By Leslie Nelson
As the weather heats up, plants begin to thrive. It’s time for tomatoes and zucchini and summer flowers. It’s a great time to get the kids out in the garden for some fun projects.
Eastern San Diego County weather is great for growing all kinds of summer plants. And getting your kids involved can pay big dividends throughout their lives and for your family’s dinner menu and their health. Research shows that children who garden in a community or school garden have an improved recognition of vegetables and willingness to try them. Because of this, they will tend to eat healthier as they mature. Caring for plants also teaches children responsibility as well as a bit about science, nature and nutrition if the plants are also a food. Gardening is also a known stress reliever and good exercise. Studies shows that gardening can help reduce the stress in people of all ages.
In my experience working with kids at Dailard Elementary in San Carlos for many years, kids who were at first timid when they started gardening, became eager and interested in learning and sharing this knowledge with others. They loved growing vegetables, no matter how small. Gardening also encourages curiosity as kids get closer to nature and they enjoy inspecting for all kinds of insects.
Here are a few garden project ideas to get your kids started:
Let kids take some responsibility. Because it takes persistence and attention to grow things in our hot climate, you’ll need to water consistently. Most potted vegetables will need to be watered every other day. Water together or alternate watering days with your child. New to gardening? Make sure you put your plant along a pathway where you can notice it as you go in and out of the house each day. Or make it a habit of inspecting the garden every other day with your kids and do a “critter patrol” to look for pests or bugs when you water.
Put up chicken wire around any tomato plants. Since rats love tomatoes, and with all the canyon areas in this region, chicken wire is important. Also consider topping chicken wire with more chicken wire — rats will not dig, but they are excellent climbers.
Plant some zucchini or other squash. It’s the perfect time of year for various varieties. If you want to try out something new, visit kitazawaseed.com which sells a variety of Japanese vegetable seeds, including many types of Asian peppers and squash.
Summer flowers like zinnias are beautiful, dramatic and love the heat. Have your kids plant zinnia seeds like Benary’s Giant Mix zinnia seed or sunflowers available from Johnnyseeds.com. They will provide spectacular beautiful blooms till September. Let the kids deadhead (cut off old blooms) to make way for new ones and don’t forget to remind them to spread the dried seeds for next year’s show.
—Leslie Nelson is a gardening volunteer at San Carlos Community Garden. She will be giving a Kids Gardening and Botany class on Saturdays, July 7–Aug. 4 at the San Carlos Community Garden. For more information, visit bit.ly/2M1SamB.