. Lara Buss, the coordinator of the Bamberg County Health Coalition, says gardening is easy and inexpensive. Perhaps most important, though, it is a bonding experience for families. “You get to spend time together and work together as a family to decide where to plant a garden and what to plant,” Buss says. “Then, especially if you plant vegetables, you get to enjoy the harvest together.”
A great way to get started, she said, is with a container garden. Parents can even use materials they already have. Cut the bottom off of a laundry detergent bottle or milk carton. “Any kind of container will work. We certainly aren’t doing anything fancy here,” she says. “Just punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage and plant something you love.”
A quick Google search for “upcycled container gardening” turns up some fun and creative ideas that kids would love for using everyday objects as containers. How much fun would the kids have turning purses, hats, Christmas cookie tins or even old pairs of jeans into containers for flowers? You also can use old tires, furniture, toys, Legos and even lightbulbs for containers– with parental supervision, of course. The only limit to creative container gardening is imagination!
You might be concerned about starting a garden with your children if you have never done it yourself. The good news is that no experience is necessary when it comes to gardening. “It’s really easy for everyone to get started,” Buss says. “You can get seeds just about anywhere, even Dollar General. Seeds are very cheap, and all you have to do is follow the instructions.”
If you don’t want to use containers, it’s absolutely free to dig a simple plot in the yard. Just dig up a plot of ground as small as 2 feet by 2 feet. It doesn’t have to be deep at all— just enough to turn the soil— so you can get started even if you don’t own a shovel, Buss says. For a successful garden, a good general rule is to make sure your plot gets six to eight hours of full sun each day. Also, make sure it is in a place where you can give it plenty of water, either with a hose or by bringing water in a container. Decide which seeds you want, follow the instructions and enjoy the harvest.
Not all kid-friendly gardening has to involve planting and maintaining vegetation. There are plenty of ways to get children outside and having fun in the garden, whether it’s in your yard or at a local park.
KidsGardening.org has some great activities to make gardening fun for children, including:
• Using soil as a medium to create art: Everybody has access to dirt. Make some mud and finger paint!
• Using cellphones for something other than TikTok: Take the kids to Riverwalk Augusta, Brick Pond Park in North Augusta or any of the many area parks and let them take creative outdoor photos and video.
• Creating a butterfly puddle: All you need is a container, sand, water and a pinch of salt.
• Making a worm composting bin: A small composting bin, complete with wiggling worms, can be a lot of fun!
• Building fairy houses: This is a fun, inexpensive way to let your kids get creative outdoors.
Click on over to KidsGardening.org/garden-activities for details on these and many more projects.
A quick warning for parents: Know what’s in your garden and what you are planting. Children, especially younger ones, love to put things in their mouths, especially if they know plants yield vegetables you can eat. Some plants can be toxic if ingested, so teach your child to consult with you before anything from a plant goes in his or her mouth. Luckily, there are only a few so toxic they should not be used around children and pets, and they are not readily available at most retailers.
Two extremely toxic plants, according to HGTV.com, are castor bean and precatory bean or rosary pea. Other plants are toxic in larger quantities and should be avoided in a child’s garden, including: angel’s trumpet, delphinium, foxglove, euonymus, morning glory, St. Johnswort, lantana, cardinal flower, sweet alyssum, love-in-a-mist and valerian.
Buss knows the benefits of kid-friendly garden projects. She works with hundreds of children in schools and her community to build raised beds, plant and tend to gardens, harvest vegetables and even taste and cook them. In addition to getting children outside and active, gardening with kids builds character.
“It might sound a bit cliché, but it’s absolutely true— getting children involved in gardening builds leaders,” Buss says. “If a child can take the initiative and the time to take care of a garden, to learn how to cultivate the land, he or she will be learning skills that make people good leaders.”