Gardening: with limitations and some success

When the preschool moved, the new location presented many obstacles to gardening with children:

  • Sloping ground.
  • Mature trees shading much of the area.
  • English ivy covered portions of the available area.
  • The play area had not yet been constructed so the choice of “where” could not be made.

I turned to the resources of the early childhood education and science education communities to get some advice.

Opening page of NSTA Learning Center onlineThe National Science Teachers Association’s Learning Center has wonderful forums for asking and providing advice and information on many topics. It is free to all to register! I posted in the Early Childhood forum with a post title of “Gardening at school with young children” and heard from many of you with ideas for making a successful garden.

Cover of Early Sprouts bookI found beginning instruction and great encouragement in Early Sprouts: Cultivating Healthy Food Choices in Young Children by Karrie Kalich, Dottie Bauer, and Deirdre MdPartlin (2009 Redleaf Press). Reading, “The most important things are a positive attitude and a willingness to try,” and the details about maintaining the garden were motivating. The work of these authors continues at the Early Sprouts Institute

Cover of book, Gardening with Young ChildrenGardening With Young Children by Sara Starbuck, Marla Olthof, and Karen Midden (2014 Redleaf Press) has supporting information and answers to most of my questions. It was recently reviewed in the Early Childhood Resources Review column in the November 2015 issue of Science and Children (NSTA members can view the review by Gail Laubenthal in the digital version of the journal). 

The National Gardening Association published Garden Adventures: Exploring Plants with Young Children by Sarah Pounders (2010), and you can see a list of suggested books here.

children transplanting pea plantsThe “interim” plan has turned into a long-term plan. We continue with two large pots that nestle next to the fence, in an area that receives about 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, half of it in the afternoon. The successful crops have been a few spinach plants that overwintered without any help from gardeners, and this spring we have a thriving crop of sugar snap peas. We transplanted seedlings grown inside after observing the sprouting seeds. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to harvest a handful of pods in late May! It’s a beginning we can grow on.

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